From biology to animal welfare, education and behaviour change, Zoos Victoria's staff are experts in their field.

Threatened species biology

Craig Whiteford, General Manager Threatened Species

Qualifications: BSc Forestry (ANU), Grad Dip Sciences Communication (CQU) 

Pronouns: He/Him

Craig is the General Manager Threatened Species in the Wildlife Conservation and Science Group at Zoos Victoria. The threatened species team comprises a suite of biologist and ecologists, as well as emergency management experts, working in our fight against extinction of 27 highly threatened species. Craig has a background in public land management, biodiversity conservation, community conservation projects, community conflict resolution and emergency management. Amongst Craig’s achievements are being a foundation member of SWIFFT (StateWide Fauna and Flora Teams), an initiative to provide people interested in nature conservation with a place to find good reliable information: and was a part a team which saw an innovative project which led to a guardian dog, a maremma, protecting little penguins on an in-shore Island off Warrnambool in Victoria. Craig is interested in exploring and seeing conservation technologies used in threatened species conservation and looking to see how traditional owner thinking can advance nature conservation. Craig has over 25years experience working in government based environmental and biodiversity management.

Deon Gilbert, Threatened Species Biologist – Herpetofauna

Qualifications: BSc, PhD Candidate

Thesis Topic: Conservation Biology of the Baw Baw Frog

Pronouns: He/him

Deon Gilbert has been working with threatened reptiles and amphibians for over 20 years both regionally and internationally. He joined Zoos Victoria in 2010 and works with a wide team of stakeholders to manage and develop strategic direction for the Zoos Fighting Extinction herpetofauna conservation programs. Deon leads the conservation recovery for the Baw Baw frog which includes in situ and ex situ management interventions and wild population monitoring as well as developing reintroduction techniques for translocation of captive bred stock back to wild habitat. He is currently completing his PhD focusing on the conservation biology and recovery of the Baw Baw frog.

Emmi van Harten, Southern Bent-wing Bat Coordinator for National Recovery Team

Qualifications: BA (Hons), PhD

Thesis topic: Population dynamics of the critically endangered, Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus orianae bassanii

Pronouns: She/her

Dr Emmi van Harten has been Coordinator of the Southern Bent-wing Bat National Recovery Team since 2019. Emmi is an ecologist with a passion for bats and threatened species conservation. She completed her PhD at La Trobe University on the critically endangered Southern Bent-wing Bat, one of Zoos Victoria’s 27 local Fighting Extinction species. Her research used novel methods to determine survival and movement patterns of bats at their cave roosts. Having a strong background in environmental communication, Emmi also enjoys engaging with the community about science and conservation – especially bats, which are often underappreciated despite their valuable role in our environment.

Arabella Eyre, Leadbeater’s Possum Field Officer

Qualifications: BSc, MSc
Thesis topic: Using species distribution modelling to guide surveys for Leadbeater’s possum outside of its known range

Arabella Eyre is the Leadbeater’s possum field officer in the Wildlife Conservation and Science team and Zoos Victoria. Arabella completed her Masters of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne where she studied the distribution of the Leadbeater’s possum. This involved the use of computer modelling and decision analysis to target camera trapping surveys for this Critically Endangered species in North East Victoria. Since 2019 Arabella has worked as a field officer at Zoos Victoria involved in multiple aspects of the Leadbeater’s possum field program including Elliott trapping, camera trapping, nest box monitoring, radio tracking and translocations. She has a passion for ensuring the effective conservation of Australia’s threatened species.

Dr Amy Coetsee, Threatened Species Biologist

Qualifications: BSc Hons, PhD
Thesis topic: Reintroduction Biology of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot

Dr Amy Coetsee is a Threatened Species Biologist at Zoos Victoria, fighting the extinction of some of Victoria’s most endangered species. Amy completed her studies at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and her PhD at the University of Melbourne, Australia, on the reintroduction biology of the mainland Eastern Barred Bandicoot, a species listed as extinct in the wild. Amy has a strong background in conservation, research, government policy and science communication, having worked at Parks Victoria, the Bureau of Meteorology and Zoos Victoria. Amy currently leads several recovery projects, specialising in Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery, where she has over 15 years of experience. Amy is involved in all aspects of eastern barred bandicoot conservation including planning, monitoring, research, threat mitigation and community engagement. In 2019, Amy was chosen as an Australian Superstar of STEM and is a role model to many aspiring young scientists and conservation enthusiasts. She has a commitment to caring for wildlife and wild places and seeing the Eastern Barred Bandicoot removed from the threatened species list when they are safe back in the wild.

