Healesville Sanctuary Education Team

Meet the team leading conservation education at Healesville Sanctuary.

Smiling woman in a blue polar fleece jacket

Naias Mountfort-Davies


My love of wildlife and wild places formed growing up at the beach and in the mountains of Aotearoa, New Zealand. I credit my Granny with nurturing my cousins and I as conservationists from an early age. I am incredibly fortunate that my working life now combines all my great loves; people, wildlife, and wild places. With qualifications in history, education, and museum studies, I have worked developing and delivering experiences in museums, memorials and at Healesville Sanctuary.

As Education Manager, I am privileged to lead a team who love their work strengthening the connection between people and wildlife.

Liam Birkett


My deep appreciation and interest in wildlife, started when I was a kid camping in nature and running around Melbourne Zoo, where both my parents worked as Zookeepers.

I hold a degree in Environmental Management, Diploma of Education and a Diploma of Conservation Land Management. My educational background and experiences have allowed me to develop a wide range of teaching skills from different teaching environments and has helped me to promote hope in future generations. I believe we can provide schools with a sense of community and united energy toward the importance of nature to life’s existence.

Smiling woman wearing glasses and a zoo keeper uniform

Lisa Hodgson


My love of the outdoors and all living things stems from my deep connection to country. Being a Noongar yorga (Aboriginal woman from southwest Australia), I have grown up with First Nations Peoples ways of being and doing. Sharing stories and engaging visitors with offerings from our many and varied cultures Australia wide is my passion.

Working within the Education Team here at Healesville Sanctuary, I look forward to meeting with you and exploring our many animals and attractions on offer through an Aboriginal lens. Let’s walk together and share a united energy and enthusiasm for caring for country.

Michael Newell


I grew up in country Queensland between the beach and the rainforest and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been off finding frogs and lizards in the wild. This fascination went from an interest to a hobby and even an obsession and ultimately lead me to a career in conservation.

As a trained Zookeeper, experienced Science and Drama teacher and a ‘mock-rock’ artisan, I not only take care of animals but talk to people about them all day too. I strive to inspire and empower the next generation to care for our environment and protect all that call it home. 

Nicole Kowalczyk


My childhood was spent in South Africa where I made frequent visits to national parks, enjoying many close encounters with Africa’s wildlife. These adventures shaped my values and interests and led to studies in the biological sciences. My honours year was spent in Costa Rica where I studied the nesting behaviour of the Leatherback Sea Turtle. During my PhD I focused on the foraging and reproductive ecology of the St Kilda Little Penguin colony.  

As a qualified primary school teacher and ecologist, I feel privileged to facilitate opportunities for students to connect with wildlife and develop a love of nature.

Nikki Brown


I am a proud Bidjara woman. My Mob is from Canarvon Gorge in the Central Highlands Queensland. I have spent most of my life living on Wurundjeri Country and I am continually learning about my culture, ancestors, stories and language. I am a professional artist and cultural educator. I have worked in schools, special education, local council, Community, independent art projects, held exhibitions, facilitated murals, sculptures, and cultural training throughout Victoria.

My love of my culture and respect of all Mobs comes across in my teaching. I am honoured to share my cultural knowledge with Zoo’s Victoria.

Peta Howard


I am a qualified teacher and zoologist and have been teaching outside the classroom and with wildlife for over 5 years.

I grew up on an Island surrounded by marine species and loving the ecosystem and environment they called home. Surrounded by the ocean and witnessing the loss of species and habitats firsthand, I decided I wanted to do something to protect it for the future by sharing my stories and educating the next generation.

Rebecca Gray


The magic of nature and wildlife is what inspired me to pursue a career in environmental education. My love for animals and the natural world began as a young child looking after numerous pets and going on regular nature walks with my family.

After completing a Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood and Primary Education, I taught for ten years in primary schools and used my holidays to volunteer in conservation organisations around the world. My goal as an educator is to take students of all ages on an insightful adventure and help them fall in love with our world’s wildlife.