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HAYLEY BELL - NATURE GUIDE

Hayley is a passionate advocate for the conservation of our planet’s beautiful flora and fauna, inspiring her decision to undertake a bachelor of Zoology and Animal Science at Deakin University. This produced an abundance of incredible opportunities, most notably her participation in a Dolphin Research and Marine Conservation program in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Here, she worked alongside other international volunteers to collect data and monitor local dolphin populations, whilst simultaneously educating the local community on the importance of ecotourism. As suggested by this experience, Hayley has a particular love for the ocean and its inhabitants, with her favourite animal being the Orca! Furthermore, Hayley has an extensive background in the hospitality industry, equipping her with a distinguished customer service skill set. This diverse background coupled with Hayley’s enthusiastic approach is sure to reflect and shine through in her tours here at Wildlife Wonders!

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GEORGIE CUSTANCE - NATURE GUIDE

Georgie grew up in a small country town in South Australia’s Mid North where she enjoyed the outdoors and spent many weekends exploring local farms. When she finished school and began a science degree in Adelaide she discovered her passion for ecology and embarked on a journey to learn about Australia’s amazingly diverse plants and animals. She went on to do honours in avian bioacoustics and volunteered on several research projects, including one on the Christmas Island flying fox. After university she undertook an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in the remote Kimberley region before getting a job as a field ecologist, reintroducing locally extinct native animals to the Mallee Cliffs National Park near Mildura. In 2020 she moved to the Otways and became a mother, and is now enjoying living in such a wonderfully diverse region. Georgie looks forward to sharing her knowledge and passion for conservation ecology.

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JACK DICKSON - NATURE GUIDE

Jack developed his interest in Australian wildlife and the bush from his father who is an avid birdwatcher. This led to him undertaking study at the University of Melbourne, completing a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Ecology back in 2018, investigating the prevalence of Toxoplasmosis in feral cats across Australia. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease in felines, that can also affect other warm-blooded animals and can be lethal in Australian wildlife. Jack recently completed an internship at the Conservation Ecology Centre, learning and experiencing landscape management for conservation. Taking particular interest in science communication and engaging people in understanding the complexities of how we have, are, and hope to protect our amazing natural world. Jack also has a passion for photography which he uses to showcase the beauty of the Australian wilds @regentphotographyaus.

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YONINA EIZENBERG - NATURE GUIDE

Yoni is a passionate member of the conservation community with a special interest in the marine environment. After completing an Honours of Environmental Science focusing on Seabirds, Yoni participated in an internship with the Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC). This sparked her fascination in the wonderful species within the Otways. She is currently working on a PhD exploring the habitat selection of two small seabird species in south-eastern Victoria and will eagerly point out any seabird resembling specks when looking towards the ocean. She is excited to work as a nature guide for Wildlife Wonders and show guests the magic that the Otways has to offer.

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JYOTI KALA - NATURE GUIDE

Jyoti grew up in London, and has subsequently spent much of her life escaping the city. With a deep sense of awe for the natural world, Jyoti spends a lot of her free time in nature; bushwalking and wild swimming. After graduating with a degree in Environmental Science, she spent the next few years traveling and working with community groups and political representatives in the UK, Colombia and US on different environmental campaigns. She eventually ended up in the Otways in rural Victoria, where she is now lucky enough to call home. She has spent the last year doing bush regeneration work in the Otways, by planting native plants and removing invasive ones. She is very passionate about protecting and supporting the conservation of the Otways and all of the native animals and plants it is home to.

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EMMA McKENZIE - NATURE GUIDE

Emma has a passion for quolls. She joined the Conservation Ecology Centre in 2019 after spending four years running wildlife tours in the southern Grampians. There she worked with both Tiger and Eastern Quolls, breeding the Eastern Quoll for a release program bringing them back from extinction on mainland Australia. She also worked with Squirrel Gliders and Fat tailed Dunnarts and cared for a mob of Brush Tailed Rock Wallabies which were once part of a release program in the Grampians.Since completing her studies in Applied Science in Environmental Management at Ballarat University (now Federation University), Emma has worked on numerous conservation projects including pest plants and animals, large scale tree plantings, wetland restoration, and fauna surveys in both the Kimberley and around Dunkeld in regional Victoria.Emma has also been a fire fighter for 10 years and is currently a member of the Apollo Bay CFA. She worked in fire management with the Department of Environment during the Black Saturday and Northern Grampians fires.