Chris Hartnett, Threatened Species Project Officer

Qualifications: MSc, BSc, BA (Fine Art) Hons
Thesis topic: Female mate choice in the Eastern barred bandicoot.

Chris Hartnett is a Threatened Species Project Officer in the Wildlife Conservation and Science Department at Zoos Victoria, which is committed to recovery actions for 27 priority species that have been identified as being at risk of extinction within 10 – 20 years. Working closely with a range of conservation partners, Chris has led the strategic planning and implementation for Zoos Victoria’s Detection Dogs program since 2016, and Plains-wanderer program since 2018. Chris has extensive experience in experimental design and implementation, and has played a project management and field officer role within a number of conservation projects for Australian native species, including Eastern Barred Bandicoot (mate choice research and population monitoring), Orange-bellied Parrot (captive – wild translocation), Leadbeater’s Possum (GPS tracking trial and captive – wild translocation), Mountain Pygmy-possum (collection for captive breeding program and supplementary feeding trial to support post-bushfire recovery), and the use of detection dogs to locate threatened wildlife (e.g. Baw Baw frog and Plains-wanderer). Her strengths lie in communication, planning, and overcoming the many logistical challenges encountered in the effort to bring species back from the brink of extinction.

Dr Dan Harley, Threatened Species Project Officer

Qualifications: BSc, PhD
Thesis topic: The life history and conservation of Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) in lowland swamp forest

Dan Harley has been monitoring this population for over 20 years. He also leads nest box research on the possum at several highland locations, including sites burnt on Black Saturday at Lake Mountain and Mt Bullfight.  He worked for the South Australian Government on a range of threatened fauna recovery projects, covering a diverse range of species from legless lizards through to Malleefowl and Bush Stone-curlews. He joined Zoos Victoria in 2010, and his role includes identifying which species require urgent management interventions, developing the strategic objectives for those species, and ensuring that the captive-breeding programs are strongly linked with in situ recovery measures. Habitat restoration, translocation and genetic rescue are major features of his current work.

Dr La Toya Jamieson, Wildlife Detection Dog Officer

Qualifications: BSc Hons, PhD
Thesis topic: Improving wildlife detection dog selection, training and management
Pronouns: She/her

Dr La Toya Jamieson has been working with and researching wildlife detection dogs since 2015. During a trip to South Africa in 2014, La Toya first encountered wildlife detection dogs trained to detect cheetah, lions and wire snares, and has been passionate about this unique method for monitoring wildlife ever since. After completing her Bachelor in Applied Science (Wildlife Science major) she completed her Honours research on examining the success and efficiency of Northern quoll detection dogs with Amanda Hancock from Carnarvon Canines. During this research she was involved in field surveys for Northern quolls in Carnarvon National Park, where the detection dogs located evidence of quoll presence in an area where this population was believed extinct for almost a decade. La Toya continued her research and dog training, and completed her PhD on improving how we select, train and manage wildlife detection dog-handler teams. This research involved her training 12 dogs for detection work in a study comparing breeds, while training two other dogs to detect multiple target species. Her research also explored important traits and skills of detection dogs and their handlers, and what influence changing a dog’s handler can have on their welfare and working performance. La Toya has since joined the Zoos Victoria team in 2019, working in their Wildlife Detection Dog Program which is based at Healesville Sanctuary. La Toya has continued her research endeavours and is currently completing projects that explores novel roles for detection dogs in conservation, including oestrus and lactation detection dogs, and methods to streamline dog training and field deployment for emergency response situations.

