Former Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Exec Brings more than Two Decades Conservation Experience
The Florida Aquarium announced today that Dr. Debborah Luke, an internationally recognized leader with over 25 years of marine and environmental conservation leadership experience, has joined its executive team as Senior Vice President of Conservation. In this role, Debi will be expanding the Aquarium’s dedication to understanding and conserving aquatic species and ecosystems.
“Dr. Luke’s passion for our Blue Planet, her deep technical and management expertise on marine and environmental conservation issues, and her experience as a leader make her a perfect fit,” said Andy Wood Chief Operating Officer of The Florida Aquarium. “Over more than two decades, she has worked in nearly all aspects of conservation, and she understands what is required to drive impact at scale.”
She brings a wealth of experience to the Aquarium leadership team. Most recently, Debi served as the Executive Director of the Society for Conservation Biology – the premier organization for professionals and students who dedicate their work towards advancing the science and practice of conserving Earth’s biological diversity. In this role, she oversaw the strategic business planning for seven regional global sections and over thirty-five international chapters; supported the development of international collaborations that addressed critical environmental and conservation issues; managed the administration of three of the world’s most prestigious peer-reviewed conservation-based scientific journals; and created a marine-focused track for the organization’s international congress.
Previously, Dr. Luke served as Senior Vice President of Conservation & Science for nearly a decade at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). One of her significant accomplishments while at AZA was the successful launch of the field conservation programs that supported SAFE, AZA’s premier Saving Animals from Extinction program. In addition, Dr. Luke intimately understands the workings of an aquarium, having served as the Director of Education & Research at Sea Life Park in Hawaii, and as the Director of Manatee Care & Research (along with other various roles) during ten years at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.
“I am excited about the opportunity for what we can achieve at The Florida Aquarium,” said Dr. Luke. “I joined the Aquarium because its vision for protecting and restoring our Blue Planet are imperatives that I fully support and have spent my career advancing. Our oceans are facing unprecedented challenges and it is vital that we find ways to assure their environmental health into the future The Florida Aquarium is dedicated to meeting its vision by applying cutting-edge science-based technologies, building collaborations, and empowering the Tampa Bay community to support its critically important conservation work. I very much look forward working with The Florida Aquarium team to accomplish these objectives.”
Dr. Luke is no stranger to Tampa, having earned both her Doctorate and Master’s degrees in cognitive neuroscience and marine science from the University of South Florida and an undergraduate degree in psychology from New College in Sarasota.