Area of Expertise:

  • reptile critical care
  • immunology for aquatic animals
  • aquatic invertebrate medicine

As the Director of Animal Health at Georgia Aquarium, Dr. Tonya Clauss serves as the head clinical veterinarian. She supervises a team of seven staff and manages daily operations in the veterinary diagnostic laboratory and hospital.  

Clauss received dual bachelor’s degrees in Animal Science and Wildlife Ecology & Conservation from the University of Florida in 1996 and 1997 with a minor in chemistry.  In 2003, she received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine and received the Learner Family Wildlife Conservation Award for excellence in wildlife and zoological medicine.  In 2004, she finished a master's degree in Environmental Engineering Sciences with a focus on Wetland’s Ecology.

Clauss’ veterinary medicine career began in 1994 when she started working as a veterinary assistant for the Williston Veterinary Clinic in Florida. She also worked as a veterinary and research assistant at the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine from 1995 - 2002. After graduation from veterinary school in 2003, Clauss accepted a position as staff veterinarian at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. In early 2004, she was hired as director of veterinary services for Pelican Man’s Bird Sanctuary, a wildlife rehabilitation facility also in Sarasota. While at this position, Clauss became a research affiliate at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, a position she held until December 2007. In February 2005, Clauss began working at the Georgia Aquarium as an associate veterinarian and assistant manager of veterinary services.  She was promoted to Chief Veterinarian and Manager of Clinical Services in 2007.  In January 2012, she was promoted to Director, Animal Health.  

Clauss has received specialized training in numerous areas such as reptile critical care, immunology for aquatic animals and aquatic invertebrate medicine.  She teaches veterinary courses at institutions such as University of Georgia, University of Tennessee, University of Florida, Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay and MARVET at St. Matthews University in Grand Cayman.  Clauss is an author or co-author on numerous scientific articles as well as two book chapters. She has participated in or directed numerous scientific studies with animals including sea turtles, sharks and penguins.  Based on her accomplishments since graduating from veterinary and graduate school, she was awarded an Outstanding Young Alumnus award from the University of Florida in 2009.

Clauss is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Zoological Veterinarians, the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine and the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians. She currently serves as a student liaison committee member for the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine and is a research committee member at the Georgia Aquarium.