Museum Moments on July 23, 12 noon at the Union County Heritage Museum will feature animal trainer and researcher Holley Muraco who has dedicated her life to animals and has worked with them in many capacities including zookeeper, animal trainer, stage performer, veterinary services, TV personality and researcher.
Close “friends” with killer whales, dolphins, walrus, seals, elephants, gorillas and more, Holley, has recently completed her PhD in reproductive physiology this year from Mississippi State University and plans to use her degree to save endangered species. Her International research travels have included: Holland, Sweden, Italy, Bermuda, Cuba, Canada, China and Mexico Italy, in her work with many kinds of animals.
Daughter of Mitch and Jeanette Stone; granddaughter of the late T.M. (Coach) Stone and Annie Ruth Stone; and of Mr. and Mrs. H.U. Gurley, she graduated from Potts Camp High School, attended Northwest Mississippi Community College and received her B.S. in Biology from Mississippi State University. Holley initially studied dairy science at MSU, where she learned about breeding and assisted reproductive technologies known as “ART”. As a Dairy Science/Pre-veterinary medicine student, she an internship at Walt Disney World working with dolphins, sharks and fish.
After that experience, she changed her degree to biology and after graduating worked at several places to gain hands-on experience with exotic animals. She first worked as a dolphin and sea lion trainer at the now closed Marinelife Oceanariaum in Gulfport, MS before moving to Orlando, Florida where she worked as a shark and fish biologist at Disney’s The Living Seas at EPCOT. While living in Orlando, she also worked at Sea World with beluga whales, walrus, polar bears, harbor seals and dolphins and then at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with African elephants and lowland gorillas.
After several years of gaining first-hand knowledge of how to care for and train zoological animals, she turned her attention towards research; and she was accepted into the PhD program in the Animal and Dairy Science department at Mississippi State University.
Over the years, Holley has published numerous papers from her research, traveled the world and spoken at countless conferences. She was the first person to have a successful dolphin artificial insemination in Europe and the first to use “ART” to achieve a walrus pregnancy in the US. She also starred in a BBC documentary about her walrus research entitled Walrus: Two Tonne Tusker. The film took two years to make and included travel to remote regions of Alaska to study wild Pacific walrus and interview Inuit and Yupik indigenous people. Holley has published peer-reviewed research papers on spotted eagle rays, killer whales, dolphins and walrus.
Jill N. Smith
Union County Heritage Museum
114 Cleveland Street
New Albany, Mississippi 38652
“I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about,
and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.”