About

ReefNation is a leading information source for the worlds reefs that also specializes in sustainably raised marine life.

Management Team

Justin Hester
Justin Hester: Founder & Commander in Reef

Sometimes you’re a fish out of water and you just need to go find the ocean. Justin grew up a stones throw from the water on the south shore of Long Island, in NY.  When he moved to the Midwest in the 90’s, that desire to smell the salt air again was what led to him to start a saltwater coral tank and eventually start ReefNation.  In parallel to his business career in Chicago, he began growing and selling his coral “extras” to local reef keepers which is where he and Brian first met.  The fascination with being able to keep what felt like an entire reef ecosystem in your living room and have it thrive like it would in the ocean was life changing for him.  Three tanks, three houses, and 174 coral species later, ReefNation has evolved from that intrinsic desire to smell the salt air in the Midwest, into an aquaculture business, an online publication, and an appreciation for reef ecosystems by many who might only be exposed to such exquisite creatures on vacation.


brian dunat
Brian Dunat: Director of Aquaculture

Brian grew up in the Midwest and has always enjoyed interacting with the natural environment in some way, shape or form. From a young age, snorkeling in the Eau Claire Lakes in Wisconsin to his mid 20’s when he became certified diver, Brian has always enjoyed spending time underwater. Brian started out like a lot of us, in fresh water, but as his tanks grew, he moved over to saltwater and started his deep dive into reef hobby.  Brian and Justin met in 2008 and began working on the framework of what is now ReefNation almost immediately.  He is now oversees a few thousand gallons of display and grow out tanks and steers the direction of what we grow and how we grow it.


Erin Hester

Erin Hester: Marketing and Creative

Erin grew up in the midwest, but has always had a love and passion for diving and the oceans.  Growing up in Illinois, she was fortunate to both become dive certified and to participate in programs in the Florida Keys.  Erin works with our staff writers as well as helping shape the ReefNation brand and messaging.


Our Amazing Writing Team

Ally Ally Kontra

Ally is a graduate of Hamilton College where she studied Geoscience and Biology and competed on the varsity rowing team. After years of spending her summers in a small shore town, Avalon, New Jersey, she developed a passion for ocean life and marine conservation. She further explored her love for the ocean in a summer field course studying tropical marine ecology in Australia. Since graduation, Ally has written for an independent, home cooking website, as well helped to coach a local high school rowing team. She currently is in the search for a job in conservation advocacy.


Ashley Gustafson
Ashley Gustafson

Ashley is a recent college graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences with concentrations in ecology and genetics. She loves all animals and aquatic life and wants to pursue a career that incorporates the two. In her free time she enjoys writing, traveling, and the outdoors. Recently Scuba certified just last March, she is excited to travel and go on more dives not only as a hobby but hopefully as part of a career too!


Callie T. Bean
Callie T. Bean

Callie grew up in Southern California, where the sun and surf were a part of daily life. Now, a second year college student at Texas State University in San Marcos, she revisits the ocean in her stories. She is a creative writing major but her first love will always be that of the sea. She volunteers at a local animal shelter and practically lives at the library. At the end of her college career, she hopes to return to her beloved West Coast to work for a publishing company or as an editor.


Emma Hedley
Emma Hedley

Emma is a graduate of Hamilton College in upstate New York where she studied geosciences and biology. Despite studying in a cold, land-locked area, she developed a passion for marine and reef conservation through field courses in Australia and Panama, along with a job at a sea turtle conservation project. Since graduation, Emma spent time working on a marine conservation project in Indonesia and is now working as a divemaster in the DC area.


Gabbie Baillargeon

 

Gabbie Bailargeon

Gabbie is a current high school student who has always been a nature and travel enthusiast.  She has a passion for marine biology and conservation, and plans on pursuing a marine biology degree when she attends college.


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Jordan Macke

Hi all! My name is Jordan Macke. I grew up a Midwest girl with a heart for the sea and took every opportunity I could to learn more about it. I spent my summers reading library books about marine ecology and begging my parents to take me to the ocean. Fast forward a decade or so, and I have now graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Environmental Science and an emphasis in water quality. Most of my work has involved assisting with aquatic research and conservation, as well as storm water pollution control. These days you are most likely to find me exploring the beaches of Puget Sound at low tide in Seattle, which I am very lucky to call my new home. I am excited to share my passion for the sea with you and to have a reason to dust off my oceanography books!


Julie Cremer
Julie Cremer

Greetings! My name is Jules and I am from Nashville, TN. I studied Zoology at Michigan State University and have always had a passion and love for marine life. In college, I interned at the Indianapolis Zoo with marine mammals that included walruses, seals and polar bears! Being a writer for Reef Nation allows me to share my passion for aquatic life with the world! Currently I work as a surgery veterinary technician at an emergency animal hospital. Eventually, I want to work as a veterinary technician in an aquarium.


julie chandler
Julie Chandler

Julie was born and raised in Southern California where beautiful beach days are customary 12 months a year. She has always had an affinity to the ocean including its magnificent ecosystems, its enchanting wildlife, and its ever-changing shorelines. Julie lives an active lifestyle with the love of her life, Paul, and together they enjoy running, yoga, surfing, SUP, and travel.


Kayla Hoffer
Kayla Hoffer

Hello, world! My name’s Kayla. I’m currently an undergraduate at Elmhurst College in Illinois, studying English and art. Growing up in Northwest Ohio, I’ve always had a great relationship with animals and nature in general, and have had a few saltwater tanks over the years. I find ocean life particularly interesting since we are still learning so much more every day and am very much invested in making the waters healthy and livable.


Lauren Hartin
Lauren Hartin

Hello everyone! My name is Lauren. I am from Massachusetts, and I spent a lot of my childhood summers visiting the ocean at Cape Cod. I quickly became fascinated with marine life and conservation. I graduated from Santa Fe College with a degree in Zoology, and am now studying Psychology at Bay Path University. I am currently a docent at a local zoo. I hope to eventually have a career in conservation focusing on education.


Tasha Taylor
Tasha Taylor

A creative writing student and south Floridian, Tasha is passionate about her writing and love of ocean life. If she is not beach-side soaking up the sun then instead she is probably inside drawing, writing or reading. Being passionate about the sea, nature, and everything in it is something she has been since she was young. Any chance given to share her passions is a dream come true.


Please send questions or comments to information@reefnation.com