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Meet The Staff
Cy Forell (Co-Owner) - I started out in the hobby with a Goldfish from the fair, and then a Betta bowl. I set up my first 10 gallon tropical freshwater tank when I was twelve. It quickly became a 20 gallon and then a 38 gallon.
I began my professional aquarium career at a local pet store when I was sixteen years old. After one year there, I moved on to another local family owned pet store chain. I was quickly made an assistant manager and served as an aquatics specialist. After a few years with this company I was moved out to co-manage their new aquarium only shop. At this point I was bitten with the saltwater "bug". I had bred countless freshwater species but saltwater aquariums provided a whole new realm to explore. In 1998, I began servicing aquariums to supplement my income. I started my own company on the side called Aqua Pro USA. This business grew quickly, so Tim and I formed a new partnership called Barrier Reef Aquariums in 2000.
Throughout my college education, I found myself drawn to science and environmental issues/policy classes. There was no degree program that perfectly matched my interests. In 2001, I finally finished up my last few classes at the University of Washington and earned a Bachelor Degree in Liberal Arts with a focus in International Interactions. During the summer of 2006, I realized that our Coral Aquaculture Farm and Aquarium Servicing Business had grown to the point where it was time for Tim and I to go our own direction. After 15 years I left the store I had helped to build, in order to pursue my goals with Tim. Shortly after we left we were approached about the possibility of opening our own aquarium shop. We both knew it was what we wanted to do! We opened the doors of our retail shop in December of 2006.
My other interests include spending time with my wife, visiting her family and friends in Canada, sports, movies, music, and travel. My username on RF/RC is "barrierreefcf".
Tim Cole(Co-Owner) - I have been fascinated with fish and the ocean all my life. When I was little, my dream was to study sharks "when I grew up." I read and collected anything and everything related to them. Since I grew up in the Arizona desert my exposure to the sea was limited to PBS.
My addiction to aquariums began with a 10 gallon tropical freshwater tank when I was eight years old. I then moved up to a 20 gallon tank that I kept for many years. When I was in Junior High I went to a local fish store and discovered saltwater. I was instantly hooked. I got myself into a 34 gallon acrylic hex tank as my first saltwater reef aquarium. I quickly moved up to 55 gallon which, I brought all over with me during my college years. Though still fascinated with sharks, I found a deeper passion learning more about living reef communities. I decided to go to the University of Washington to achieve a degree in Marine Zoology. My goal was to be in the field of aquaculture or conservation. I later switched to the School of Fisheries Sciences, which I found was a much better fit. Thanks to my education, I have been given valuable insight to all the different fisheries and forms of aquaculture. This has driven me in educating the public on proper husbandry and encouraging aquaculture in the aquarium hobby.
My career in the aquarium industry began during my senior year in high school. I got a job at a local fish store and quickly moved up to an assistant manager position. I worked at that store for two years then transferred to a sister store where I continued as an assistant manager. I continued to manage this store until mid-2006. During my first couple years in the industry I fell into aquarium servicing after landing a local rap star as a client. As I continued to acquire new clients, I began to realize I wanted to make my future in this business. My username on RF/RC is "barrierreeftc".
Natalia Washington (Store Manager/Coral Farming Specialist) - Reefing is my passion. Because of Barrier, I've gotten the chance of living my passion through work as well. I have been very successful with the tanks that I have at home and I am able to share my personal collection with the reefing community through Barrier.
I never thought that I would want to work with fish, but I was working at a daycare and as they were closing their doors, they didn't know what to do with the goldfish that we had as a pet. I couldn't stand back and watch him get flushed, so I took the little fish bowl, put it in my lap and drove home. That was the day that my addiction started. Now, not a day goes by that I don't frag a coral.
I started this hobby 10 years ago with a small 24 gallon BioCube and now my total system volume combined equals almost a thousand gallons of water, stay tuned for more to come!
Jeff McCarty (Sales Associate/Maintenance Specialist) - My passion for aquariums started when I was young. I set up my first 10 gallon freshwater aquarium when I was 12 years old. This led to a 26 gallon bow front, which eventually became a saltwater tank. Then I set up 90 gallon and 125 gallon aquariums. I currently maintain two aquariums at home.
Since I had such a strong interest in the aquarium hobby, I got my first part time job at a pet store when I was 16. Within the year, I was promoted to manager of the saltwater department. A few years later I decided to become a firefighter. The aquarium industry must have set its hooks in me, because a few years later I came back. I helped a friend start up a new store and I was put in charge of the aquatics and reptile departments. I have also worked briefly in aquarium maintenance, the software industry, and a snowboarding shop. I joined the Barrier Reef team in September of 2011.
My other interests include snowboarding, long boarding, wakeboarding, motorcycles, snowmobiles, video games, movies, and working on cars.
Remy Goldstein (Sales Associate/Maintenance Specialist) - One of the first words I learned as a toddler was the word “fish.” One of the first injuries I incurred as a child happened when I was banging on 20 gallon glass fish tank that broke and cut me above my eye when I was 2 years old. Needless to say, I have been fascinated with aquatic creatures from a very young age.
I have always had some sort of fish tank up and running in my life. These would be ranging from a small freshwater system in my parent's house, to having a peak of eight different tanks along every wall in a small room I lived in while in college. I didn't always know that I would be as involved in the hobby as I am coming to realize. I had studied philosophy in college, and was beginning to go in a much different occupational direction until one day I finally realized what it was that truly made me happy. Currently I am waist deep in this wonderful and challenging hobby and I am not looking back. I have aspirations of going back to school to study marine biology, in hopes of making a bigger difference in the way we treat and learn from aquatic environments, but until I take that plunge, I am fully embracing the hobby as a way to learn and grow.
