Meet the Staff

The staff is here to help ensure our forums are current, focused, friendly, lively and informative. Meet the people who embody the knowledge and spirit of our community!
Tony Morelli (tonmo) -- Founder, Owner, Administrator - Tony converted into an octopus and cephalopod interest site in May 2000. (Find out more about how TONMO started by reading this blog entry, and/or viewing this interview video.) He began his career in the online services industry in 1992, working to create great customer experiences at companies such as Prodigy, iVillage, Comcast and Wiley. Tony and his wife Tania are the owners of Deep Intuition, LLC, which is an entity they created to support their entrepreneurial endeavors. He graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a B.A. in Mass Communication and lives in Pennsylvania.

Volunteer Staff (alphabetical by surname)

Dr. Gregory J. Barord (gjbarord) Greg completed his B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in Chemistry at Texas A&M University at Galveston from 2001-2005. While in Galveston, Greg also worked at the National Resource Center for Cephalopods (NRCC) from 2003-2008 and in the quarantine facility at the Aquarium at Moody Gardens from 2006-2008. In an entirely different direction, Greg worked on fishing boats in the Bering Sea from 2008-2010. Greg completed his graduate work at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, obtaining his Master of Philosophy in Biology (2014) and Doctor of Philosophy in Biology (2015). His graduate work focused on the biology, behavior, and conservation of chambered nautiluses. Greg has worked with a variety of different marine species (i.e., sharks, jellyfish, shrimp) but his passion is cephalopods and in particular, nautiluses. He is currently the Marine Biology Instructor at Central Campus (Des Moines, Iowa), a unique career based high school where students have the chance to participate in his ongoing research and of course, learn about nautiluses. Greg also serves on several advisory groups working to protect nautiluses. Find out more about his ongoing research ( and conservation efforts (

Dr. Kat Bolstad (tintenfisch) Kat joined the staff in November 2002. She completed her PhD thesis (Systematics of the Squid Family Onychoteuthidae Gray, 1847) and graduated in 2008 from the EOS Research Institute, Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand). She is now a Research Fellow in EOS, and also works at Kelly Tarlton's, the local aquarium in Auckland. Originally from Minnesota, she has spent recent years variously visiting overseas squid collections, diving, teaching ecology, biology and German. Her previous marine experience includes a semester at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian) studying isopod systematics, three years at the New England Aquarium working on lobster and jellyfish husbandry, and a behavioral field study on Hector's Dolphin in Akaroa, New Zealand.

Olaf Blaauw (ob) -- International Liaison Having been fascinated by deep sea cephalopods since early childhood, Olaf honed his skills in biology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, before meandering into his current position at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. Being a prolific traveler, Olaf has made it his mission to forge as much of a union between the different TonMo members as is humanly possible on a blatantly exploited expense account. Participating in the research and description of the largest cephalopod ever seen by man has been a highlight in his life as a biologist, which without the bonds forged by this forum would have been impossible. Inspired as such, Olaf aspires to strengthen these bonds further and further, hopefully encompassing even the remotest corners of this forum.

Aaron Boyd Evans (GPO87) Aaron has been fascinated by cephalopods since childhood, when he saw the documentary "Incredible Suckers". His passion for these animals has only grown since then. In 2010, he completed a BSc in Biology from the University of Victoria and is currently writing his Master's Thesis on squid taxonomy and ecology at the Auckland University of Technology. You can follow Aaron's adventures on his blog: the Wandering Octopus.

Kevin Bylund (architeuthoceras) Kevin has been collecting fossils since the early 60's when he got his first set of toy dinosaurs. Since about 1970, when he found his first ammonite, he has been collecting fossil cephalopods. A self-taught amateur paleontologist with interests in taphonomy, the way cephalopods become fossilized, and biostratigraphy, the order cephalopod fossils are found in the earth's rocks. You can find Kevin wandering the deserts of Utah searching for fossils of these fascinating animals.

Dr. Roy Caldwell (Neogonodactylus) Roy is a Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley specializing in the behavior of marine invertebrates - particularly stomatopods and octopus. Growing up on an Iowa farm, he didn't see his first ocean until he was 20. He began studying the behavior stomatopods in the late 60's and has focused on that group ever since. While collecting animals in the field, he frequently encountered octopus living in the same rocks as the mantis shrimp. Curious about what was known of the biology of these small species, he and his students have been examining their behavior for the past 15 years. An avid photographer, many of Roy's photos of cephalopods can be found on TONMO.