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SARAH MURFITT - NATURE GUIDE

Sarah is a marine scientist with a passion for all things nature. Her Environmental Science (Marine Biology) degree led to incredible opportunities working on conservation projects both locally and abroad. From Costa Rica to the Seychelles, Sarah had worked with many species in and around the marine and coastal environments. Recently, she has been a conservationist and tour leader at the Middle Island Penguin Project, educating guests of all ages about the importance of caring for our wildlife and environments. Sarah is also passionate about the use of technologies in ecology, to help monitor and safeguard Australia's unique environments for future generations. In her spare time Sarah loves spending time experiencing the beauty and magic in nature.

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TAZ SCULLY - NATURE GUIDE

Taz is an avid traveller who has lived in countries such as Taiwan, New Zealand, China, Canada and Australia. Despite her time overseas her one true love is still Aussie fauna and flora. Ever a curious child, her fondest memories are participating in experiences such as this one and having guides help stoke her enthusiasm for by answering her many questions. She has since worked with various birds of prey and parrots in free flight presentations as well as developing and enacting non-lethal pest control tactics using those birds. Taz completed her degrees in Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) and Chinese Language at Deakin University. When Taz isn’t looking for birds or gushing about Quolls you can find her at the nearest snowy mountain, skiing, snowboarding, or observing the unique ecology of the area.

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ERIN SMEETON - NATURE GUIDE

Erin developed a love for wildlife from her parents, often rescuing and rehabilitating roadside animals from a very young age. After completing work experience at Taronga Zoo Sydney working with penguins and seals, she cemented her fixation on the animal kingdom. Erin now has a degree in Zoology and Animal Science, giving her knowledge behind worldwide animal anatomy, biology, and ecology. Erin is passionate about cultivating understanding of the natural world throughout the community and teaching people why conservation is essential and achievable. She has recently spent time at a Wildlife shelter, developing a specific love for native Australian wildlife and learning how to harness her passion for enacting change. Erin hopes to provide a new perspective on Australian ecology and harness public creativity towards meaningful conservation efforts.

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SYLVIA VAN DER PEET - NATURE GUIDE

Sylvia van der Peet was born in a coal-mining village in Lancashire and came to Australia as a “ten pound POM”. She has had roles as varied as interstate telephonist; assistant to a horse dentist; volunteer zoo guide; Quoll keeper and wool shop owner, and a long career in the IT industry before deciding there was more to life than computing.Sylvia earned a degree in Natural Resource Management with First Class Honours. Her first paid position with an environmental focus was as Park Planner and Threatened Species Group Coordinator in the Grampians National Park, followed by Ranger Team Leader in the Great Otways National Park. Sylvia retired from Parks Victoria in December 2018.Having climbed in Thailand, trekked in Nepal and hiked the Coast to Coast in the UK, Sylvia is now resident in the Otways where she continues to be a keen walker, amateur twitcher and staunch environmentalist. Sylvia is also involved with the local arts community who are encouraging her in further creative pursuits.

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SARA VORLICEK - NATURE GUIDE

Sara developed her love for the outdoors working in Canada after she finished school, enjoying the vast array of breathtaking mountains, lakes, and waterfalls. Upon returning from Canada, she went on to study Outdoor Education in Bendigo where she enjoyed rock climbing, canoeing, bushwalking, and kayaking. Spending time in these environments developed her understanding for the importance of looking after our natural environment. From there she went on to study her Masters of Environment and Sustainability, with a focus on environmental security including land management practices and ecological techniques. She has lived in Apollo Bay for the last year and has formed a deep connection for the Otways beautiful environment. Sara looks forward to sharing her appreciation for the Otways with others and spreading awareness on the importance of living sustainably and protecting our unique natural world.

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OLIVIA SWAIN - DUTY OFFICER

Born and raised in the Otways, Olivia has the passion for the diverse ecosystem, and all its inhabitants, running in her veins. Continuing to follow her fascination for animals and the environment led her to complete a Certificate III in Captive Animal Studies through the Taronga Training Institute with practical components working with threatened species programs including the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, the Helmeted Honeyeater, and the Orange Bellied Parrot with Zoos Victoria. Through these studies she has developed skills in animal husbandry, breeding program development and collection management. Persisting with the desire to expand her knowledge she is currently completing a Bachelor of Environmental Science with a focus on Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Growing up on a farm fully surrounded by the Great Otway National Park has given her amazing exposure and a lifetime of awareness for our native environment. Olivia hopes to one day work in threatened species management and help fight extinction, she cannot wait to share her knowledge and passion with everyone.

