MEET
THE CONSULTING TEAM

ALL SPECIES CONSULTING TEAM.

Dr. Jason Crean

NUTRITION, EDUCATION, EXHIBIT DESIGN

Dr. Crean is a degreed biologist and educator, specializing in incorporating real world scientific data into classroom activities.  He has taught for 24 years, currently teaching biology courses at Lyons Township High School and both biology and preservice science teaching courses at Saint Xavier University, Chicago.  Dr. Crean has been awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching by President Obama, the High School Science Teacher of the Year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as awards from the National Science Teachers Association, National Association of Biology Teachers, Illinois Science Teachers Association, Golden Apple Foundation, among others.  He is the President of the Illinois Science Teachers Association and Illinois Association of Biology Teachers, HHMI Teacher Ambassador, and sits on the College Board’s National Science Advisory Panel.  He also co-chairs the Pre-AP Science Curriculum Development Committee for the College Board and has extensive experience with teacher professional learning in both formal and informal settings, like that of the Education Department at the Chicago Zoological Society.  Through his leadership in many of these organizations, he began the NGSS Biology Storylining Working Group that has collaboratively created a full biology course curricular replacement with six coherent storyline units that are now used across the country and internationally.

 
 

Jean Dubach, PhD

GENETICS, MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, STATISTICAL ANALYSES

Jean Dubach, PhD oversees the Wildlife Genetics lab at Loyola Medical Center in Chicago, IL and also managed the Molecular Genetics lab for the Chicago Zoological Society.  The lab provides analytical genetic services to zoos, conservation programs and others research projects around the world for population management and taxonomic identification.  Her research projects include investigations of the interactions between levels of genetic variability and health in wild carnivores and phylogenetic analysis of New World primates, and assessing levels of genetic variability in wild and captive penguins, just to name a few.  Dr. Dubach's research uses genetic analysis to understand factors relating to the survival of wildlife populations, including health-related issues, and to determine appropriate management techniques.  Some of her original data has been implemented in curricula such as our Africa Storyline.

 

Caroline Efstathion, PhD

CONSERVATION AND ECOLOGY

Dr. Caroline Efstathion received her B.S. and M.S. in biology from Florida Atlantic University and her Ph.D in entomology from The University of Florida. She worked as a zookeeper, veterinarian technician and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator before and during attending college. She is currently a microbiology instructor at St. Johns River State College. Her graduate research focused on improving conservation of endangered parrots with the use of a push-pull method to reduce nest site competition with Africanized honeybees. Additionally, she evaluates the impact of other arthropods on nestling bird health and survival.  She has also studied antibiotic resistant bacteria in captive bird populations, and she is interested in the emerging discipline of conservation physiology, which aims to answer conservation questions by physiological approaches, and specifically those focused on stress. Her multidisciplinary background in veterinarian medicine, microbiology and entomology has allowed her to focus on understudied issues facing many endangered birds. Researching these issues allows her to contribute to ongoing conservation projects, assisting in areas that are typically understudied due to lack of time, resources and expertise.

Lara Joseph

Behavior and Training

Lara is the owner of The Animal Behavior Center, LLC in Ohio. She presents workshops, travels, lectures, gives regular webinars, and consults focusing on positive reinforcement interactions and modifying behavior through applications in behavior analysis. She is also the Director of Training for a wildlife rehabilitation center where she focuses on taking the stress out of animal environments. Lara is a professional member of The Animal Behavior Management Alliance, The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators, and sits on the Advisory Board for The Indonesian Parrot Project. She is a past board member of Nature’s Nursery, a wildlife rehabilitation center. She writes for The American Federation of Aviculture, The Pet Professional Guild, Deaf Dogs Rock, My Safe Bird Store, and more. Lara has presented for a wide variety of animal care organizations such as The Philadelphia Zoo, The Ohio State Exotic Veterinary Club, The Association of Avian Veterinarians, The University of Findlay’s Pre-Vet Club, The Parrot Lover’s Cruise, and The Wheaton College division of Applied Behavior Analysis. For more information visit her website at TheAnimalBehaviorCenter.com.

 

Robin Shewokis

Behavior & Environment Enrichment

Robin Shewokis is the owner of The Leather Elves. The Leather Elves started as a family business that created enrichment for companion parrots.  After working with several facilities that housed collections of parrots Robin realized that there was a need for enrichment targeting other species.  Since then Robin has consulted at zoos in the US, Canada, Holland, and New Zealand and distributes enrichment products worldwide. Robin has consulted at facilities where she works with keepers doing workshops and assisting in creating enrichment programs. In addition, she presents each facility with a full report of their enrichment programming and offers kudos for innovative opportunities and suggestions for enhancing the current structure.