Dr. Gavan M. Cooke (GavanMCooke) Dr Gavan Cooke is a behavioural ecologist who fell in love with cephalopods whilst managing a research aquarium after his PhD. He has published research investigating the welfare of captive cephalopods and is interested in the behaviour of wild cephalopods. He also created The Cephalopod Citizen Science Project which aims to bring scientists and citizens together in the name of discovering more about cephalopods.

Dr. Crissy Huffard (mucktopus) Crissy Huffard got hooked on cephalopods as an intern in 1996. She completed her Ph.D. with Roy Caldwell (Neogonodactylus) studying the behavioral ecology of Abdopus aculeatus in the wild, followed by a post-doc at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. In her research Crissy tries to understand relationships between evolutionary history, ecological communities, behavioral environments, and reproductive biology of cephalopods- in the field when possible. She currently works for Conservation International Indonesia, advising the monitoring program for a large network of marine protected areas in Papua. In this job she loves supporting conservation action by making science accessible to community members and resource managers. (Photo by Max Ammer, taken at the Kawe/Wayag MPA in Raja Ampat)

Peter Kilian (pkilian) has always been interested in animals since he was very young. He was inspired to work with animals due to countless trips to the local zoo when he was growing up! Once in college, Peter dove into his passion for animal work, spending time working as a beekeeper, working as a member of the breeding team with the penguins at the New England Aquarium, and working at the cephalopod lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory doing pygmy octopus husbandry. He has since graduated from college, and now works full time at Harvard as a research assistant and aquatic animal technician, working with cephalopods, fish, and other marine invertebrates.

Nancy King (Nancy) Nancy has an interest in all things cephy but especially octopus behavior. She maintains two saltwater aquariums and has kept O. bimaculoides and O. briareus as well as many other invertebrates. She joined the staff in March 2002 with a background in management, editing and technical writing in technology companies. She enjoys helping people with ceph keeping, including writing articles. Nancy also has a strong background in art and currently works in precious metals and watercolor with a goal of producing high quality art with marine themes. She holds an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and presently lives in Dallas, Texas - only five hours from the Gulf!

Elizabeth Steigerwald Nitz (sedna) My adventure in fish keeping began in 1975 when I got my first marine tank for my 5th birthday. Although intriguiged by octopuses my whole life, I didn't start keeping them until 2008. That's when I found an aculeatus at the LFS, and with for support I decided to give it a try. I became completely addicted to sharing my living room with octopuses and have kept 8 to 10 other species since then. Volunteering at a mostly fresh water aquarium led me to become a certified Interpretive Guide through the National Interpreters Association so I could better relate the aquatic animals to the visitors. As an Elementary Science teacher, this was the ultimate combination of my love for teaching and taking about fish. The incredible curator at that institution introduced me to air breathing Freshwater fishes- gifting me with a Lungfish and some polypterus. He delights in having infected me with yet another obsession for oddball species. Currently my Home Zoo includes 3 dachshunds, snakes, a gecko, a tarantula, 7 fish tanks of all flavors (marine, fresh and brackish), two teen aged girls and a cat.

David Perry (CaptFish) Despite the fact that he grew up living and working on the water, David had little interaction with cephalopods until 2009 when he caught an octopus hatchling in one of his Stonecrab traps. Being that he was a long time aquarist and a fascinated with most anything that come from the sea, he decided to keep the octopus and raise it as a pet. David stumbled upon TONMO in researching his new pet octopus, as many of our members do. David immediately dove right in and learned everything he could. Inspired by TONMO and its members and fueled by his passion for sea life, David went back to school. He is currently a full time student in Miami, working toward a degree in Marine Biology. He hopes to work with cephalopods and their breeding in the future.

Richard Ross (Thales) Richard currently works as an Aquatic Biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences, maintaining many exhibits including the 212,000 gallon Phipipine Coral Reef. He has kept saltwater animals for over 25 years, and has worked in aquarium maintenance, retail, wholesale and has consulted for a coral farm/fish collecting station in the South Pacific. Richard enjoys all aspects of the aquarium hobby and is a regular author for trade publications, a frequent speaker at aquarium conferences and was a founder of one of the largest and most progressive reef clubs in Northern California, Bay Area Reefers. He is an avid underwater videographer and has been fortunate to scuba dive all over the world. At home he maintains a 300 gallon reef system and a 250 gallon cephalopod breeding system, and was one of the first people to close the life cycle of Sepia bandensis. When not doing all that stuff, he enjoys spending time with his patient wife, his incredible daughter and their menagerie of animals, both wet and dry.

