Ask an expert
From biology to animal welfare, education and behaviour change, Zoos Victoria's staff are experts in their field.
Nick Bradsworth, Helmeted Honeyeater Field Officer
Qualifications: Diploma of Conservation and Land Management; Bachelor of Environmental Science (Hons)
Thesis topic: Movement ecology of a top-order predator in an urbanizing landscape: Powerful owls (Ninox strenua) and their response to urbanisation
Nick Bradsworth is an ecologist with over a decade of experience working with threatened bird species. While completing a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) at Deakin University, Nick worked extensively on the Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Program as an experienced field and supplementary feeding volunteer. This program established a keen desire to pursue scientific research in threatened bird conservation, so as a postgraduate he commenced honours and then a PhD at Deakin University on Melbourne’s threatened Powerful Owls. His research entailed documenting their fascinating nocturnal movements with GPS transmitters to understand how urbanisation is impacting their space use, and working with local council, and land managers to protect vulnerable tracts of urban owl habitat. He has also worked on the critically endangered Norfolk Island Morepork with Monash University, and with the Threatened Bird Network of BirdLife Australia. Nick joined the Wildlife Conservation and Science team in July 2021 as Helmeted Honeyeater Field Officer to assist Zoos Victoria establish additional populations of “HeHos” through translocations and captive-releases in locations away from Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (where majority of the wild population currently exists). He is excited to be working with the Helmeted Honeyeater again, contributing actively to their recovery efforts.
Dr Phoebe Burns, Native Rodent Biologist
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, 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)
Published papers: https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=hqPXKxYAAAAJ&hl=en
Dr Phoebe Burns is a threatened species ecologist and native Australian rodent expert with over a decade of experience in the field. Her work focuses on developing effective management strategies and interventions to help conserve endangered native rodent species such as the Pookila (New Holland Mouse) and Smoky Mouse. Her Masters research focused on the post-fire response of the Smoky Mouse to bushfire, and her PhD involved a full reassessment of the status, threats, fire-response and management requirements of the Pookila in Victoria. Since completing her studies at the University of Melbourne, Phoebe has continued researching these species and developing and adapting on-ground management strategies, working closely with land management agencies originally as a private consultant and now as Zoos Victoria’s Native Rodent Biologist. Phoebe chairs the National Pookila and Smoky Mouse Recovery Teams. While much of Phoebe’s research has focused on rodents, her research and field experience also includes many other terrestrial and arboreal mammal species.
Dr Amy Coetsee, Threatened Species Biologist
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (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.
Dr Jemma Cripps, Swamp Antechinus Biologist
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Hons), PhD
Thesis: Infection patterns and subclinical effects of gastrointestinal helminth parasites in eastern grey kangaroos
Published papers: https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=rL7ZzD4AAAAJ&hl=en
Dr Jemma Cripps is a threatened species ecologist with over a decade of experience working on threatened fauna. Jemma completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne and then went on to work at the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (ARI), which is part of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). There, Jemma worked in the Threatened Fauna Team undertaking conservation research on threatened mammals, with a focus on species such as the Leadbeater’s Possum, Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider. She provided scientific input and expertise on a range of topics to support decision-making processes and the development of policy. Prior to that, she worked for DELWP as a Biodiversity Officer, for the University of Melbourne, in the ecological consulting sector and for Parks Victoria. Jemma joined the Wildlife Conservation and Science team in June 2022 as the Swamp Antechinus Biologist. She is excited to be working closely with land management agencies and forming new partnerships. Jemma’s research will focus on the collection of new genetic data to determine if translocations of Swamp Antechinus are warranted in the Great Otway National Park.
Alice Ewing, Wildlife Detection Dog Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Hons) (Zoology)
Alice is a Wildlife Detection Dog Officer at Zoos Victoria, having recently worked for three years as a keeper with the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Guardian Dog Program trial based both at Werribee Open Range Zoo and at Mooramong, one of the program's field sites in western Victoria, where bandicoots coexist in shared habitat with Maremma guardian dogs and sheep. Alice graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Zoology, during which she studied the costs of incubation in a large seabird that breeds in Port Phillip Bay. She has since then undertaken extensive fieldwork largely focused on endangered fauna species, including migratory shorebirds. She has, and continues to, work as a professional zoological/ecological consultant since 2010, working across much of Victoria, and has had a parallel interest in dog training, which in turn lit a passion for conservation detection dog work. This was borne from attending a Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts held at Melbourne Zoo in 2012, and then working with her own dog as a volunteer team with the Conservation Ecology Centre's Otways Conservation Dogs program, targeting Spot-tailed Quoll scat. She is excited to be continuing part of the "Fighting Extinction Dog Squad" and seeing the emerging and promising conservation outcomes, being achieved through working with highly trained canine peers in collaboration with the WCS team and species experts.