Dr Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist

Qualifications: Cert II Environmental Sustainability, Cert III Captive Animals, BSc Hons (Zoology), PhD
Thesis topic: Female choice and breeding success in a small carnivorous marsupial, the agile antechinus (Antechinus agilis)

Pronouns: She/her 

Dr Marissa Parrott completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and University of Pretoria, South Africa, before completing her PhD on mate choice in the Agile Antechinus. Marissa's post-doctoral research examined assisted reproduction and novel techniques to maximise breeding success in captive breeding colonies of marsupials across Australia. In 2007, Marissa joined Zoos Victoria to work on the breeding program for the critically endangered Mountain Pygmy-possum at Healesville Sanctuary. She joined Zoos Victoria’s Wildlife Conservation and Science Department as their Reproductive Biologist in 2009. Marissa works across Healesville Sanctuary, Werribee Open Range Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and a variety of field locations to improve threatened species reintroduction and captive breeding success, and lead reproductive and behavioural research projects. She has twenty years’ experience in wildlife field work, five years in molecular genetics laboratories, and eighteen years in captive breeding programs. Marissa has also been involved in a variety of wildlife and conservation programs across Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Marissa has recently been named as an Australian Science Hero by the Office of the Chief Scientist and was part of the largest ever all-woman expedition to Antarctica with Homeward Bound. Marissa has a strong focus on endangered native marsupial, rodent and frog species to aid Zoos Victoria’s commitment that no Victorian terrestrial vertebrate species will ever go extinct.

Dr Michael Magrath, Senior Research Manager

Qualifications: B.Sc (hons) Ph.D
Thesis topic: Parental behaviour and mating strategies of the fairy martin (Hirundo ariel)

Dr Michael Magrath is a wildlife and behavioural ecologist who works primarily on the conservation of Australian threatened species. Michael completed his undergraduate studies at the Australian National University and then a PhD at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1998. Before joining Zoos Victoria in 2010, he lead a range of post-doctoral research projects on the behaviour, ecology, and conservation of wild bird populations, both in Australia and the Netherlands. Since starting with the zoo, he has been the Senior Manager of Research in the biological sciences. He specialises in the planning and evaluation of research and conservation actions for threatened species and has a particular involvement with the Orange-bellied Parrot, Helmeted Honeyeater, and Lord Howe Island Insect recovery programs. He has published in a broad range of areas and is a member of several animal ethics committees and science advisory groups.

Naomi Hodgens, Wildlife Detection Dog Officer

Qualifications: BaApSci (Wildlife Biology & Conservation and Park Management), Cert III Dog behaviour & training, Science (Hons)
Thesis topic: Training effects on “social attraction” in dogs.

Naomi is a Wildlife Detection Dog Officer for Zoos Victoria, training dogs to assist our field biologists in locating and monitoring some of Victoria’s most endangered species. Naomi received a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Queensland in 2008, with double majors in Wildlife Biology and Conservation and Park Management. Due to her special interest in animal behaviour, particularly canine behaviour, Naomi began investigating the possibilities of utilising dogs in wildlife conservation. In 2012, Naomi completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour and Training. Naomi completed her Honours degree at the La Trobe University, Anthrozoology research group in 2017, where her research explored the effects of different training models on the dog-human relationship. Thanks to her extensive experience working as a veterinary nurse and canine behaviour consultant, Naomi uses her knowledge to promote the best possible health and welfare practises for all canine members of the team.
Naomi has trained dogs to locate targets such as Spotted-tail Quoll scat, Fresh-water turtle nests, Greater-glider scat, Alpine Stone-fly as well as current projects for Zoos Victoria including Broad-toothed Rat detection as well as research into methodology for training detection of Frog odours and Oestrus and Lactation detection from Tasmanian Devil scat samples.

