Steve McCulloch



Stephen McCulloch is one of the few professionals to have worked for decades with both the marine mammal zoological industry and conservation research communities around the world. His broad understanding of today’s issues and his global perspective enable him to offer singularly creative solutions to meet the demands of an ever-changing seascape.


Stephen McCulloch is a dedicated professional with more than four decades of experience. He has been twice nominated as a finalist to receive the world’s most prestigious conservation award, the Indianapolis Prize, and the Blue Legacy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also an award-winning photographer with published images in National Geographic, American Scientist, and Nature magazines and has been a technical consultant for two Oscar and Emmy award-winning films. He is the author of more than thirty abstracts and co-author of more than forty peer-reviewed publications. He also wrote legislative language for the Florida Oceans Initiative and helped pass three unprecedented Florida State laws that have raised more than seventy million dollars in funding for marine mammal health, research, and conservation.

McCulloch has designed, managed, and operated specialized marine mammal laboratories, sea-pen facilities, rehabilitation centers, and life support systems. He has played pivotal roles in the successful rehabilitation, native reintroduction, and post-release monitoring of numerous whales, dolphins, and pinnipeds. As a NOAA Fisheries authorized investigator he conducts marine mammal population and acoustic surveys of dolphins and critically endangered North Atlantic Right whales. Since 2003, he has led more than a dozen complex dolphin health and environmental risk assessments requiring management and logistical coordination of hundreds of scientists, veterinarians, and collaborators from around the world. Today, McCulloch’s focus is on improving health and welfare of marine mammals in human care, conservation of wild populations, and support for global stranding networks.

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Administrator of multi-tiered projects with proven deliverables. McCulloch's broad experience extends well beyond rescue and rehabilitative care to business development, legislative affairs, media relations, grant writing, and shouldering the fiduciary responsibility for multi-million dollar projects. A hands-on program director, he provides outstanding presentation, communication, and cross-cultural team management skills.


Skilled in the design, management, and operations of specialized marine mammal laboratories, sea-pen facilities, rehabilitation centers, and life support systems, including mil-spec transport systems used to recover, treat, and safely transport sick or injured marine mammals. His deep knowledge of marine species behavior and welfare greatly facilitates his ability to design, construct, and maintain specialized marine environments and enrichment programs.


An award-winning photographer and contributor to the Oscar and Emmy award-winning documentaries The Cove and PBS Changing Seas. He provided technical support in the feature films Dolphin Tale, Dolphin Tale 2 and Dolphin Man: The Legend of Jacques Mayol, which won four international film festival awards in 2018. In 1997, McCulloch was sponsored by Canon USA to help pioneer use of the world's first digital camera for field applications involving photo-identification studies of wild dolphins. In 2015, he was the first to film utilizing drones during a dolphin health assessment as a learning, teaching, and safety tool.


McCulloch is authorized by NOAA Fisheries to conduct scientific research and has led and executed more than forty high-risk multi-agency open-water interventions to safely rescue, evaluate, and treat entangled and out-of-habitat cetaceans. He is also a skilled offshore boat pilot and navigator whose efforts have earned him awards and recognition from the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


McCulloch has two decades of experience as a NOAA Fisheries co-investigator with authorization to conduct marine mammal population and acoustic surveys of dolphins and critically endangered North Atlantic Right whales. Since 2003, and with a focus on ocean and human health, Steve has led fourteen complex dolphin health and environmental risk assessments requiring management and logistical coordination of more than one hundred support staff. These activities involve ongoing collaborations with world-class scientists from around the globe.


In 1997, McCulloch co-founded a multi-disciplinary marine mammal research and conservation program at the renowned Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution where he served with distinction for seventeen years. There he spearheaded an initiative to create legacy legislation and passage of three Florida State laws and the Florida Oceans Initiative. To date, he has helped raised more than seventy million dollars for marine conservation.

