The Wilder Institute team is a passionate group with collective experience from around the globe. Our team holds a broad range of expertise and the drive to make the world a better place for all living things.
Jamie Dorgan, Director of Animal Care, Health & Welfare
Jamie Dorgan is the Director of Animal Care, Health & Welfare at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, where he provides strategic leadership to the teams responsible for the care, health and welfare of the 4,000 animals (118 species) hosted at Canada’s most visited wildlife conservation charity, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Centre.
Jamie’s career in animal welfare and conservation translocation management has spanned nearly 3-decades. He has served on several endangered species recovery teams and played a leadership role in initiating several conservation programs, including the greater sage-grouse conservation program at Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo.
Colleen is the Senior Manager of Animal Care at Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, where she leads the dedicated team of Animal Care professionals that care for animals under human care at the zoo, as well as the conservation species at the offsite wildlife conservation centre. Her career has spanned almost 3 decades with respected expertise in caring for animals large and small from all geographic regions of the world at multiple accredited zoos across North America. A native Calgarian, Colleen has a Bachelor of Science degree from Thompson University and is proud to be part of the critical conservation work being done locally and globally by the zoo and Wilder Institute, together.
Brandi oversees the Wilder Institute’s business and logistical operations, strategic planning, science communications, and collaborations. Brandi holds degrees in Behavioural Ecology (honours B.Sc. from University of Guelph, M.Sc. from Simon Fraser University), as well as a graduate diploma in Science Communications from Laurentian University and a Creative Writing certificate program from University of Calgary. Brandi’s multi-faceted background includes field ecology research positions, serving as a course instructor for university ecology and evolution courses, leadership roles in the informal science education sector, and over a decade of experience in research operations as a senior project manager in engineering and neuroscience faculties. While Brandi has worked in a range of STEM fields, her first passion has always been wildlife conservation.
With over 15 years of experience working on conservation translocations of imperiled species, Natasha currently oversees the development and implementation of conservation translocation science and action to recover species-at-risk. A passion for wildlife led Natasha to pursue a B.Sc. in Zoology, an M.Sc. in Conservation Biology from the University of Calgary, and a diploma in Endangered Species Management from Durrell’s International Training Centre in the UK. Natasha has worked on a variety of taxa and projects in various countries. She contributes expertise as a member of the IUCN’S SSC Conservation Translocation Specialist Group and continues to work with fellow zoo and IUCN members, as well as partners in industry, academia, government, NGOs and others to build effective conservation programs.
Dr. Jana McPherson
Jana’s research is motivated by a desire to balance the needs of humans and the rest of nature. Her work focuses on the benefits and efficacy of community-based conservation, associated risks and threats, and the contributions local and traditional ecological knowledge can make toward conserving imperiled species. Jana holds a B.Sc. in Applied Biology from the University of Leeds, a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Oxford, and completed a postdoc at Dalhousie University prior to joining the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo. Keen to find more ways for empowering local communities to protect and benefit from the ecosystems they live in, she is currently working on a part-time professional MBA at the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Doug Whiteside
Dr. Doug Whiteside is also an Associate Professor of Conservation Medicine at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. He earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and his Doctorate in Veterinary Science (Pathobiology) from the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. Doug is an internationally recognized specialist in zoological medicine, a field which integrates conservation, ecology, and veterinary medicine. His collaborative research focuses on One Health interactions through a conservation lens, and on bridging knowledge gaps between wildlife under human care and free ranging wildlife with the aim of improving the welfare and success of wildlife conservation efforts. He contributes regularly to the scientific community through presentations and publications, and is an Associate Editor for two international journals – the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine and the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.
Dylan supports the team with statistical analysis, interpretation of results, and generation of figures. He performs literature searches and aids in writing technical reports, as well as providing advice for study design. He received his B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Calgary and his M.Sc. in Animal Physiology from the University of Alberta. His M.Sc. thesis aimed to understand the physiology in dogfish sharks after changes in environmental salinity using next generation sequencing. He has previously worked at the RiverWatch Institute as an outdoor science educator, at the University of Calgary as a research assistant examining plant-pollinator interactions, and in the consulting sector as a field biologist performing snorkel surveys for spawning fish and fish habitat.
