Animal Welfare Animal Welfare
Species Preservation Laboratory

Research Team

Vice President of Theriogenology: Todd Robeck, DVM, PhD
Laboratory Manager/Research Associate: Karen Steinman, BS
Research Associate: Gisele Montano, DVM, MS
Research Technician: Jacqueline Posy, BS, MS
Research Technician: Amanda McDonnell, BS
Honorary Scientific Associate: Justine O’Brien, BScAgr, PhD



Dr Todd R. Robeck
B.S., D.V.M., Ph.D, (Texas A&M)
Director of the Species Preservation Laboratory, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Dr. Robeck started his career with marine mammals as a marine animal trainer at Sea-Arama Marineworld in Galveston, while working toward a BS degree which he obtained in 1985 (Texas A&M University). In 1985, began pursuing his Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology at Texas A&M University. In 1987, while in graduate school he began working with SeaWorld on reproductive research in the killer whale. While continuing his research with killer whales, he began veterinary school in 1988. After finishing his preliminary exams for his Ph.D. in 1993 (Ph.D thesis entitled: Defining Basic Reproductive Physiology, Including Reproductive Anatomy, Reproductive Endocrinology and Estrus Induction of Captive Delphinids) he began working for Sea World San Antonio as a veterinarian and Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC) as a reproductive physiologist. He graduated with his Ph.D. in 1996 and in 2000 began working full time with BEC in his current position. In 2006, Dr Robeck co-supervised the completion of the Species Preservation Laboratory in San Diego California. He has been the principle or co-principal investigator in developing the first successful methodology for artificial insemination in the killer whale, bottlenose dolphin, Pacific white-sided dolphin and the beluga, as well as the birth of the first pre-sexed zoological species, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Dr. Robeck is responsible for the development and application of assisted reproductive technology (ART) to the animal collection at SeaWorld & Busch Gardens, and coordinates ART programs among numerous aquaria worldwide. Dr. Robeck is a member of the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM), the International Embryo Transfer Society (IETS), American Veterinary Medical Associations (AVMA), Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA). and is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the states of Florida and Texas.



Karen Steinman
Research Associate and Lab Manager, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Species Preservation Laboratory, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Karen Steinman earned her B.S. degree in 1996 at the University of California, San Diego. During 1998 to 2002 she worked at the San Diego Zoo’s Center for Research of Endangered Species, initially as a laboratory assistant, and then as a Senior Research Laboratory Technician and Research Fellow. Karen was employed by SeaWorld as a biological technician based at the Department of Reproductive Sciences, Conservation and Research Center, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, during 2002 to 2006. Since 2006, Karen has worked as a research scientist and lab manager of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center. Through these positions, Karen has attained specialist experience in radioimmunoassay and enzyme immunoassay techniques across a wide range of marine and terrestrial species, and oversees the center's intern training in this discipline. She coordinates the center’s mobile hormone assay monitoring system, which has been instrumental in the successful application of artificial insemination and sperm sorting technology to ex situ bottlenose dolphin management and conservation. Karen is also undertaking a Masters degree in beluga reproductive physiology (George Mason University), and is a member of the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine and the International Society of Wildlife Endocrinology.



Gisele A. Montano
M.S. (Texas A&M)
Research Associate, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Species Preservation Laborator, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Dr Gisele Montano Pedroso earned her veterinary degree in 2007 at the University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico. Whilst studying for her MVZ degree, Dr Montano assisted with dog and dolphin semen research projects (University of Mexico) and completed work experience at various small animal veterinary clinics in Mexico City. In 2010, Dr Montano was awarded an MS degree in Physiology of Reproduction at Texas A&M University. Her Masters research, conducted in collaboration with the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center, lead to an improved understanding of dolphin sperm function after cryopreservation, sex-sorting and re-cryopreservation. Such knowledge will enable optimized use of cryopreserved, sex-sorted, re-cryopreserved samples in national and international bottlenose dolphin artificial insemination programs. Dr Montano is currently a research associate at the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center, focusing on in vitro embryo technologies in cetaceans, and is also a research consultant with Dolphin Adventure (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico). She is a member of the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine and the International Embryo Transfer Society.



Jacqueline L. Posy
BS (Hon)
Research Technician, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Species Preservation Laborator, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Jacqueline Posy earned her B.S. degree majoring in Biology (2006) and a Masters degree in molecular biology (2008) at Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey. Jacqueline held a research associate position at the Center for AIDS Research in the School of Medicine at New York University during 2008-2011. In this position, Jacqueline assisted with HIV/AIDS clinical trials studying cell function with focus on immunology, and used several types of fluorescence activated cell sorters. Since June 2011, Jacqueline has worked as a research technician at the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center where she operates and maintains state-of-the-art sperm sorting equipment, for use across a wide range of wildlife species. Jacqueline also monitors and coordinates laboratory quality control procedures, biological sample inventory and assists with all facets of the center’s research and routine activities.



Amanda McDonnell
Research Technician, Species Preservation Laboratory, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Amanda McDonnell earned her B.S. degree majoring in Marine Science (2011) at the University of San Diego (USD). Amanda's research project as part of the BS degree was on sediment and water sample analysis in response to a hurricane event. Amanda completed an internship at the Ocean Discovery Unit (San Diego) in 2010 and was a research assistant at USD during 2010-2011. During 2010 to 2012 Amanda was an intern in the Bioacoustics Lab at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute analyzing audio and video data for a killer whale vocalization study and assisting with on-site data collection in other cetacean vocalization projects. Since 2012, Amanda has worked as a research technician at the Species Preservation Laboratory where she conducts semen quality assessments, prepares and cryopreserves non-sorted and sex-sorted sperm, and performs hormone analysis. Amanda also assists with the maintenance and inventory of gamete banks and other facets of the center's research and routine activities including artificial insemination procedures.



Dr Justine K. O’Brien
B.Sc.Agr. (Hons), Ph.D. (Sydney)
Honorary Scientific Associate, Species Preservation Laboratory, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
Manager, Conservation Science, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Dr. Justine O’Brien is a University of Sydney graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a PhD in Veterinary Science for her work on gamete biology and assisted reproduction. She has over 20 years of experience in wildlife reproductive research specializing in strategies for maintaining population genetic diversity and reproductive health. Dr. O’Brien was Scientific Director at the Species Preservation Lab (formerly the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center) for 12 years, co-establishing the center with Dr. Todd Robeck, working closely with other leading zoological organizations such as the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Dr. O’Brien joined Taronga in 2017 where her role is to manage and support conservation science programs in line with Taronga’s commitment to increase understanding and protection of wildlife through investigation, evidence-based application and communication of science to the community. Her research interests continue to focus on understanding reproductive physiology, and to incorporate knowledge derived from zoo-based scientific programs into health assessments and conservation strategies for free-ranging wildlife populations. She holds multiple advisory positions in wildlife reproductive health, is co-chairperson of the Regulatory Subcommittee of the International Embryo Transfer Society’s Parent Committee on Companion Animals, Non-Domestic and Endangered Species (CANDES) and a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the International Embryo Technology Society.