Dr Phoebe Burns, Native Rodent Biologist

Qualifications: BSc, MSc, PhD
Thesis topic: Testing the decline of the endangered New Holland Mouse (Pseudomys novaehollandiae); MSc: Post-fire distribution and detectability of the Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus)
Pronouns: She/her

Dr Phoebe Burns is a threatened species and fire ecologist, mammalogist, and native Australian rodent expert. Phoebe has been researching endangered rodents since 2013, focusing on post-fire responses and targeted fire management, optimising survey techniques, and creating effective conservation programs. Phoebe has extensive field experience, having conducted more than 27,000 Elliott trap nights, >850 terrestrial and arboreal camera trap sets, identification of over a million camera trap images, >200 hours spotlighting, and collection of hundreds of genetic samples. While much of Phoebe’s research has focused on two endangered rodent species: the New Holland Mouse and the Smoky Mouse, her experience includes many other terrestrial and arboreal mammal species such as Greater Gliders, Yellow-bellied Gliders, and Leadbeater's Possums.

Dr Sally Sherwen, Director of Wildlife Conservation and Science

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science (Hons), PhD.
Thesis topic: The visitor effect: An investigation into the impact of visitors on the behaviour and welfare of zoo animals

Dr Sally Sherwen is the Director of Wildlife Conservation and Science at Zoos Victoria (the Conservation Organisation charged with the operation of Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary in Australia). Sally leads a dynamic team of scientists and specialists that develop and deliver strategic programs in conservation, animal welfare, education and environmental sustainability. Sally has a PhD in Animal Welfare Science and in previous roles has established an evidence-based research program in animal behaviour and welfare science, developed and implemented an institutional welfare assessment tool to advance welfare standards and designed and ran collaborative training courses with several NGOs for industry professionals and community groups. 

Sakib Kazi, Mountain Pygmy-possum Field Officer

Qualifications: BSc, MSc
Thesis topic: 3D geometric morphometrics and the biogeography of Caribbean and South American amphisbaenians

Sakib has undertaken conservation management work for Parks Victoria, Museums Victoria, and now Zoos Victoria. His focus has been on the surveying of endangered Victorian mammals, such as Smoky Mice, Broad-toothed Rats, and Mountain Pygmy-possums. He has surveyed for Smoky Mice and Broad-toothed rats in the Central Highlands, and participated in Zoos Victoria's pioneering supplementary feeding program for Mountain Pygmy-possums in the Mt Hotham-Falls Creek area.

Emergency Response and Outreach

Amanda Lamont, Emergency Management Coordinator

Qualifications: LLB, BEc, GDLP, GCHL

Amanda is a disaster resilience and disaster risk reduction advisor specialising in building partnerships and supporting collective, sustainable community enterprises. Amanda recently joined Zoos Victoria to develop and deliver strategies and plans to increase wildlife resilience and wellbeing outcomes in emergencies and disasters. She is a volunteer firefighter and volunteers with Australian Red Cross Emergency Services. She was activated in these roles in Victoria and NSW during the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. Amanda is also the co-founder and Vice President of the Australasian Women in Emergencies Network.

Leanne Wicker smiling at camera while holding a white-and-black microscope.
Leanne Wicker, Wildlife Health and Welfare Advisor

Qualifications: BSc (Ecology), BVSc (Hons), MVSc, MANZCVS (Medicine of Australasian Wildlife, Zoo and Wildlife Chapter)
Thesis topic: Disease issues associated with trade-confiscated and captive born Viverridae in Northern Vietnam
Pronouns: She/Her

Leanne, an experienced wildlife veterinarian, has worked with Zoos Victoria since 2013.  She recently moved from the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, Healesville Sanctuary, where she had been Senior Veterinarian, to join our Wildlife Conservation and Science team as Zoos Victoria’s first Wildlife Health and Welfare advisor.  This role, which is part of an holistic, transdisciplinary approach to wildlife conservation, aims to integrate the science of wildlife health and welfare into Zoos Victoria’s efforts to safeguard biodiverse ecosystems, ensuring wild animals continue to thrive well into the future.  Leanne has applied this  ‘one health’ approach to a range of diverse clinical, research and management roles throughout Australia, Antarctica, Vietnam, Laos and China. She has worked as a veterinarian in rescue centres caring for wildlife confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam, contributed to the development of husbandry and veterinary care standards for confiscated pangolins, conducted health and disease surveillance in free-ranging wildlife to support translocation and reintroduction programs, managed the health of captive wildlife in zoos and conservation breeding programs, provided veterinary care to sick, injured and orphaned Australia wildlife, and contributed to the emergency response to wildlife impacted by bushfires in Victoria.  

