Melbourne Zoo Education Team

Meet the team leading conservation education at Melbourne Zoo.

Michelle Howard


From walking with Rhino Fund Uganda Rangers amongst Southern White Rhinos to monitoring Eastern Barred Bandicoots in the Woodlands grasslands of Victoria, I am reminded every day of the wonders of the natural world and the important role we all play in conserving it.

As an Environmental Educator that has taught in both Secondary Schools and at the Zoo for a number of years, I have the privilege of working with a dynamic and passionate team of Zoo Educators that engage students and their teachers in Education for Conservation. All striving to make a difference for the natural world.

Alicia Hewes


I was very fortunate to grow up with a big backyard close to a nature reserve. Caring for my many pets and surrounded by wonderful local wildlife, I developed a curiosity and love for nature. 

This inspired me to undertake a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Zoology. As I had always wanted to be a teacher, I undertook studies in Education and for many years enjoyed teaching sciences to secondary school students. 

I love nurturing a sense of wonder in students of all ages, fostering their appreciation of wildlife, and encouraging life-long learning and care for the natural world. 

Amanda Knights


My connection to wildlife was strengthened when I visited Costa Rica to help protect Leatherback Turtles. I will never forget this incredible experience! This passion for animals was accompanied by a passion for drama. I studied Performing Arts and Science at Uni. Working at the Zoo is the perfect way to merge these passions! We use puppets of critically endangered species to connect students to their stories.

It is inspiring that the students I teach at Werribee and Melbourne Zoo could discover solutions that help save wildlife all around the world.

Andrew Eadon


I was told never to work with kids and animals. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I found that most of my formal teaching career I did just that. After 23 years of teaching, I could not recommend a more exciting and vibrant combination of unpredictable enthusiasm. Working alongside classroom teachers and students, I am inspired by their solutions to some challenging environmental dilemmas. Being able to empower students to create change in their school or wider community makes for a very privileged and rewarding role at Melbourne Zoo.

Ashlee Hughes


Growing up I played in the bush and Birrarung (Yarra) River embedding a deep respect for nature and wildlife in me. As an Early Childhood Educator, I think the power of play is such an important way for children to become connected to the world around them.  

Through play, arts and storytelling, I hope to spark curiosity in children for wildlife and its conservation. I have a background studying and working in the arts and nature play/bush education and hope to bring these elements together to help empower our youngest citizens to love and care for the environment. 

Claire Priestley


Growing up on a farm, I spent my childhood immersed in nature, surrounded by Australian fauna and flora. My sense of appreciation, awe and affinity with the natural world has remained a constant and I am passionate about igniting wonder and curiosity in others. 

My career path has seen me work in a broad range of environmental and educational settings.

I really enjoy empowering students to make a difference in their environment and advocate for a sustainable future. I feel fortunate to work in education at Melbourne Zoo where I frequently witness the passionate, innovative and creative minds of students.

Francesca Lennie


I have two main passions in life – Education and Conservation. For the past five years, I have worked as a Primary School Teacher. Before that, I spent a lot of my life travelling the world working with a variety of animals from Elephants to Fossa, skinks and crabs. Working with Zoos Victoria has allowed me to mix my two passions.

Once I get an idea into my head, I will work tirelessly to see it come to life.  I truly believe that a sustainable future is attainable and the key to it… is us. 

Georgia Haywood


I work as an Educator at Melbourne Zoo because I love teaching kids about wildlife. My passion for animals started as a child, looking after a number of pets (including a large flock of chickens) and developed as I grew older, travelling the world in search of wild animals such as elephants, monkeys and Orangutans.

I have a Masters of Teaching, specialising in primary. Before I worked at the zoo, I was a full-time primary school teacher. My goal is to inspire students to care for and understand about wildlife and discover ways they can help wildlife conservation.

Geraint Stirling


I have always loved nature, but it wasn’t until spending a week in a Cambodian Elephant Sanctuary that I realised that animals have been a constant throughout my life and conservation was the field that I want to work in.

My Bachelor of Science (Biological Science) and a Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) enabled me to join the Education Team at Melbourne Zoo. I am a fun and enthusiastic teacher who enjoys engaging all students from Kindergarten to VCE.