I have learned a lot over the years, and while I still have much more to understand, I feel that I am adept enough to offer a solid understanding in the basics of fish/coral husbandry, tank maintenance, and design. Not pounding on a glass fish tank is just one of the few that instantly comes to mind.
Chris Handegard (Sales Associate/Equipment Specialist) - My aquarium history started with Ninja Turtles. I had to have a turtle, and so I got my first pet, Leonardo, and a 55 gallon aquarium. Goldfish and frogs followed, leading to a second aquarium when my attempts at fish-keeping in the turtle tank led to fish-snacks for Leo.
I started with saltwater in 1995 with a 50 gallon fish only, which eventually led to reef tanks, and later to a position doing aquarium maintenance for a local salt water store. I gave the hobby up briefly to focus on my career as a Master Auto Technician, but I'm very happy to have had the time to begin keeping mixed reefs again. 22 years in this hobby has given me an appreciation for the scientific approach to reef keeping, as well as a great sense of humility.
When I'm not up to my elbows in saltwater, you'll find me riding my motorcycles, restoring classic cars, or binge watching Stargate.
Stephanie Lehrmann (Maintenance Specialist) - Ever since I can remember I have always loved animals and was most strongly drawn to the ocean and its mysteries. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland I had access to numerous beaches and National Seashores that I would explore often in the summer. Living in such close proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and Inner Harbor I was able to learn more about the ecology and the animals that lived in these environments, as well as learn through the National Aquarium and their changing exhibits. In 2001, I watched the BBC's Blue Planet documentary and can still remember how it resonated in my heart. I knew then that I wanted to grow up and work with ocean life.
I attended college at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in both Marine Science and Biology. My college was fortunate enough to have a summer field station in Wallops Island, Virginia where I was able to leave the classroom and lab, and put textbook knowledge, theories, and practices to the test as I collected, observed, and documented both the environment and animals in their natural surroundings. One of these classes took me to Roatan, Honduras where I spent two weeks studying corals and their inhabitants while using SCUBA. My class worked with the Roatan Institute for Marine Science on various projects to evaluate the health of the reef; many of these projects are still ongoing.
Upon graduation I worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD as a husbandry technician for two species of frogs and zebrafish. I was in charge of both animal's health and maintaining their 25 different life support systems, with one system housing 4,500 tanks. After 4 years, I left NIH to work in a place that I had loved all my life, the National Aquarium. I accepted a position as a Life Support Engineer where I maintained the systems for all large exhibits, ranging from a 1,400 gallon lizard tank to a 1.6 million gallon dolphin tank.
Two and a half years later a job opportunity for my husband caused us to travel across the country to Seattle where I was fortunate enough to find Barrier Reef Aquariums and join their team in November 2016.
I currently have a 10 gallon reef tank with a pair of Ocellaris Clownfish and have previously kept a Snowflake Moray Eel and several tropical freshwater tanks.
My other hobbies include volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium in the Life Sciences department, traveling, snowboarding, camping, making jewelry, warm water SCUBA and playing video games.
Tia Morishige (Sales Associate) - Being that I was born and raised on Kaua'i, the ocean has always been my playground and I was always fascinated by it. Over the years my passion has grown exponentially and I decided to dedicate my future to protecting marine ecosystems through policies. I recently graduated with my B.S in Environmental Science and would like to further my education in marine ecosystem policy with hopes to return home to Hawai'i to protect my playground.
Initially, my experience with aquariums started when I had an internship as an Aquarist Zookeeper during my last semester of college. As a child, I have always had freshwater fish and I am now realizing how much I have missed out on (salt water fish are awesome)! Although I just started my first salt water tank by working with Barrier Reef Aquariums, I have already learned so much more. Working with Barrier Reef has opened me up to a community that also cares about the ocean and share the same passions as I do. My appreciation for the marine world has grown and I am so excited to learn more!
During my my free time, I love taking my dog, Skye to the dog park and discovering new places in Washington! My second passion is traveling. My goal is to visit as many countries as possible. So far, I have been to nine different countries, and have lived in Thailand while I studied abroad.
Mindi Wilson (Sales Associate) - Growing up I was always begging for more animals. We had a cat, then two. It took me twelve years to finally get that dog I always wanted. I had small fuzzy things, slimy things and scaly things. Besides the carnival feeder fish or Betta here and there, my first tank was a 10 gallon freshwater. I did a pretty good job for an elementary kid doing it on her own. I didn't get into salt until I was married and we started small. That didn't last long. My husband and I are enjoying learning, along with all of you Barrier customers, from my knowledgeable co-workers. We have a 75 gallon display, and will be upgrading to a 180 soon. We live in Snoqualmie with our two dogs, cat and all our fish, inverts and corals. I love road tripping and visiting national parks. I only have a few more states to check off my list. National parks, that's another story.
Alexandra Duffield (Sales Associate/Shift Lead) - I started out in the aquarium hobby with a planted fresh water aquarium when I was 11 years old, which quickly turned into 7 freshwater tanks of various sizes. I remember getting my first marine fish only tank when I was 14 and I had a panther grouper named Mr. Spot. By the time I was 16 I began my journey with coral.
I quickly became fascinated learning about the science of water quality and how different chemicals and additives affected each aspect of water chemistry. I quickly became interested in fish illnesses and how to treat them. It was fun to feel like I was a fish doctor. Seven years later and five full blown reef tanks of my own I'm happy to say that I got to make a lifelong hobby into a full time carrier doing such a rewording job where I'm constantly learning new thing's every day.