Arabella Eyre, Leadbeater’s Possum Field Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science
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.
Deon Gilbert, Threatened Species Biologist – Herpetofauna
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, PhD Candidate
Thesis Topic: Conservation Biology of the Baw Baw Frog
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.
Dr Dan Harley, Threatened Species Project Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, 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.
Chris Hartnett, Threatened Species Program Coordinator
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Bachelor of Arts (Hons) (Fine Art)
Thesis topic: Female mate choice in the Eastern Barred Bandicoot
Chris Hartnett is a Threatened Species Program Coordinator 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.
Naomi Hodgens, Wildlife Detection Dog Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Applied Science (Wildlife Biology & Conservation and Park Management), Cert III Dog behaviour & training, Bachelor of 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.
Sakib Kazi, Mountain Pygmy-possum Field Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Master of Science
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. Sakib is also Zoos Victoria's Chief Remote Pilot, and coordinates drone operations across the organisation, with a focus on their use for research and conservation.
Dr La Toya Jamieson, Wildlife Detection Dog Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Hons), PhD
Thesis topic: Improving wildlife detection dog selection, training and management
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 Michael Magrath, Senior Research Manager
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Hons) PhD
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.
Dr Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Hons), PhD, Cert II Environmental Sustainability, Cert III Captive Animals
Thesis topic: Female choice and breeding success in a small carnivorous marsupial, the agile antechinus (Antechinus agilis)
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 Nick Rutter, Willdife Detection Dog Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), PhD
Nick is a Wildlife Detection Dog Officer at Zoos Victoria. Nick has recently submitted his PhD which he completed at La Trobe Univeristy where he developed and evaluated a volunteer-based model of training detection dogs for wildlife detection roles. As part of this program, Nick oversaw detection dogs training to find evidence of Greater Gliders, Alpine Stoneflies and freshwater turtle nests. Nick's research has contributed to our understanding of how we can effectively train and prepare wildlife detection dogs for working in different environments and in different search scales. His work has also explored detection dog's tendencies to display olfactory generalization to similair yet seperate species that they have been trained to detect. This work may help inform how we can train dogs to find espicially rare species, from which it can be difficult to source odour samples required to train dogs. Nick has also worked with his own detection dog, Daisy, in professional detection dog/ consultancy roles since 2018. Nick joined Zoos Victoria's Willdife Detection Dog team in August, 2021 and is excited to work with Zoos Victoria's threatened species biologists to continue to train and deploy detection dogs to help find evidence of some of Victoria's most threatened and endangered species. Nick also looks forward to continuing to publish research that helps improve our understanding of how we can work with these amazing dogs to help us fight extinction.
Dr Kat Selwood, Threatened Species Biologist
Qualifications: PhD (Ecology), Bachelor of Environmental Science (Hons)
Thesis topic: The significance and future prospects of floodplains for birds in a drying climate
Dr Katherine Selwood (Kat) is an ecologist, whose work has mostly focused on the ecology and conservation of Australia’s birds at a landscape level. At Zoos Victoria, Kat focuses on the planning and implementation of conservation programs for our bird species. Kat was previously a postdoc with the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub where she worked on spatial conservation planning for Christmas Island, approaches to biodiversity offsetting, and identifying threatened bird habitat in the Murray-Darling Basin. Her PhD and later postdoctoral work focused on the effects of the Millennium drought on woodland birds, with a particular focus on floodplains and their potential as refugia. Kat is an honorary research fellow at the University of Melbourne , continuing to contribute to research on species conservation and spatial ecology. Prior to her PhD, Kat worked for the federal environment department in a number of policy and project roles, including threatened species recovery, species discovery and environmental water.
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.
Emmi van Harten, Southern Bent-wing Bat Coordinator for National Recovery Team
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Hons), PhD
Thesis topic: Population dynamics of the critically endangered, Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus orianae bassanii
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.
