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The MaST Team


Rus Higley
Manager, Instructor of Life, Ocean and General Science Department at Highline College

Rus has worked as Manager at the Marine Science and Technology Center since its opening in 2003. He is a native Alaskan, but grew up in Des Moines and graduated from Western Washington University with a B.S. in Marine Biology. He then went on to get his M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction from Old Dominion, and Master of Marine Affairs from the University of Washington. As well as managing the MaST Center, Rus also teaches classes at Highline College in Marine Biology, Environmental Sciences and Oceanography.  When not teaching, or overseeing operations at the MaST Center, Rus enjoys spending time in the water as he is a certified SCUBA master diver and river rafting tour guide. Rus is an essential component to our team as he makes sure everyone's needs are taken care of, and all processes in the building are running efficiently. Rus' favorite marine creature is Eumicotremus orbis (Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker).

Matt Wilson
Aquarist, Supervisor

Matt is a life-long Washingtonian, and has been involved in the MaST for almost 5 years. He dedicated over 2,300  volunteer hours before being hired at the MaST Center as the Lead Biologist. After volunteering with the Arroyo Gray Whale in 2011 Matt became a regular around the Center. With help from MaST Alumni Bri Gabel, Matt quickly became our go-to-guy on the Jelly Team, but now spends most of his time taking care of the 200+ species in our aquarium. He has an Associates in Biology at Highline College, and continues to put in his free time to assist with the jellyfish program. Matt oversees all aspects of the aquarium, manages the tanks and pumps, medicates ill critters and serves as a role model for our volunteers. Matt's favorite marine creature is the Cyanea capillata (Lion's Mane Jellyfish).

Lindsay Holladay
Education Coordinator

Lindsay is thrilled to bring her diverse background in science education to the MaST Center. In the past she has mentored students for BioQuest Academy and Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, taught middle and high school biology, chemistry, and anatomy, and spent a summer instructing art classes in Sierra Leone. Currently, she coordinates educational programming at the MaST Center and works as a Marine Science Interpreter at Seattle Aquarium. Lindsay graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a degree in biology and chemistry and completed her Masters in Science Teaching at the University of Washington. She is a part-time science illustrator, rescue certified scuba diver, and 2016 Nautilus Ambassador for the Ocean Exploration Trust. In her free time, Lindsay is outside: snowshoeing in the winter, backpacking in the summer, and rock climbing and scuba diving year round. Her favorite marine creature is the Cetorhinus maximus (Basking Shark) and if she ever has the chance to dive with one in the wild, her life will be complete.


Kay Vallejo
Volunteer Supervisor


Our longest committed volunteer; Kay has worked over 4,000 hours at the MaST Center in the last 10 years. She has an AA in education from Highline College and was named Student Employee of the year in 2007. She worked as a Para-educator in special education in the Federal Way public school system for 14 years. Now retired, Kay spends a lot of her time here at the MaST Center working with volunteers to maintain our aquarium and general facility. She also supervises extracurricular events and is thoroughly involved in summer camps. Kay is perhaps the most well-known face at the MaST Center and is an irreplaceable member of our team.  Her favorite marine creatures are the Enteroctopus dofleine (Giant Pacific Octopus) and the Anarrhichthys ocellatus (Wolf Eel).

Diane Schairer
Volunteer Supervisor


Diane has been volunteering at the MaST Center since November 2008, when the new facility first opened its doors. Since then she has moved up our volunteer ranks to Supervisor and coordinates the MaST Center outreach at the Des Moines Farmer's Market. She has her BS in Health Education from the University of Washington, and an M.Ed. in Adult Education from Western Washington University. Before she discovered the MaST Center, Diane led local hiking groups for several years, and was trained in mountaineering-oriented first aid. She discovered the MaST Center with her daughter as they were walking Redondo Beach, and has been with us ever since. Diane's favorite marine creatures are the Nudibranchs, especially the Hermissenda  crassicornis and  Melibe leonina (Opalescnet Nudibranch and  Hooded Nudibranch)

Cris Haake
Volunteer Supervisor

Cris is a lifelong Washingtonian and Highline alum who began at the MaST Center on the Jelly Team at the beginning of 2015, after completing a Marine Bio class at the MaST center. She is currently an Art major at Pacific Lutheran University but spends a good portion of her free time at the MaST, where she worked diligently to expand the jelly program and continues to supervise our volunteers. While Cris claims to not play favorites when choosing a marine creature, she is fascinated by the stubby squid (Rossia pacifica).


Cal Smith


Cal has been working at the MaST Center as a volunteer for over 6 years. As a retired civil engineer, his expertise comes in very handy around the entire facility, and we are very lucky Cal is with us. Cal received his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington,  and retired after 30 years with the Washington State Department of Transportation. He also worked for 25 years as a part time commercial fisherman trolling for salmon off the Washington coast. Not only is Cal's knowledge as an engineer extremely helpful, but his knowledge of the Washington coast, and its marine inhabitants is hard to come by. Cal does not have a favorite marine creature, as he loves all creatures of the sea! 

Randy Williams
Volunteer, Live Dive Lead

Randy is a very familiar face here at the MaST Center. He is an extremely dependable volunteer who gladly assists in any task at the facility. Randy also hosts our Live Dive events once a month on water weekends, leads marine life collections for the aquarium, and documents all the cool stuff that goes on in the facility; all using his own equipment! Randy is a retired US Coast Guard Marine Science Technician and diver. Randy has worked as a diver with the NOAA National Undersea Research Program with the Aquarius Undersea Lab in Florida. He is also a local technical diving instruction with 40+ years as an underwater explorer. Randy is known for his willingness and enthusiasm around the MaST Center, and is always ready for an adventure! His favorite marine creature is the Enteroctopus dofleini (Giant Pacific Octopus).


Katy Kachmarik
AmeriCorps Service Member, Citizen Science and Volunteer Coordinator


Katy is excited to learn more about all things Puget Sound related! Originally from northern Indiana, she spent the last 5 years in Oregon where she graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a B.S. in Marine Biology. During her time at Oregon she interned with the Manatee Research Department at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Florida as well as doing research in Ireland on invertebrate communities in Europe’s first marine protected area. She also was an undergraduate TA and tutor for the biology department where she discovered a love for teaching and inspiring ocean conservation and biological research. At the MaST Center, she manages the Marine Mammal Stranding Team, the Jelly Team, the Nudibranch Team, and Discovery Day volunteers. Her favorite marine creatures are the sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) and beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas).


Kayla Grattan
AmeriCorps Service Member, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Kayla was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  A lifelong lover of the water and everything in it, it has always been her dream to study, live near, and work with the ocean.  She earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies & Sustainability from Michigan State University in the spring of 2016, and has since moved to the Seattle area to serve at the MaST Center.  At the MaST, she coordinates education programs and outreach events to schools and organizations in the community.  As a MaST volunteer and Ambassador for the 5 Gyres Institute, she enjoys helping to foster a meaningful connection between people and the ocean, as we are all ultimately part of the same system.  She hopes to one day settle into a career in the areas of marine and environmental conservation, education, and policy.  When not at the MaST, she can be found perusing nature trails,  beach combing, or hanging out in the city.  Her favorite marine creature is the reef manta ray (manta birostris), and it is at the top of her bucket list to see them in the wild.