In the companion parrot community Robin has spoken at numerous parrot clubs and conducted workshops that help companion bird owners, and aviculturists create a stimulating captive environment. Robin has published articles on enrichment in national and international publications.

Each summer for the past 5 years Robin has worked with Sid Price, owner of Avian Ambassadors in New Mexico to present a Raptor Handling course.  Participants in this class learn the basics of the science of training, raptor enrichment and basic raptor handling with hands-on experience.

Passionate about conservation, Robin has supported Blue Throated Macaw conservation through the Bird Endowment and World Parrot Trust as well as Kakapo conservation through The Kakapo Recovery Programme. A visit to New Zealand and the opportunity to hold a kakapo chick sold Robin on the flightless green parrot!

Robin is president of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators and advises their enrichment committee. She also serves on the board of National Parrot Rescue and Preservation Foundation. In addition, Robin is a commercial member of the American Federation of Aviculture and the Massachusetts State Coordinator for AFA.

 

Tyler Thomas

FRAGILE PLANET WILDLIFE CENTER

Tyler Thomas is the Director of Fragile Planet Wildlife Center in New York State where he maintains a collection of wild felids, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as other small animals. He dedicates his time doing educational outreach programming with a concentration on threatened and endangered wildlife. Thomas also works fulltime as a professional zookeeper and bird of prey trainer. Throughout his 10+ years of working with wildlife, Thomas has grown to specialize in the care of wild felids and is known for his work utilizing an intact male ocelot in educational programming. He is an active participant in AZA Species Survival Programs and a professional member of the Zoological Association of America. Thomas has spoken at the AZA Felid Taxon Advisory Group in regards to the hand-rearing and use of intact male ocelots as educational ambassadors to avoid the circumstances of neutering genetically viable cats and increasing special needs to ensure a viable captive population. Additionally, he has written articles about ocelots for the Feline Conservation Federation.

Thomas is working on the completion of his A.A.S. in Animal Management through the State University of New York at Jefferson Community College and has successfully completed certificate courses through San Diego Global Academy including Venomous Snakes, Record Keeping, Life Support Systems, Interpretation Basics, Ethics, and Best Practices in Red Panda Management.

Thomas’ strengths include habitat design, enrichment development, and education program development. Thomas has guided, instructed, and developed zoological exhibits featuring natural habitats. As a mentor for a college zoo technology program Thomas trains students and interns the basics of professional zookeeping, habitat design, and routine development. Thomas is well versed in the hand-rearing of exotic felids and conditioning wild cats for use in educational programming or for a future of free-contact human-animal cooperation. Thomas works hand-in-hand with other zookeepers training them to safely handle crotalids and develop DIY aquatic life-support systems. As someone who carries more permits and licensing than most zoological institutions within the state of New York, Thomas is a resource for information regarding federal permitting practices and procedures.

 

Amanda Villacreses

Husbandry and Problem-solving

Amanda Villacreses has over 20 years experience working with birds in many different capacities.  She received a B.S. in Biology with a focus in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution from UCLA in 2002, which included independent field studies in the primary neotropical rainforest in Nicaragua.  She has worked as a birdkeeper at Brookfield Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo and at Playboy Mansion Zoo, involved in the care, breeding, and chick-rearing of a wide variety of avian species, ranging from finches and tanagers to California Condors.  She has also worked as a veterinary technician for board-certified avian vets and has worked closely with several parrots and softbill breeders.  Amanda has bred finches and canaries, worked in rescue and adoption of birds (primarily ducks and parrots) with health and behavior issues, fostered birds in her home, volunteered at parrot adoption and wildlife rehab centers.  She currently does freelance consultant and husbandry work in homes and aviaries, assists clients in understanding both practical and ethical/spiritual components of keeping birds, wild animals, as companions and in captivity, and works as a Naturalist- educating the public about local natural history.

Amanda enjoys presenting her unique heart-centered perspective of birds to various animal-interest groups and schools.  Her greatest joy is to help people understand birds in a fresh way and to foster deeper, more compassionate, connections between humans and animals.  Enriching and supporting human-animal relationships creates motivation for excellence in care, commitment, conservation, and maintaining fulfilling bonds that last a lifetime.  Understanding animals as individual sentient beings help humans to anticipate and nurture the full range of needs of captive and wild animals- including environmental, emotional, behavioral, physical and intellectual.  When the richness and depth of animal relationships are appreciated, we also begin to understand ourselves, as human-animals, much more clearly.

 
 

Nick Pendergrass

Audio Visual & Live Streaming

Nick's Bio is Coming Soon!

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