After working in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in  Southeast Asia the aftermath of the first SARS CoV outbreak, a pandemic which emerged from the trade and consumption of wild animals for human consumption, Leanne is driven to improving our understanding the impact of human behaviour on the health and welfare of wild animals.  She holds a Masters in Veterinary Science from the University of Sydney, and became a member of the Zoo and Wildlife chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Science in 2016, following examination in the medicine and surgery of Australasian Wildlife.   She is a member of the management committee of Wildlife Health Australia, and is actively involved in the Australian Veterinary Association’s Victorian executive committee.  She maintains her connections with pangolins and Vietnam as an active member of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and a board member of Vietnamese conservation organization ‘Save Vietnam’s Wildlife’.


Animal welfare science

Amanda Embury, Senior Manager Animal Welfare and Life Sciences

Qualifications: B Sc Hons (Zoology), DipEd, Grad Cert in Competitive Systems and Processes, Cert IV in Training and Assessment, Grad Cert in Environment and Heritage Interpretation
Thesis topic: Comparison of the behaviour of zoo and wild gibbons

Amanda became Melbourne Zoo’s Records Officer in 1984. Since then, she’s worked with learning experience, projects and life sciences teams across our three zoos, and with Corporate business units. Research comparing the behaviour of wild and zoo gibbons, sparked an interest in enrichment and an ongoing commitment to improving the lives of zoo animals. Her training in zoology and interpretation was applied to the design of exhibits and visitor experience for Melbourne Zoo's Gorilla Rainforest, Trail of the Elephants and Orangutan Sanctuary. She’s active in our regional species management programs, being a species co-ordinator and Chair of the Animal Management Committee. She has a broad understanding of zoo operations – leading her to diverse tasks such as developing a species assessment tool, writing policies, organising peanuts and other food for elephants being quarantined on Cocos (Keeling) Islands, delivering training programs for zoo staff; and finding time to visit the zoo’s Coatis.

Fiona Ryan, Wildlife Emergency Response Training Coordinator 

Qualifications: Certificate IV Veterinary Nursing, Diploma of Management, PG Certificate International Animal Welfare , Ethics and Law

Pronouns: She/her

Fiona is a zoo and wildlife veterinary nurse, with more than 18 years of experience in the field. Fiona has worked within each of Zoos Victoria’s veterinary departments for different time periods over the past 15 years, starting at Healesville Sanctuary in 2004. During her time at Healesville, Fiona was part of the team who built the Australian Wildlife Health Centre. Fiona also worked as Melbourne Zoo’s hospital supervisor for 7 years. Fiona has also lived and worked in China, SE Asia and the Middle East undertaking the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals impacted by the illegal trade in wildlife and working with local staff to develop skill and knowledge in veterinary work and animal husbandry. Fiona has sound knowledge and broad experience in zoo and wildlife medicine, emergency response and rehabilitation. She has participated in the triage, veterinary care and rehabilitation of animals impacted by fire as has been deployed on behalf of Zoos Victoria to assist in each of the major fire events over the past 15 years, she has been involved in koala and Eastern Barred Bandicoot translocations, assisted in seal entanglement and marine bird emergency response. Fiona is currently studying One Health MSc.

Amy-Rose Fraser, Animal Welfare Research Officer

Qualifications: BSc (Zoology), BMus (Jazz)
Pronouns: She/her

Amy-Rose has been working at Zoos Victoria since 2017, starting as an Animal Welfare Research Assistant. She began working with multiple teams across the three properties on varying species, gathering behavioural data as evidence to assist in answering questions and solving problems. Amy-Rose now supports the Animal Welfare Specialist and the Animal Behaviour Specialist with the implementation of animal welfare research; carrying out reactive and strategic projects, developing appropriate protocols and ethograms, as well as facilitating training sessions for staff and volunteers on how to understand and gather data on animal behaviour. Ultimately, Amy-Rose works in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders to support positive welfare outcomes for all our animals.

