The Founder ... My Story
My background is in Marine Biology and my passion is Conservation Education. I am lucky to have had many field experiences that allowed me to gain knowledge and expertise in many conservation and animal related fields. I have worked with many organizations such as National Aquarium in Baltimore, National Audubon Society, Miami Seaquarium and led my own eco-travel student groups. I’ve also worked with my husband, Dr. Brady Barr in the field and appeared in his National Geographic show: “Dangerous Encounters”. I decided to develop my own programs to share my adventures, knowledge and even our extraordinary house “pets” with you!
I grew up in the city of San Jose, Costa Rica. I was lucky to be just hours away from beautiful rainforests, beaches, and volcanoes. Because of that, I was also fortunate to be exposed to nature at a young age. Almost every weekend, my parents would take our family on excursions into nature. We got to watch sea turtles lay their eggs, we went hiking in the rainforests, and we loved having close encounters with amazing animals at a local zoo. I truly believe that these interactive experiences that I had with nature and animals as young child were defining moments in my life. They have inspired me to become who I am today.
With 20 years of experience in Conservation Education, field research (with sea turtles, manatees, crocodilians…), zoo and aquarium program development and management, I have developed a variety of hands-on, interactive, “Eco-Adventures”. Since not everyone can attend these eco-travel experiences, I have developed local programs that will get students excited about protecting and being with nature. Come experience the sights and sounds of nature through Chelonia Eco-Adventures. I hope to see you in my programs.
All the best,
Mei Len Sanchez-Barr
What is Chelonia?
Chelonia is the genus of the popular and endangered green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas. These sea turtles represent the delicate balance between humans and nature surviving together on this planet. We’re here to make a difference in the survival of these and other species, by contributing part of the proceeds to conservation, education, and research projects.
These highly personalized programs provide educational, ecological, and motivational experiences to inspire participants to gain stewardship toward the conservation of our planet. With the opportunity to encounter extraordinary animals, learn about research projects worldwide, and participate in conservation oriented activities… students will Experience the Extraordinary!
These programs are designed and grouped into ages (2 ½-4), (5-11) and (8-12) on weekends and teacher planning days. Home schooling, birthday parties and school programs are available.
Discovery and adventure are found around every corner, all in a safe, controlled learning environment, under the supervision of the Lead instructor- Mei Len Sanchez-Barr. (See biography below) Safety is our priority. The lead instructor has had training in First Aid/CPR, with 20 years of extensive training and experience with animal handling and care. In addition, on occasion there may be guest instructors that are active scientists, educators, and/or University researchers from institutions like National Geographic, National Aquarium in Baltimore, NOAA, National Audubon Society, University of Miami, and more.
Lead Instructor-Mei Len Sanchez-Barr
Marine Biologist and Educator
Aquarium and Zoo Association ‘s (AZA) Crocodilian Advisory Group- Education Liaision
Mei Len’s varied career is a testament to her lifelong passion for the conservation of the environment and its inhabitants. Her passion for endangered and threatened species such as the Florida manatee, sea turtles, and alligators, has earned her accolades from the mayor of Miami for her efforts towards public conservation awareness. As an advocate for young minority women in science, she was also featured in Baltimore Times for her interesting career and achievements, celebrating women’s history month March 2002. She was also chosen to appear in Latina Magazine June issue 2006, as the featured inspirational Hispanic woman in marine biology careers.
Committed to conservation and education, Mei Len has been an educator since college, working for various zoological institutions such as: Busch Gardens in Tampa, the Miami Seaquarium, Parrot Jungle and Gardens, and National Audubon Society (NAS) where she led and coordinated residential programs for groups in grades K-12. These programs focused on the ecology and history of south Florida, the Everglades and the Florida Keys. Mei Len was most recently in management in the Conservation Education Department at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where she developed and implemented the renowned Aquarium’s visitor programs. The Costa Rica native was also an adjunct professor at Florida International University in Miami, where she taught ecology of south Florida.
Aside from her management and educational career, Mei Len’s fascination began with field research and crocodilians in 1995, when she became involved in the University of Miami’s Alligator Project. This research studied the diet of the American alligator. It involved capturing animals and using a stomach-pumping method of obtaining data, as well as analysis of data in the laboratory. Her field research extends all over the world from monitoring Florida beaches for sea turtle nests, to conducting a diet study on the dwarf crocodile in Gabon, Africa with Smithsonian scientists and husband, Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic Television. Mei Len is also, principle investigator of National Geographic Society’s Acutus Project 2001-2003 in Costa Rica, where she is responsible for developing and implementing hands-on educational programs and in 2002, she was appointed Vice President of the “Asociacion de Expertos en Cocodrilos (AEC)- Costa Rica” (Association of Crocodile Experts). She currently holds the position of Crocodilian Advisory Group (CAG) Education Liaison for the Association for Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA), where Mei Len is an instructor of AZA professional development/graduate course: “Crocodilian Population and Captive Management”. She coordinates educational and fundraising events and materials. She also is a steering committee member of the Public Education Group of International Group of Crocodile Specialists .
Mei Len is a graduate of the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Marine Science. She is currently working on her master’s degree at George Mason University in Conservation Education. She and husband, Dr. Brady Barr have a 6 year old daughter, two and a half year old son, and they reside in Maryland along with their yellow lab-Margie and numerous animals.
Christina Romano - Marine Biologist/Microbiologist and Educator
At 28 years old, Christina has dived with sharks and stingrays in places like the Red Sea, the Florida Keys, and the Caribbean, has rescued dolphins and sea turtles in the Atlantic Ocean, has banded ospreys nesting in the Chesapeake Bay, and has helped organize the first student-run marine biotechnology conference in Maryland! She has been an informal educator teaching about marine biology and conservation for the last 6 years at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Irvine Nature Center. Most recently, Christina worked at the National Aquarium in Baltimore where she developed and implemented onsite, outreach, and homeschool programs for students in grades preK-12. Christina graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a Master of Science degree in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. She hopes to return to school as a PhD candidate to study shellfish pathology in the Chesapeake Bay.
Lauren Trew- Educator and Special Events Naturalist
Lauren has a myriad of experience teaching various topics. Lauren has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville . She started teaching kindergarten with Fulton County Public Schools in Alpharetta, GA. Lauren served as a Children's Leader and Substitute Teaching Leader in the local Bible Study Fellowship, Int'l class. She has taught drama classes, and most recently substituted long-term for two classes at Benfield Elementary. Lauren also has experience with dance, writing and directing theatrical productions as well as photography. She and her husband Scott have two teenage daughters and live in Severna Park.
Our Advisory Board
Scientific Advisory Board
Brady Barr, Ph. D
TV host and Resident Herpetologist, National Geographic Television
Director, St. Augustine Alligator Farm
Curator, Wildlife Discovery Center- Elawa Farm Lake Forest, IL
Kent Vliet, Ph. D
Professor, University of Florida & Crocodilian Advisory Group Chair, Association of Zoos & Aquarium
Mireya Mayor, Ph. D
Primatologist and National Geographic TV host
Educational Advisory Board
Robert Barr Ph. D
Senior Educational Analyst, Boise State University
Michele Harcarik, Ed. D
Reading Specialist, Falls Church, VA
Curator, Wildlife Discovery Center- Elawa Farm, Lake Forest, IL
Heather A. Cornett, M.Ed.
National Board Certified Teacher Florida Virtual School