Marine Mammal Rescue Team

All members of the team are highly trained to provide qualified and experienced veterinary care to our animal patients.

Our Rescue Team

Our team includes a staff veterinarian (as well as several consulting veterinarians), registered veterinary technologists, animal care and rehabilitation specialists and many dedicated volunteers. All members of the team are highly trained to provide qualified and experienced veterinary care to our animal patients. Our volunteers are essential to our success.

Staff Veterinarian

Dr. Martin Haulena, DVM, MSc, Dipl. ACZM

Dr. Martin Haulena graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1993 and completed a Master's degree in pathobiology from the University of Guelph in 1999. Dr. Haulena was the Staff Veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA for nine years and is currently Staff Veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium. His special interests are in the medical management of aquatic animals—particularly marine mammals—with emphasis on innovative diagnostic methods such as MRIs, endoscopy and sonography, developing safe anesthetic protocols and improving surgical techniques.

Rescue Centre Manager

Lindsaye Akhurst, RVT

Lindsaye Akhurst is the Manager of the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and has been working at the Rescue Centre since 2006. Lindsaye is a registered Veterinary Technologist, President of the Oiled Wildlife Society of B.C. and a member of the Wildlife Rehabilitators network of British Columbia. Lindsaye possesses finely tuned rehabilitation skills specifically when working with seals, sea lions, porpoises, sea turtles, and sea otters.

Rescue Centre Assistant Manager

Emily Johnson, RVT

Emily graduated from the Veterinary Technology program at the University of Guelph, Ridgetown College in 1999. Throughout her career as an RVT she has worked in many aspects of veterinary medicine including ophthalmology, surgery, and internal medicine. Emily joined our RVT team back in 2010 and moved into the Assistant Manager position in 2017.


Sion Cahoon, RVT

Sion graduated from Thompson Rivers University and has been working as a RVT for over 20 years. Her experiences have varied, working in small animal private practice, shelter medicine, education, and aquarium and wildlife medicine. Sion grew up on Vancouver Island and has been with the aquarium for the past 11 years.

Marine Mammal Research Assistant

Cassandra Girdlestone, BSc, MSc

Cassandra was born in Middleton, N.S. and grew up in Ontario where she completed her BSc Specialized Honours of Marine Biology at the University of Guelph. In 2012 she moved to BC in hopes of becoming involved at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and to pursue her dreams of becoming a marine biologist.  After joining the team at VAMMRC in 2014 as a volunteer, she completed her practicum placement in 2015 before being hired on as staff in her role as a Rescue Assistant.  Cassandra completed her MSc in Zoology at UBC in 2018 and started her new position as Research Assistant at VAMMRC in June of 2019.


Dr. Sarah Wright, DVM

Sarah Wright is the current Veterinary Fellow at the Vancouver Aquarium. Sarah graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2020 and is a Certified Aquatic Veterinary by the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association. She completed a Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship at VCA Aurora Animal Hospital from 2020-2021. As a veterinary student, Sarah participated in veterinary externships at Mystic Aquarium, The Marine Mammal Center, Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Sarah has a passion for aquatic animal medicine and conservation and is excited to join the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre team during her fellowship.


Gabrielle Beer, RVT

Gabrielle graduated as a Registered Veterinary Technologist from Thompson Rivers University in 2014. She has worked in specialty veterinary care, general practice with small animals, exotics and with aquatic and marine mammals since joining the Vancouver Aquarium in 2017.


Natalie Sacks, RVT, BSc

Natalie is from Toronto, Ontario and studied Marine Biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She then became a Registered Veterinary Technologist in 2012 and moved to Vancouver in 2019 where she found a home at the Vancouver Aquarium and Marine Mammal Rescue Center. She has always had a deep love for the ocean and loves having the opportunity to work with so many different species of animals.


Luca Hoffecker, BSc

Born in Germany, Luca grew up in Victoria, BC before attending UBC in Vancouver where he attained a double major in Biology and Oceanography with the goal to complete a Master of Marine Biology in Australia starting in 2022. Luca’s career with the Rescue Centre started in 2017 as a volunteer and in 2021 was hired in the role of Marine Mammal Rescue Assistant.


Too many to name!

Dedicated volunteers are essential to the success of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Volunteers clean facilities and animal care spaces; prepare food and assist in feeding animals; assist with the preparation and administration of medications and treatments; accompany staff on rescues and releases; and help to ensure that every animal gets the care that it needs.