Women In Science

Veterinarian checking baby otter


women in science

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022
Nc Aquarium Fort Fisher

Engage with leading women scientists and explore exciting fields in STEM at the Aquarium and in the community.

At the Aquariums, we lead by example with women in key roles — aquarists, veterinarians, environmental educators, directors, and husbandry curators. Young women pursue volunteer and internship opportunities at the Aquarium and they truly see themselves in the field. Guided by the inspiration and energy from women in the science field, they go on to study marine biology, chemistry and physics and other STEM careers. They bring those skills back to the Aquarium and seek to inspire another generation of young women. 


Veterinarian checking Loggerhead

Sea Scholars and students in Marsh

Husbandry women instilling drops in a sea turtles eyes



Heather McWhorter

Director, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 
University of North Carolina Wilmington 
Heather McWhorter Head Shot

Heather is passionate about empowering individuals and communities to succeed through entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainability. She is the Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). CIE nurtures emerging startups and accelerates the entrepreneurial ecosystem in southeastern North Carolina as a vibrant hub of innovation and a central facility that offers educational events, UNCW connections, and a state-of-the-art incubator space. As a result of the region’s successful entrepreneurs and collaborative ecosystem, Wilmington’s startup ecosystem was recently ranked #1 in the nation for similarly sized cities. Heather is also an adjunct instructor for Penn State College of Engineering, where she teaches future leaders about Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Prior to UNCW, Heather worked at Penn State for 17 years at the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC), as the Director and as an Environmental Consultant; as the Director of the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP); and as the Director of Penn State Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Outreach Initiatives. She was involved in the creation of programs such as Penn State Global Entrepreneurship Week, The Investment, and TechCelerator. Heather holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an M.S. in Energy and Mineral Engineering from Penn State University, and a Professional Engineer (PE) license in Environmental Engineering.



Advisor, Alliance for a Blue Economy (All Blue) 

Joan Keston
Joan Keston
is an attorney with 40 years of legal and business experience.  She has practiced business law, focusing on complex financial projects and acquisitions, and international law, consulted in international compliance and business development, and structured and negotiated large financial transactions.  She has worked with public and private companies, start-ups and non-profit organizations, and as faculty advisor at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She has lived and worked in Europe, North Africa and Brazil. 

Joan is currently an Advisor for the Alliance for a Blue Economy (All Blue), on the Advisory Board of Cape Fear Ocean Labs (CFOL), a mentor at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, General Counsel and Board member of Dying Right NC and a Commissioner on the Historic Preservation Commission of Wilmington.

Joan has a B.A. in Economics & Biology from Bucknell University, J.D. from Villanova University School of Law and LL.M. in International Law from the University of Miami School of Law. 


rachel gross-zouzias

Meteorologist, National Weather Service

Approaching 30 years in the National Weather Service, and Rachel continues to love weather and forecasting. Her career began in the northeast United States working with severe and winter weather in New York and then took a turn to tropical and marine weather as she began a journey to the San Juan office in Puerto Rico. After 11 years there and many tropical storms and hurricanes, she returned to the States settling in Wilmington, NC where she continues to forecast all types of weather.





vicky oliva

Meterologist, National Weather Service

Vicky grew up in Brooklyn, New York before moving down to North Carolina to attend NC State for graduate school. She's been a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, NC since summer 2018. She is the Surf Program Leader at the office, as well as in charge of the winter weather program. 






kim nelson

Chair, Young Scientist Academy Boardof Directors


Kim Nelson graduate from Temple University and started a career in the pharmaceutical industry. During her career her areas of focus included bench chemistry, analytical chemistry, quality control, strategic consulting, project management, clinical development, risk management, sales, and market optimization. After 29 years, she decided to refocus her efforts in making a meaningful difference in her community.