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ANDREA DE KAUWE - VISITOR EXPERIENCE OFFICER

Andrea de Kauwe trained in the biomedical sciences, completing her PhD in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne in 2007. Inspired as a child by David Attenborough’s documentaries as well as an innate sense of wonderment and curiosity of the natural world, Andrea has long been interested in conservation and environmental protection efforts in Australia. Now living in Apollo Bay with a young family of avid bushwalkers and biophiliacs, Andrea’s desire to protect and extend Australia’s wild places has deepened and she sees the work of the Conservation Ecology Centre making a vital contribution to conserving the ecosystems of the Otways. Andrea’s previous research background has given her a special interest in the gut microbiome of humans and animals, and she is currently learning about the microbiome of Australia’s marsupials.

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CHARLES LEAR - OPERATIONS MANAGER

With a strong background in business operations and finance and a passion for local economic development, Charles has managed the operation and development of a number of important ventures in Apollo Bay and Ballarat, including the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse, the Apollo Bay Hotel, the Apollo Bay Branch of the Commonwealth Bank, and the George Hotel. As Manager of the Otways Brewing Group, Charles was involved in the development of a strong for-purpose partnership between the Brewery and Conservation Ecology Centre producing ‘Spotted Ale’, a beer directly supporting threatened species research and conservation. Charles has supported Wildlife Wonders operations planning from its inception.

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STEPHAN RAS - FINANCE MANAGER

Steve is the Finance Manager at the Conservation Ecology Centre, which founded Wildlife Wonders as a social enterprise to help fund their conservation and research program. He is responsible for the day-to-day financial management of both organisations and is also responsible for implementing the financial strategy and direction, which support this innovative approach to wildlife conservation. He identifies and implements systems, policies and processes to improve financial monitoring, accountability and growth across the Conservation Ecology Centre and Wildlife Wonders. Steve has a Master of Science in Educational Studies and feels right at home with his management skills. He has a passion for eco-tourism and sustainability and managed the Great Ocean Ecolodge on the grounds of the Conservation Ecology Centre from 2015 to 2021 with his partner Karlijn Sas.

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KARLIJN SAS - COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT MANAGER

Karlijn is the Community Engagement Manager at Wildlife Wonders, and for the Conservation Ecology Centre. She works collaboratively to co-ordinate events, including the hugely successful Art & Ecology exhibit, Big Otway Tree Plant, Otway Threatened Species Research Forum, and much more. Karlijn is also responsible for community outreach, engaging with volunteers, school groups, local artists & makers, and the local community more broadly. She works with the CEO and other staff to develop a vision for community engagement and plays a lead role in implementing this vision. Karlijn has a Master of Science in Cultural Studies and is a talented artist. She has a passion for eco-tourism, sustainability and is dedicated to sharing the work of the Conservation Ecology Centre with a broader audience. Born in the Netherlands, Karlijn managed the Great Ocean Ecolodge on the grounds of the Conservation Ecology Centre from 2015 to 2021 with her partner Steve Ras.

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TONI STEVENS - COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR

Toni is a science communicator with a passion for conservation and ecology. She treasures her time in the Otways and loves helping to share the experience with others through media, social media, online, and in person. She believes sharing the stories of our wild places is an important step in helping people to understand the value of conserving them. Toni completed degrees in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of Canberra and spent her honours year studying the habits of the endangered Grassland Earless Dragon.

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TANIA JACOBS - MARKETING COORDINATOR

Tania is an experienced tourism marketer with a passion for the environment and for growing healthy, sustainable businesses. Working as a marine biologist and scuba diver in Cairns sparked her love of ecotourism, and launched her sales and marketing career. Since that time Tania has supported tourism businesses around the country to achieve their sales and marketing objectives, including Ocean Spirit Cruises, Kingfisher Bay Resort & Village Fraser Island, Domaine Chandon and the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa. She also spent 10 years working at Visit Victoria, the state’s tourism and events marketing organisation, where she was responsible for delivering international marketing activities for Australia’s Asian and European markets. She has also worked closely with touring routes as a key driver of visitation to regional areas. Tania has considerable expertise in upskilling industry members to develop unique and compelling experiences, and in generating demand within both domestic and international markets.