Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Mike Henley

Animal Keeper / Animal Care Sciences

Research Focus

Mike Henley received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma (2000 and 2003, respectively), and shortly thereafter relocated to Washington D.C. where he has been working as an animal keeper and aquarist at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Invertebrate Exhibit, managing the zoo’s live coral collection, as well as its many other exotic invertebrate species, for the past eight years. In 2006, he became a member of the Smithsonian Marine Science Network and Scientific Diver program and recently, in 2011, was appointed as the National Zoo’s Diving Officer and achieved the certification level of Master Diver. While he has been fascinated with the oceans since a very young age, it was not until his first scuba dive as a graduate student that set him on his current path of having an inordinate fascination of all things reef. It is as a diver that he has been able to witness first-hand the decline in coral reef communities and seeks to educate the public on the plight of coral reefs and hopefully, one day, help save and restore some of these declining ecosystems. In addition to his aquarist responsibilities, he is also collaborating with other Smithsonian scientists, zoos and aquariums throughout the U.S. and Europe seeking to establish a captive population of the threatened Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) of the Caribbean by capturing the corals’ gametes during their annual mass spawn and rearing the juvenile corals in captivity. After working with SECORE in Puerto Rico from 2007-2009, Henley and his colleagues have been working at the SI marine station in Carrie Bow Cay, Belize to diversify the captive collection of these corals. In addition to this project, he has been assisting Smithsonian scientist, Dr. Mary Hagedorn, with her research of cryopreserving coral gametes and stem cells to establish a genetic cryporeserved bank of endangered coral, a project that has had him working in Puerto Rico, Belize, Hawaii, Singapore and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. By establishing both a frozen and captive population of these ecologically important species, it will be possible to learn more about their biology and best captive rearing practices, with the eventual goal of a reef reintroduction/restoration project.

Most Recent Publications

Hagedorn, Mary M., Carter, Virgina, Henley, Mike and Spindler, Rebecca. 068 Challenges of creating a frozen repository for coral, Cryobiology, 67 (3) 416-417. 2013.

Hagedorn, Mary M., van Oppen, Madeleine J. H., Carter, Virginia L., Henley, Mike, Abrego, David, Puill-Stephan, Eneour, Negri, Andrew, Heyward, Andrew, MacFarlane, Doug and Spindler, Rebecca E. First Frozen Repository For The Great Barrier Reef Coral Created, Cryobiology, 65 (2) 157-158. 2012.

Hagedorn, Mary M., Carter, Virginia L., Martorana, Kelly, Paresa, Malia K., Acker, Jason, Baums, Iliana B., Borneman, Eric, Brittsan, Michael, Byers, Michael, Henley, Michael, Laterveer, Michael, Leong, Jo-Ann, McCarthy, Megan, Meyers, Stuart, Nelson, Brian D., Petersen, Dirk, Tiersch, Terrence, Uribe, Rafael Cuevas, Woods, Erik and Wildt, David E. Preserving and Using Germplasm and Dissociated Embryonic Cells for Conserving Caribbean and Pacific Coral, PLoS ONE, 7 (3) 1-13. 2012.

View all publications, abstracts, and printable papers by Mike Henley