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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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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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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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SIMON SLIEKER - NATURE GUIDE

Simon lives on the Great Ocean Road in Lavers Hill, is a Somatic Educator, sees clients, teaches classes and runs workshops bolstering people’s capacity to become aware of themselves and their place in the natural world. “I have enjoyed a prevailing interest in flora and fauna since high school. Over time I have traversed many landscapes and spaces and become more fascinated and awed by indigenous knowledge and technologies. Now as we head into uncertain times not only for our wildlife, but for all life across eco-systems my energy and attention is on how to honour, understand and enhance bio-diversity in our wild and wonderous natural world.”

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MELANIE ZANGGER - NATURE GUIDE

Melanie grew up on the edge of a National Park on the far South Coast of NSW and has always felt a very strong pull towards nature and a desire to help protect our precious ecosystems. She is an enthusiastic bird and animal watcher and loves to record unusual sightings and observe the many magnificent creatures that we share this planet with. She loves collecting, identifying and reassembling bird and animal skulls. She has a keen interest in the thylacine and spent several years in Iutruwita/Tasmania looking for signs of its existence in the South West of the state. Melanie's background is in sustainability and she spent many years working in a not for profit organisation that diverted huge amounts of materials from landfill in order to reduce deforestation. She loves painting and many of her exhibitions have focused on the importance of conservation and the delicate ecological balance that is so crucial to protect.

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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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JANE BUCKINGHAM - VISITOR EXPERIENCE OFFICER

Jane’s working life has been all about delivering exceptional customer service. After moving from England to Apollo Bay in 2004, she discovered Cape Otway and the Conservation Ecology Centre’s Ecolodge, joining the team there delivering a unique guest experience. In between ecolodge duties, Jane worked with the team caring for injured wildlife and in turn learnt a great deal about the Otways and its animals. Jane has a special interest in birds, enjoys walking and is a keen follower of sustainable living ideas.

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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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FRANCES ROBERTS - CAFE MANAGER

Frances Roberts is a creative hospitality professional, who makes sure every coffee and meal served at Wildlife Wonders is of divine quality. Creator of Marmalade Cafe in Melbourne, her expertise has brought a standard of food that is rarely seen. Frances is currently working on a cooperation between local coffee roaster Hello Coffee and the Conservation Ecology Centre, creating a blend that supports wildlife conservation on both sides of the supply chain, creating a wonderful coffee blend that both tastes and feels good.

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KATY SCHREDERIS - COOK

Katy is a wonderful person and an even better cook, and brings a smile on everyones face coming into Wildlife Wonders spotting her through the kitchen hatch. She is a well loved long time Apollo Bay local, that fits in perfectly in the Wildlife Wonders team. In her spare time Katy works with the local wildlife rehabilitation group Otway Wildlife Group, rehabilitating all kinds of local wildlife, from koalas to magpies and blue-tongue lizards. Anyone is lucky to find Katie on their visit to Wildlife Wonders.

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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.