The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.
— Jacques Yves Cousteau
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Steve McCulloch has been a friend and colleague for over a decade. He was instrumental in helping establish my non-profit organization EarthEcho International and raising $1M in seed funding to launch several conservation initiatives. He is also a valued member of my team at my company Voyacy Ventures as a visionary voice for innovative experiential conservation initiatives. We are fortunate to have Steve lend his passion, voice, and wealth of knowledge about marine mammals in support of our global mission of education and conservation.
—Philippe Cousteau

Steve McCulloch is one of the most respected and knowledgeable people in the marine mammal industry. His help has been instrumental in the development of CMA’s research and conservation programs.
—David Yates, CEO, Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Steve McCulloch is one of the most skilled and dedicated marine mammalogists, rehabilitators, and researchers in the field today. He is internationally recognized for his pioneering work in the rehabilitation and release of marine mammals and is a consummate professional who is known for placing the health of the animal and the safety of his staff above all else.
—Jeff Foster, Director of Research, Marine Research Consultants

Steve McCulloch is proof that one person can make a difference. He is an icon of the marine mammal conservation and scientific communities. Through his legislative initiatives, Steve has raised more than $1M for the Wyland Foundation and serves as one of our Environmental Ambassadors.
—WYLAND, Artist of the Sea

In a global search for a marine mammal professional who could help us stabilize the health and guide a rehabilitative process to reintroduce two dolphins back to the wild we were fortunate to locate Steve McCulloch. He is exceptionally knowledgeable and possesses strong leadership skills, great passion, and showed respect for all of our team members.
—Will Travers, CEO Born Free Foundation (UK)

I have seen Steve McCulloch patiently build a world-class team of researchers and educators. The top-notch quality of his many colleagues and team members speaks volumes about him as a program manager and leader.
—David Cox, Ph.D., Environmental Programs Manager

Over the past 30 years, Steve McCulloch has always impressed me with his tireless work ethic and ability to take stakeholders on board for solving difficult problems concerning marine mammal issues.
—Gregory D. Bossart, V.M.D., Ph.D., Diplomate ECZM, Senior Vice President, Animal Health, Research and Conservation, Georgia Aquarium

If not for Steve McCulloch’s direct involvement, it is highly unlikely that either Dolphin Tale or Dolphins Tale 2 feature films would have ever been made. It is with great confidence that Steve calmly directed CMA staff and his team in the rescue and provided life saving care to two injured neonate dolphins that would soon become marine mammal icons.
—Andrew Kosove, Co-Founder, CEO Alcon Entertainment

Working alongside Steve McCulloch is without question, one of the highest honors and experiences of my lifetime career in the field of marine mammal sciences. His tenacity and passion in implementing and facilitating visionary programs has earned him a worldwide reputation. His devotion to his work is contagious and his work ethic is superb and unstoppable.
—Robin B. Friday, Sr., President, CEO, Ocean Embassy, Inc.

Steve McCulloch has demonstrated his wealth of skills and dedication in faithful service as a key member of Florida's marine mammal health and stranding response network, which I highly valued while leading NOAA. He is clearly without peer in his experience and knowledge of dolphin care and handling, as well as the safety precautions necessary to protect both animals and humans.
—Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. Ph.D., Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (retired), CEO, GeoOptics, Inc., and former NOAA Administrator

Steve McCulloch is a visionary marine mammal research operations executive whose skill at managing multiple projects is impressive. His remarkable body of work on behalf of the underwater environment and marine mammals has earned him the respect of his peers. 
—Captain Frank K. Butler, Medical Corps, U. S. Navy SEAL (Ret.)

I’ve enjoyed working alongside Steve on numerous dolphin health and environmental risk assessments that he has directed. As a research scientist, a veterinarian and a four-time mission specialist aboard NASA’s space shuttles, I can honestly say that Steve is a world-class program manager.
—Rick Linehan, DVM - Astronaut, NASA Mission Specialist

Steve McCulloch's research on the Indian River dolphins has been instrumental in the survival of this population. When the Born Free Foundation asked me to relocate two captive dolphins in Turkey, I had no reservations to ask Steve for his help. Steve flew to Turkey and impressed the team with his knowledge and leadership. He headed up the rehabilitation team and provided an extensive training regime to prepare the dolphins for a successful native reintroduction. I highly recommend Steve for any cetacean rescue and rehabilitation program.
—Alan Knight OBE, Chairman & Founder, British Divers Marine Life Rescue (UK)

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