Sue Jaensch, Animal Behaviour Specialist

Qualifications: BSc (Zoology), Grad Cert in Competitive Systems and Processes, Cert IV in Training and Assessment

Sue is Zoos Victoria’s Animal Behaviour Specialist. Sue joined the Zoos Victoria team in 2008, working as a Zoo Keeper at Healesville Sanctuary, then as a Life Sciences Manager and Animal Training Coordinator. Prior to working at Zoos Victoria, Sue spent ten years working at RSPCA Victoria where she was their first Animal Training and Behaviour Coordinator. As the Animal Behaviour Specialist, Sue coordinates the strategic objectives and procedures for animal enrichment and animal training initiatives at Zoos Victoria to ensure a continued improvement for the wellbeing of the animals. Working with the property Animal Training Coordinators, Sue is responsible for the development of learning modules in animal behaviour for delivery to zoo keeping staff. Her portfolio includes animal behaviour concerns, and she oversees the use of Functional Assessment Investigations across our three zoos. Her days vary, she might be on site watching keeping teams working with animals, running a training sessions for our staff, facilitating functional assessment workshops or at her desk analysing data about the behaviour of specific animals. Her strengths are problem solving, group facilitation, system thinking and creativity and she is passionate about promoting the wellbeing of both the animals and staff she works with.

Social Science

Emily McLeod, Senior Social Science Research Manager

Qualifications: BSc (Psychology/Psychophysiology), BSc (Zoology), MSc (Zoology)
Thesis topic: The influence of personality on brood care and nest defence in the cooperatively breeding Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)
Pronouns: She/her

Emily is a conservation social scientist with an interdisciplinary background in the social and biological sciences. She leads the social science research program at Zoos Victoria, conducting research on how conservation organisations can best connect people with wildlife and the environment with the goal of fostering sustainable behaviours in the broader community. Early on in her career, Emily worked as a Sleep Scientist for five years before moving into research. During her research career she worked on a range of projects, from assessing flight distances in waterbirds and exploring birdwatcher attitudes with respect to human disturbance of wildlife at Victoria University, to cataloguing and imaging the Banksia and Eucalyptus collections at the University of Melbourne Herbarium, to examining the impact of human-zoo animal interactions on both animal welfare and zoo visitors’ experiences at The Animal Welfare Science Centre. Emily joined the Wildlife Conservation & Science team at Zoos Victoria in 2017, where her current research involves applying social-psychological theories and methods to understand the drivers of pro-environmental behaviours in order to inform how we can best engage our community in conservation action. Emily has a particular interest in wildlife tourism and is exploring ways to encourage responsible wildlife tourism behaviours through her PhD at Queensland University of Technology.

Community conservation

Ben Sanders, Senior Manager of Conservation Campaigns

Qualifications: B. Ed
Pronouns: He/him

Ben is a passionate environmental educator and facilitator of community wildlife conservation initiatives. For more than a decade, Ben has been involved with the development and delivery of a number of zoo-based campaigns, each aimed at achieving community-driven conservation outcomes for wildlife. Since completing degree in environmental education Ben has enjoyed a career of sharing his passion for wildlife and the environment with others. He enjoys observing meaningful change in people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and the tangible benefits for the environment that can happen as a result.

Darcie Carruthers, Conservation Campaigner

Qualifications: BArts (History & Languages), MA Media and Journalism
Pronouns: She/her

As a Conservation Campaigner, Darcie uses evidence-based tools to deliver and measure behaviour-related programmes among Zoos Victoria’s broad community. She is passionate about connecting people with wildlife and facilitating simple actions that empower anyone to make a positive contribution to the natural world. Darcie believes that wildlife conservation should be for all, and that it can start at our own front door. She is interested in using Community-based Social Marketing principles and creative communication to reach audiences of varied backgrounds and gets a kick out of consumer advocacy. Her favourite animal of the Common Wombat.