Carol Sauer (corw314) Salt and Freshwater hobbiest for over 25 years, with many years experience in the Pet Trade from petshops to shelters to rehabilitation of wildlife. Currently work in a Finance department. Favorite activity besides watching the Octo at the moment and photography, is exploring with my daughter Jess! Currently, resident of New Jersey along the coastline.

Dr. James B. Wood (ceph) James is a research scientist aquarist, educator and author focusing on the life history, behavior, physiology and husbandry of Cephalopods. He can be seen on Discovery Channel specials "Tentacles" and "Squid Invasion". James' personal website, The Cephalopod Page was created in 1995 and is one of the Internet's first animal websites. The site has been featured in the Journal Science three times. James co-created CephBase in 1998 and has written numerous popular and scientific articles. James coauthored the book Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate with Drs. Mather and Anderson.

In Memoriam

Mark Montague (monty) - The following serves as a memorial to Mark "Monty" Montague (pronounced "mon-tayg" for historical reasons, according to Mark himself). He passed away July 19, 2010 of unknown causes during a scuba diving outing. (This memorial references Mark by his nickname and user name "Monty", since that is how he was primarily known within the community.) As you will see in the remembrance thread (link is below), Monty was an inspiration to those who knew him. Despite the fact that not everyone was fortunate enough to meet him in person, common perceptions of warm friendliness, high intelligence, enthusiasm, curiosity and patience are recognized across the various people he interacted with. He was enormously respected and will be sorely missed on for as long as it exists. Monty's influence on TONMO cannot be overstated.

To add brief context for those not familiar with our site, is a very tight online community of people interested in cephalopods, founded in May of 2000. For several years, Mark was a member of our volunteer staff as Moderator, and for a time held the title of Associate Webmaster. Indeed, through his actions and by just being himself, Mark played a significant role in defining the spirit of TONMO, which is to say that he prioritized the well-being of cephalopods, and was kind and patient with all visitors, showing due respect for having a shared interest in these amazing creatures, no matter what angle. We strive to be fun (even funny), but also serious, helpful, focused and specific when it comes to cephalopods themselves. We encourage creative and open thinking, and are eager to educate a curious and open mind. We seek to demystify cephalopods so that humans may better understand and respect them as we both evolve. Monty was so deeply aligned with all these traits that it is difficult to imagine our community (and future "TONMOcon" conventions) without him. Still, his contributions of nearly 5,000 posts are rich with his intelligence, character, and warm demeanor, and will be a valuable and positive resource to visitors of for all time. A "Mark Montague Award" ("the Montys") will be presented at all future TONMOcons; the recipient will be the community member who most embodies the spirit of TONMO as described above, shaped by Monty himself.

As an expression of his essence, for several years Monty has even had his own "smiley" (created by Denise Whatley) for use on our forums, which he sometimes even used himself:

We in the community encourage its use whenever appropriate as a respectful remembrance of him. We are very sorry for his loss and sympathise deeply with his family, friends and loved ones. Monty, you will always be part of the spirit -- THANK YOU for your indelible role in shaping our community and improving the lives of cephalopods.

The Community Goodbyes and remembrances from the community:

-- Mark Montague (Monty)

Webmaster Blog entry "About Mark 'Monty' Montague":

Here is his original bio: As a youngster, Mark was fascinated by the GPO at the Steinhart Aquarium. He has taken some advanced biology classes and spent many hours reading literature on cephalopod biology in musty libraries, so his knowledge of marine biology is a curious mix of "ignorant computer scientist" and "master of arcane lore." He is particularly interested in the neurobiology, vision, and musculature of cephalopods, and believes that the comparison of cephalopod biology to vertebrate biology has great potential to advance our understanding of general biological principles. He has a personal web page as well.

Our longtime, prolific Staff member Denise Whatley (DWhatley) passed away on September 3rd, 2022. Here is the thread announcing her passing, and below is the bio she provided for this page.

Denise Whatley (DWhatley) Denise has wanted to keep an octopus ever since one crawled out from under a rock during the return from a family snorkeling trip. She learned it was possible 40 years later while looking for live food for her seahorses. MTS took hold of the household prior to joining TONMO but became epidemic after the first mercatoris. The house sustains three aquariums dedicated to octopuses in addition to five other marine tanks. Educated in IT with an MBIS degree, she is a retired programmer who adventured into the web world by assisting multiple small fish collectors and -- a site dedicated to actively restoring coral reefs -- with their first online presence.

Visit the Site FAQ page for more information about

Interested in joining the TONMO volunteer staff? Contact Tony Morelli ([email protected], or send me a PM) to inquire)