Dr Sarah Frith, Wildlife Outreach Veterinarian
Qualifications: Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Master of Veterinary Science (Conservation Medicine)
Dr Sarah Frith graduated from Melbourne University in 2007. She started her career as a small animal veterinarian before going on to do a Masters in Conservation Medicine at Murdoch University. She has been working as a zoo and wildlife veterinarian for the past 13 years, most recently at Melbourne Zoo. She has been responsible for the veterinary care of a wide range of exotic and native zoo residents as well as sick and injured Australian wildlife including marine mammals and birds via Melbourne Zoo’s Marine Response Unit. She has particular interest in wildlife emergency response including bushfire triage and flying fox heat stress events. Sarah joined the Wildlife Conservation and Science team at Zoos Victoria in November 2021 as the Wildlife Outreach Veterinarian, a role that aims to increase the welfare of Victorian wildlife by increasing engagement with general practice veterinarians, veterinary nurses, wildlife carers and key stakeholders in the wildlife welfare space.
Ben Sanders, General Manager of Wildlife Outreach
Qualifications: Bachelor of Education
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.
Leanne Wicker, Wildlife Health and Welfare Advisor
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Ecology), Bachelor of Veterinary Science (Hons), Master of Veterinary Science, Member of Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (Medicine of Australasian Wildlife, Zoo and Wildlife Chapter)
Thesis topic: Disease issues associated with trade-confiscated and captive born Viverridae in Northern Vietnam
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’.
Dr Alison Clarke, Animal Welfare Specialist
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Zoology), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Member of Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (Animal Welfare)
Thesis topic: End of life decision-making at the Zoo: Practices and employee perspectives within Australasia
Alison started her career in emergency wildlife response as a teenager in suburban Melbourne, and followed a path to becoming a zoo & wildlife veterinarian. Experienced in veterinary & community education, she established a unique training program in 2012, which allowed veterinary students to engage directly with wildlife shelters across Victoria, and learn critical hands-on wildlife welfare skills. She delivered this program for 5 years at The University of Melbourne, has worked in school-based rabies-awareness education in North India, alongside Vets Beyond Borders, & as a Safari Guide at Werribee Open Range Zoo. Within her clinical career, she has worked with a diverse range of species – from marine turtles in North Queensland, non-human primates in Japan, to kiwi & kakapo in New Zealand. Having completed a three-year veterinary residency at Wellington Zoo & Wildbase Hospital, she has most recently been working at Auckland Zoo. In 2021, she achieved post-graduate membership qualifications in Animal Welfare, recognised by the Australian & New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZCVS). She holds a BSc (Zoology) from Monash University, and has completed a veterinary anaesthesia internship at James Cook University. With experience in qualitative data analysis, she is interested in understanding animal welfare from a variety of cultural and personal perspectives; developing tools & ideas that are sensitive to the amazing diversity that exists within the animal kingdom. She is currently completing her Master of Veterinary Science (MVSc) in-conjunction with Animal Welfare Aotearoa, and the Wildbase Research centre based at Massey University.
Amanda Embury, Senior Manager Animal Welfare and Life Sciences
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Hons) (Zoology), Diploma of Education, Graduate Certificate in Competitive Systems and Processes, Cert IV in Training and Assessment, Graduate Certificate 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 animal housing 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 a member 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.
Amy-Rose Doornbusch (née Fraser), Animal Welfare Research Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Zoology), Bachelor of Music (Jazz)
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: Bachelor of Science (Zoology), Graduate Certificate in Competitive Systems and Processes, Cert IV in Training and Assessment, Graduate Certificate in Applied Behaviour Analysis
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 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.
Katherine Quinn, Life Sciences Project Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Zoology); Graduate Diploma of Education
Katherine Quinn has been working with Zoos Victoria for more than a decade. Over this period Katherine has worked extensively with African lions (among others), utilising the different programs Zoos Victoria offers to enhance their welfare and individual needs through various projects and fellowships. With this passion, she seeks to promote the welfare and wellbeing of the many and varied individuals that call Zoos Victoria home, promoting opportunities for them to thrive. She loves enhancing her own understanding through learning from and advocating for animals.
Fiona Ryan, Wildlife Emergency Response Training Coordinator
Qualifications: Certificate IV Veterinary Nursing, Diploma of Management, Post-Graduate Certificate International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law
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.
Emily McLeod, Senior Social Science Research Manager
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Psychology/Psychophysiology), Bachelor of Science (Zoology), Master of Science (Zoology)
Thesis topic: The influence of personality on brood care and nest defence in the cooperatively breeding Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)
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 University of Queensland.
