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Headshot of director of marine research at Shedd Aquarium, Steve Kessel.

Steven Kessel, Ph.D.

Director of Marine Research

Steve Kessel oversees marine research projects protecting economically important species in the Bahamas in addition to conducting his own original research on Caribbean shark species.


Ph.D, marine ecology and biology, Cardiff Univeristy, UK

“My favorite resident is the African tigerfish. It’s quite an experience to come face to face with him—he commands his habitat, and you definitely know he is the dominant individual in the exchange.”

Steven Kessel has worked extensively with a wide variety of marine species and has a well-established reputation as a conservation scientist. He joined Shedd Aquarium’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research in 2017 to oversee a suite of marine conservation research projects aimed at protecting important species in the Bahamas, including the endangered Nassau grouper and threatened queen conch.

Kessel also leads his own original research project to better understand Caribbean shark species in an effort to protect them. He has led and assisted with studies of lemon sharks, Red Sea sharks and manta rays and helped develop conservation management programs for several species.

Kessel has a Ph.D. in marine ecology and biology from Cardiff University, UK. Following the completion of his degree in 2009, he spent two years at Cardiff as a postdoctoral fellow, acting as the principal investigator for the Jupiter Large Coastal Shark Species Study, which investigated the biology and ecology of large coastal shark species residing off the eastern seaboard of the United States. Since then, Kessel has worked for the University of Windsor Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research as the principal investigator of the Lancaster Sound Arctic component of the Ocean Tracking Network. Taking a freshwater tack, at his last position, Kessel studied the movements and migrations of lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes with Michigan State University.