She is equally as busy in her semi-retirement and is involved in a variety of local organizations including being the Chair of the Young Scientist Academy Board of Directors and a member of the Beacon Education Board of Directors. Kim is also a Co-Director of the Cameron Executive Network as well as a mentor through Cameron Executive Network and FUSECR. She is a member of an Advisory Board for Cameron Executive Network, FuseCR and SeaTech High School. She is a coach for non-profits through QENO.





melanie roberts

Work Week Manager, Brunswick Nuclear Plant

Melanie Roberts is a work week manager at the Brunswick Nuclear Plant. Roberts is responsible for preparing and implementing the site schedule while minimizing risk and ensuring site activities are performed with quality schedule adherence.
Prior to becoming a work week manager, Roberts held positions in training as an instructional and performance technologist as well as an instructor in the Non-licensed Operator Program. Prior to training, Roberts was an operator for 16 years.
Additionally, Roberts plays an active role in Duke Energy Women in Nuclear, American Nuclear Society – Wilmington Chapter, and serves as Board President for the Jack Helbig Memorial Foundation nonprofit focused on education and awareness to prevent drowning events. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2000.



holly danford

Senior Nuclear Security Specialist, Brunswick Nuclear Plant

Holly Danford began her career at the Brunswick Nuclear  Plant in April 1996 after graduating from Cape Fear Community College with an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice.

Her career development path includes all positions within the security ranks up to security shift supervisor, the first woman to hold this postition at the plant. 

She is the senior security specialist and focuses on Work Management, Corrective Action Program and the compliance of the Security Program and Federal Regulations.

Holly is  president of the Brunswick chapter of the Women in Nuclear organization.  






casey ludwick

Chemistry Technician, Brunswick Nuclear Plant    

Casey Ludwick is a nuclear chemistry technician at Brunswick Nuclear Plant. Ludwick is responsible for sampling and testing samples from the various systems within the plant to ensure optimal conditions for power generation, safety, and minimizing corrosion.

Before working in the nuclear industry, Ludwick worked in the zoo industry as a water quality technician. She earned a Bachelor of Science in marine science from Coastal Carolina University in 2020.

Ludwick is also a volunteer at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. 







callie barfield

Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium  
Callie Barfield Head Shot

Callie Barfield grew up in the rural town of Aynor, SC, where looking up at bright stars and planets through her father’s telescope ignited her passion for space science. Though her degree is a Bachelor of Arts from Coastal Carolina University, her elected collegiate science courses were astronomy based. She has presented for and worked with different regional planetarium associations and has been awarded scholarship opportunities through them as well. With her work, Barfield hopes to spark the same inspiration and awe she feels when looking up at the sky in others.







jamie justice

Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium


Jamie Justice
Jamie is the education manager for the Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium. She received her Bachelor of Science in marine biology from Bowling Green State University and her Master of Science in environmental science with concentrations in marine and coastal education and coastal management from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Jamie is originally from Portsmouth, Ohio and moved to Wilmington, North Carolina for graduate school in 2017. Before coming to the Museum, she has worked in a variety of educational positions at summer camps and schools.








kimberly belfer

Marine Coastal Science Investigation

Kimberly Belfer Head Shot

Kimberly Belfer began her career in marine science education in New Jersey after receiving her degree in marine biology from Stockton University. She has worked and volunteered for various organizations including the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, Alliance for a Living Ocean, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, and University of  North Carolina Wilmington MarineQuest. After receiving her master's degree in conservation biology from James Cook University in Australia, she dedicated her time to building hands-on learning experiences for children ages K-12. In 2018, after previously developing teacher and student resource books, she incorporated Marine CSI: Coastal Science Investigations as a for-profit business in Wilmington, where she returned after a nine-year hiatus. After four years, she has now expanded her outreach education program, Watershed Walkabout, to include schools from Onslow County south to Brunswick County. During the pandemic shutdown, she also developed outdoor exploration books for families, camps, and educators called Explore Your Watershed, which includes a coloring/activity book, adventure guide, and nature journal.








join us as an exhibitor

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022
10 a.m. - 4 p.m. 




Gail Lemiec, Unique Experiences Coordinator 
[email protected]

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