Ash Chaffers, Senior Manager Conservation Campaigns
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications)
Ash joined the Community Conservation team in 2022 after seven years working in marketing and communications for Zoos Victoria. With a background in developing and measuring marketing campaigns to drive visitation and behaviour change, Ash brings extensive experience engaging the Victorian community with both wildlife conservation and the onsite experience. Ash is passionate about increasing public awareness of zoos’ roles as leading conservation organisations and fostering long term relationships with a myriad of audiences to ultimately build a community of advocates for our natural world.
Pete Lancaster, Community Conservation Campaigner
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Hons)
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.
Estelle Van Hoeydonck, Conservation Campaigner
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Geography and International Development)
Estelle is passionate about igniting the spark of interest that many people have in wildlife and converting it into conservation action. As a Conservation Campaigner, Estelle works in a small dynamic team on Zoos Victoria’s many and varied behaviour-change campaigns, all of which work towards eliminating specific threats to wildlife. Additionally, Estelle works on Zoos Victoria’s citizen science initiative, Moth Tracker. Estelle’s prior experience has been in fundraising and philanthropy, encouraging donations in the conservation, international development and climate justice fields, with a particular focus on regular giving programs. Throughout Estelle’s career her central aim has always been to connect the community with ways to make a meaningful difference in solving environmental or social issues.
Lian Wilson, General Manager Community Conservation & Learning
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Zoology), Graduate Diploma of Education
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 behaviours 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.
Lian is also a member of the Victorian Department of Education and Training Strategic Partnerships Program Advisory Group and contributes to various Victorian DEECA expert groups and panels that foster collaboration and connecting the Victorian community to nature.
Chris Banks, International Conservation Manager
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Diploma of Zoo Animal Management, Cert III – Captive Animal Management
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.
Kiam Yoong, Senior Manager Environmental Sustainability
Qualifications: Bachelor of Engineering (Civil), Master of Engineering (Cleaner Production)
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.
Kirsty Costa, Education Innovation Leader
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (English & Media), Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
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.
Nicole Cowan, Education Programs Coordinator
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Zoology), Diploma of Education (Secondary), Masters of Environment and Sustainability (Leadership)
Nicole is an experienced educator in both secondary and tertiary education. Her passion for wildlife conservation and education led her to complete her Bachelor of Science (zoology/animal biology) and a Graduate Diploma in Education at The University of Melbourne. She then shared her enthusiasm for the natural world teaching in secondary schools before moving on to become a teaching associate in the Education Faculty at Monash University. At the same time, Nicole was undertaking her Masters in Environment and Sustainability, with a focus on leadership in sustainability. Her teaching associate role allowed her to engage with pre-service teachers to encourage the inclusion of conservation and sustainability in their teaching, thereby helping to create a new generation of passionate conservationists. Nicole joined Zoos Victoria as the Education Programs Coordinator in October 2021 and is excited to bring all her interests together to help shape the direction of conservation education and support students from all walks of life to act for wildlife.
Cheryl Laks, Education Programs Coordinator
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Biological Science), Bachelor of Education (Primary & Secondary), Cert IV Veterinary Nursing
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: Bachelor of Teaching, Graduate Diploma of Geography Education
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 (https://flipgrid.com/b4e26a92) 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…
Mel Wyatt, Senior Manager Education
Qualifications: Bachelor of Applied Science (Conservation & Park Management), Graduate Bachelor of Education
Awarded one of the top 50 Most Influential Educators for 2022 (The Educator Australia), Mel has over 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.
Tessa McLachlan, Transition Manager – Kyabram Fauna Park
Conservation Impact Manager
Qualifications: Bachelor of Business (Tourism Management), Master of Business Administration
Tessa 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 career to land at the intersection of wildlife conservation and business. Today, she brings a holistic lens, holding an MBA in Tourism Management, extensive experience in the sector, and possesses a thorough understanding of contemporary conservation science concepts in animal welfare, community conservation campaigning, and environmental sustainability. In 2020, she established Zoos Victoria’s consultancy, sharing the organisations conservation frameworks with like-minded organisations to booster environmental outcomes. In her role as Conservation Impact Manager, Tessa advocates for industry change by championing conservation practices that protect our natural world. She has created and delivered global training programs and led strategy sessions for the IUCN. She is a natural innovator with demonstrated experience in change management integration across dynamic working environments, including start-up concepts and business acquisitions. In 2022, Tessa led the transition of Kyabram Fauna Park into the Zoos Victoria portfolio, welcoming it as it fourth zoo.
Steph Jenkins, Wildlife Conservation and Science Support Officer
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Graduate Diploma of Education (Primary), Diploma of Wellness Leadership (Workplaces)
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 has completed 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.