Meet the Staff

Rusty DayRusty Day is the founding Director of MANTA and Executive Director of the organization.  Dr. Day has a unique and diverse combination of qualifications and experience to serve MANTA’s mission of education and research and provide a vision for the organization.  He was raised in a seafaring family from the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Growing up on boats, with a love of the ocean and an inquisitive nature made the decision to pursue marine biology quite natural. He earned his BS in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MSc in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston, and PhD in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Pau, France.  Dr. Day has worked as a marine scientist at several state and federal government and university labs, including the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Techology (NIST).  He has a wide diversity of expertise including marine ecology, fisheries biology, marine pollution and toxicology, and environmental and analytical chemistry.  Dr. Day’s research has also spanned a broad taxonomic range, from sea turtles to corals, using tools ranging from commercial fishing gear, to SCUBA, to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).  He was a Research Biologist with NIST at the Hollings Marine Laboratory until 2018, where he established and led their coral research and monitoring project (Archive of Coral Ecosystem Specimens – ACES) and the multi-collector ICP-MS Environmental Isotope Research Facility.  Dr. Day holds an appointment as Adjunct Professor at the College of Charleston Grice Marine Laboratory where he has taught and mentored undergraduate and graduate students for nearly ten years.  He has authored or coauthored over twenty scientific publications in top journals as well as a book chapter.  In addition to Dr. Day’s scientific accomplishments, he also holds a 100 Ton Master Captains License and Sailing Endorsement from the U.S. Coast Guard, has logged 1000s of miles under sail, and is certified as a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.  If you can’t find him working or playing on the water, then chances are he is off traveling.

Jack Brutzer got his PADI open water certification in 2017 and has continued his diving education since. In addition to his dive certifications, he has a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. Having done an internship in Clearwater, Florida, where he tagged sharks and rays for a population study in Tampa Bay, he developed a specialty in the identification and handling of elasmobranchs. During his internship, he trained students in the proper methods of studying cartilaginous fishes, all while maintaining a safe working environment for the students. He is also a two-time alumnus of MANTA, participating in 2019 and 2022 as both a high schooler and college student, respectively. Jack loves the water, no matter how he interacts with it. He’s been freediving with sharks, been surfing since middle school, and spent most of his upbringing within walking distance from some body of water. He is currently training to become a PADI Divemaster and USCG certified Captain. In his free time, Jack is an avid baker, world traveler, Formula 1 enthusiast and amateur writer.

Melannie J. Bachman is a PADI Dive Instructor and has been a marine biologist for over 10 years working with both state and federal agencies. She finds her greatest passion working with non-profits studying and expanding marine science conservation through global outreach in remote island areas. She has a Masters of Science in Marine Science from Hawaii Pacific University and a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Michigan State University. For her thesis research, she studied toxicology of dolphins and whales stranded in the Pacific Islands by measuring exposure and toxicity to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in blubber and liver tissues. A true island girl at heart, she enjoys all things ocean including those activities above and below the water such as SCUBA diving, sailing, SUP, photography as well as world traveling.

Francesca Gizzi is a recreational (PADI) and scientific (AAUS) diving Instructor with over 7 years diving experience. In addition to a deep passion for diving, she completed her PhD in Biodiversity and Evolution at the University of Bologna (Italy). She studied marine biology, in particular coral reefs, which have a great ecological, structural and social importance and are the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet. Since corals are extremely delicate and vulnerable to environmental changes, from her dissertation she studied the effects of ocean warming and ocean acidification on biology of temperate and tropical corals.

Lasse Kristensen is a PADI Staff Instructor and licensed Captain for MANTA.lasse1 Lasse was born and raised in Denmark.  In 1998, he ventured to Asia where he became a PADI Scuba Instructor.  Over the course of his diving career, he has logged more than 3,000 dives and certified over 800 students in many countries such as Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Philippines, Guam, Egypt, Australia, Honduras, and the British Virgin Islands.  Lasse is currently living back in Denmark with his Japanese wife and their 7 year old son.