Lian Wilson, General Manager, Community Conservation & Learning

Qualifications: BSc (Zoology), Grad Dip Ed
Pronouns: She/her

Lian is the General Manager of Community Conservation for Zoos Victoria and passionate about harnessing the power of people to secure a sustainable future for all. Lian leads a team of conservation specialists that work through the community to foster emotional connections, create advocates for wildlife, and facilitate pro conservation behaviors delivered through award winning campaigns and education programs. Lian is committed to growing the potential of young people, to ensure our future has leaders that champion wildlife conservation, and supporting organisational change to secure a future for wildlife. Lian has a Bachelor of Science (Marine Zoology) and Graduate Diploma of Education. She currently sits on the International Zoo Educators Board as Journal Editor, contributing to building the international zoo and aquarium conservation education profession. Lian is also a member of the Victorian Department of Education and Training Strategic Partnerships Program Advisory Group and contributes to various Victorian DELWP expert groups and panels that foster collaboration and connecting the Victorain community to nature. She currently sits on the International Zoo Educators Board as Journal Editor, contributing to building the international zoo and aquarium conservation education profession, and the Zoo and Aquarium Association Conservation Engagement Committee.

Pete Lancaster, Community Conservation Campaigner

Qualifications: BSc (Hons)
Pronouns: He/him

Pete has spent nearly 15 years connecting a range of audiences with nature, as well as helping to develop and facilitate opportunities for people to take conservation action. After obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour, Pete spent almost a year in South Africa and worked with the National Parks’ People and Conservation Department. Realising just how crucial an engaged and active human community is to success in conservation, he changed focus and began his career in behaviour change. He has been involved in the development and front-facing delivery of community conservation programs both locally and internationally and loves seeing the light-bulb moment people have when they realise they can make a difference to the world around them.

International conservation

Chris Banks, International Conservation Manager

Qualifications: Diploma of Zoo Animal Management, Cert III – Captive Animal Management

Pronouns: He/him

Chris Banks has worked in zoos since 1969, based mostly at Melbourne Zoo. From 1969 to the late 1980s, reptile and amphibian husbandry and management was a major focus, as keeper and curator. He initiated Zoos Victoria’s international conservation engagement in 2000, commencing with a suite of project support in south-east Asia in 2000. Chris transferred to Zoos Victoria’s Wildlife Conservation & Science Department in 2012 and now manages international conservation partnerships in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Uganda, Rwanda, French Polynesia and Vietnam; and two sister zoo  partnerships in Papua New Guinea and Uganda. His portfolio also includes Zoos Victoria’s annual international conservation grants program.

Environmental sustainability

Kiam Yoong, Senior Manager Environmental Sustainability

Qualifications: BE (Civil), ME (Cleaner Production)

Pronouns: He/him

Kiam Yoong is an Environmental Sustainability professional passionate about a world in harmony with the natural environment. His expertise and key work areas include:

  • Development of environmental sustainability policies and strategies
  • Developed and implemented ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System
  • Climate Change mitigation taking into demand side management (eg resource efficiency), alternative energy sources (eg renewables) and carbon sinks (eg avoided deforestation offsets)
  • Carbon Accounting and certification to Climate Active carbon neutral certification
  • Zero Waste to Landfill management plans
  • Resource Efficiency
  • Environmental, Social and Governance Procurement

Kiam is also the Convenor - Environmental Sustainability Specialist Advisory Group for the Zoo Aquarium Association and a member of the Task Force on Single-Use Plastics for World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


Cheryl Laks, Education Programs Coordinator

Qualifications: BSc (Biological Science), BEd (Primary & Secondary), Cert IV Veterinary Nursing
Pronouns: She/her

As the Education Programs Coordinator, Cheryl's focus is on growing and developing Zoos Victoria’s Education for Conservation programs to ensure we are providing over 150,000 young people every year with an education worth having. While also helping our community achieve positive outcomes for wildlife. She supports and collaborates with the education teams enabling a united team to work together to achieve common goals and standards and to provide students with real-world learning experiences. Her past few years have also focused on the overall effective management of the zoo’s education marketing and communications strategy. Throughout Cheryl's years of teaching, she has developed a passion to inspire the youth of today to become leaders and change makers for the future.