Hannah Rau


In my youth, I discovered the brilliance and majesty of the natural world. There was nothing I loved more than learning, talking about and being surrounded by wildlife. This passion lead me towards a career in environmental education.

I specialise in Early Years, however, I love working with children of all ages. My goal is to promote active learning, citizenship and student leadership. To empower youth to share their voice and make a positive environmental difference within their school and in their communities.

Jess Brown


Nature truly is my happy place. Growing up in Central Victoria, we had a huge garden on top of a hill. I’d climb high into the top branches of trees, feeling the trunk sway, daydreaming and gazing out over the valley.  

I was a kid free in nature and that gift has given me a sense of peace and comfort, a love of adventure and a commitment to conservation. I studied Nature Tourism (Outdoor Education), Literary Studies and Primary/Early Childhood teaching. I adore teaching at Zoos Victoria and hope to help other kids to grow up feeling deeply connected to nature. 

Young man in zoo keeper uniform smiling at camera

Jordan Nelson


Growing up in regional Victoria I was surrounded by nature from an early age. I vividly remember asking my parents various questions about native animals and plants near our home. My wonder led me to pursue a Bachelor of Veterinary Bioscience followed by a Master of Education and then I joined Zoos Victoria.

I am excited about the fusion of science and education at the Zoo. It is a unique platform to connect the young minds of tomorrow with curiosity. Like myself, I hope students ask those questions, so they understand and protect our endangered species and most importantly, have fun!

Kate Rijs


As a child, I was always happiest in nature. I remember caring for abandoned baby birds in our family garage and bringing home a neglected baby possum in my school hat. I felt a sense of responsibility to be a caretaker for our natural world. I feel privileged to be a teacher at Melbourne Zoo. It allows me to inspire others to connect to and care for our wonderful world.

Alongside my passion for nature, I also love painting and storytelling. I feel incredibly fortunate to employ these skills to help children connect with some of Victoria’s most vulnerable species.  

Kiri Ryan

School Engagement Officer

My grandfather ignited my love of nature with the range of plants and animals he nurtured at home where I spent a great deal of my childhood. After travelling for 6 years, I returned with a dream list of places I wanted to work. At the top was Melbourne Zoo and here I am! I could not believe my luck to join such a fun and supportive team. Walking through the gates every morning makes me smile instantly; to be part of an incredibly passionate team doing amazing things in conservation and education fills me with pride.

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.

Maria Silva


At the age of seven a song called "Amazon's Saga" resonated deeply with me. It spoke of the danger faced by my beloved Amazon. The song's message concluded on a hopeful note, urging us to protect what remained. I grew up to be an extinction fighter!

As a teacher, I have the privilege to welcome young minds in maintaining a balanced environment. Though distant from the Amazon, I recognise that there are no borders when it comes to the protection of our planet, and I am happy to contribute to a positive impact on our precious Earth.

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. 

Rachel Morton


Most of my childhood memories are from the times I spent out in nature, from climbing trees at the park to searching for skinks on my grandparent's farm. Growing up with such positive experiences in nature is what led me down my career path. I studied Early Childhood Education while spending my spare time volunteering in wildlife conservation programs. It was in 2016 that my two passions came together and I began working at Melbourne Zoo. I look forward to each workday, knowing that I'm about to meet a new group of students and learn what it is that they most love about nature.

I strongly feel that if we want children to hold the same passion for caring for this planet, we must first allow them to fall in love with it in their own unique way, just as we have. 

Sally McLeay


I grew up in Adelaide, close to the hills and beach, exploring my love of animals and their environments. This led me to study Marine Biology and volunteer with a local marine organisation. Working with the Marine Discovery Centre, I realised I wanted to continue engaging with others, especially young people, to get them as excited about caring for our environment as I was. I decided to deepen my education skills and undertook a postgraduate diploma in primary teaching.

I feel privileged to teach at Melbourne Zoo and support children and school communities in their own discovery of the world around them.

Simon Rawson


Growing up on the Murray River, my Dad would often take us out to the bush and set us free to explore, this is where my love of nature began. After completing my Bachelor in Fine Arts and a Diploma in Education, I was able to travel extensively, taking time to volunteer in conservation organisations around the world. These experiences cemented my desire to work in conservation education. I envision a world where we are all good custodians of our earth and I believe that education is the key to this vision.