Chris Vella, Fighting Extinction Schools Coordinator

Qualifications: BTeach, Grad Dip Geography Education
Pronouns: He/him

Chris is an educator with experience in classroom teaching, environmental education, consulting and project management. He has also led curriculum and process in a leading Australian educational not-for-profit. Chris began his career as a visual arts and geography teacher but through the joys of casual teaching found that what he really loved was creating meaningful education programs regardless of the topic or year level. And, what is more meaningful than conservation education?  Being a bit of a nerd, Chris is always interested in using technology to make education more authentic and equitable.  As Fighting Extinction Schools Coordinator Chris gets to work with the incredible Zoo Education Team creating and running programs that assist and empower teachers to take conservation education beyond their zoo experience. From leading Zoos Victoria’s first Digital School Showcase ( to beginning a Schools Mentoring Program, Chris aims to support every Victorian teacher to become a Fighting Extinction Educator! Also, Chris probably reads too many comic books…

Kirsty Costa, Education Innovation Leader

Qualifications: BArts (English & Media), Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
Pronouns: She/her

Kirsty Costa is an award-winning teacher, learning designer and public speaker who has worked in education for over 20 years. Her connection to nature and wildlife was nurtured by a childhood of camping trips, bushwalks and ocean swims. She now lives in her element by mashing her passions – conservation and education. Kirsty has taught in school classrooms, been an education consultant and worked at an executive level in large not-for-profits. As Education Innovation Leader at Zoos Victoria, she helps to design contemporary and real-world education programs for over 150,000 students per annum. Kirsty specialises in STEM curriculum, Design Thinking, values education, environmental education and school-community partnerships. She is passionate about providing young people with an education world having through collaboration, innovation and leadership.

Mel Wyatt, Senior Manager Education

Qualifications: BAppSc (Conservation & Park Management), BEd
Pronouns: She/her

With 25 years experience in outdoor cultural institutions, Mel's experience in the landscape of education in the context of zoos, parks and gardens is extensive. She is committed to continuously improving the vital role formal and informal programs play in the development of our relationships with nature and the creation of pro-conservation behaviour; mental and physical wellbeing; and the altruistic values that support broader community wellbeing. The experience gained through her roles in formal education programs, visitor experience and interpretation, volunteer management and accredited training have allowed her to develop a clear professional philosophy on the framing of education delivery that is positive, constructive, collective, solution-focused and optimistic. Mel is a leader that prides herself on 'leading from behind' and bringing out the best in her team to produce confident high performers that fully contribute to a collective success.

Conservation consultancy

Tessa McLachlan, Training & Consultancy Manager

Qualifications: B. Business (Tourism Mgmt), MBA
Pronouns: She/her

Tess has always been passionate about wildlife with an affinity for primate conservation. In 2013, she had a life-changing experience working with orangutans that guided her to build a career in ecotourism and one that connects people with nature. She’s worked in both private and public sectors with experience in international market strategy, sales, product development, PR/communications, and freelance consulting. In 2019, Tess was appointed to build the organisation's inaugural business consultancy, LEAP, and is helping Zoos Victoria redefine the role of a modern zoo in the 21st Century. Today, she showcases the Wildlife, Conservation & Science team's innovative conservation initiatives and helps other like-minded organisations build capacity in the realms of animal welfare, environmental sustainability, behaviour change campaigns, and lean-based principles.


Steph Jenkins, Wildlife Conservation and Science Support Officer

Qualifications: BSc, Grad Dip Ed (Primary)
Pronouns: She/her

With a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) and a Graduate Diploma of Education, Steph has always known that her passion lies in a mix of animals and education. This has seen her work in many different industries from Vet Nursing, to farming, to school incursion work, and now to wildlife conservation. Whether it be the creation of behaviour change content or delivering workshops, it’s the diversity that she thrives in. After joining Zoos Victoria in 2014, Steph has worked in the Keeper Kids facilitated play area, provided support for the Volunteer Program and now works in the Wildlife Conservation and Science team, supporting the five arms of the portfolio in their diverse projects whilst coordinating numerous committees. Steph is currently completing a Diploma of Wellness Leadership for Workplaces and enjoys leading wellness initiatives within the broader Zoos Victoria team. She is passionate about helping others make small changes in their lifestyles which can create bigger impacts and allow them to enjoy their lives in the happiest and healthiest way.