Amelia (Millie) Coleing
Millie works on the greater sage-grouse and burrowing owl projects—the former in various capacities since 2017. Her role involves assisting with the development and implementation of release strategies, research and field work planning, data collection, management and analysis and drafting reports. She completed her M.Sc. in Biodiversity Conservation at Exeter University in the UK and has over 10 years of field and research experience working in the UK, Cape Verde, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Her M.Sc. research focused on a biodiversity assessment of two sites to inform a RAMSAR site application on Maio Island in Cape Verde. She has research and survey experience with a variety of taxa including birds, bats, amphibians, reptiles, marsupials, marine and terrestrial mammals, insects, and plants.
Graham leads the burrowing owl project at the Wilder Institute. His job requires coordinating with the federal and provincial governments, local ranchers, soldiers, graduate students, and multiple departments across the Wilder Institute. Aside from his work with burrowing owls, Graham has also studied anti-predator behavior in the conservation breeding population of Vancouver Island marmots at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo. Graham completed a B.Sc. in Biology at Acadia University. His interest in reptiles led him to pursue an M.Sc. in Biology at the University of Victoria, where he studied gartersnake habitat ecology in urban parks. Graham has worked on a wide variety of species across Canada, and in Costa Rica, Peru, and Gabon.
Dr. Hannah Edwards
Hannah’s research is focused on understanding the causes of reproductive failure in the reintroduced populations of whooping crane to aid translocation success in North America. She completed her Zoology M.Sc. working for the Department of Conservation in New Zealand at the Moehau kiwi project, and then completed her Ph.D. with the Seychelles warbler research group, specifically looking at personality and its fitness consequences. She has previously worked for the Edward Grey Institute, University of Oxford, as a field assistant, and at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as a field officer in Scotland. Hannah is also a member of the Alberta Endangered Species Conservation Committee and chairs the Welfare, Ethics and Research committee for the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo.
Inspired by wildlife, Nafeesa obtained a B.Sc. in Applied Zoology from McGill University before shifting focus to conservation social science through her M.Sc. in Conservation Science at Imperial College London. She is passionate about pragmatic win-win solutions for both nature and people. Nafeesa is interested in affecting evidence-based, proactive policy- and decision-making (especially through horizon scanning), as well sustainable and effective conservation strategies, particularly by unlocking entrepreneurial opportunities. A few of Nafeesa’s other and previous projects involve biodiversity-friendly agriculture in Uganda; locally co-managed marine areas in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique; global illegal wildlife trade; human-wildlife conflicts in Zambia. Nafeesa is a Women for the Environment Africa fellow, Kenyan EAGL member, IUCN WCPA member and an Oxford Saïd Business School Ideas2Impact fellow.
Dr. James Glasier
James leads the half-moon hairstreak butterfly recovery project in Waterton Lakes National Park. He studies the natural history and distribution of this endangered butterfly, so that it may survive for future generations to observe and enjoy. Passionate about scientific discovery, James received a B.Sc. in Palaeontology and an M.Sc. in Conservation Biology from the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. Wanting to learn and discover more, he then travelled to Australia to study for his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New South Wales. For both his graduate degrees he focused on ants and insect ecology. He then returned to Canada from Australia and has focused his studies on biodiversity, conservation, and biological interactions.
Llewellyn supports the Institute by coordinating and assisting with field work on our conservation translocation projects. This work includes live-trapping Vancouver Island marmots, monitoring black-tailed prairie dogs and assessing their habitat, radio-tracking newly released greater sage-grouse in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, surveying for northern leopard frogs and half-moon hairstreak butterflies, and helping to install artificial nest burrows for head-started burrowing owls in southern Alberta. Before joining the Wilder Institute in 2017, Llewellyn completed a B.Sc. in Environmental Biology at Memorial University, assisted ground squirrel research in Alberta, conducted insect surveys for agricultural pests in Switzerland and Ontario, and spent two years in environmental consulting in Ontario.
Lacey is currently on leave. In her role, Lacey conducts and leads field work to monitor species-at-risk on a variety of conservation translocation projects. She helps track released greater sage-grouse, monitor, trap and band burrowing owls, survey for half-moon hairstreak butterflies, and survey for northern leopard frogs. She has also led the field work component of the Wilder Institute’s swift fox monitoring program since 2018. Lacey received her Diploma in Environmental Technology from Vanier College and a B.Sc. in Wildlife Biology from McGill University. Prior to working at Wilder Institute, Lacey has been involved in several other conservation projects including tracking wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park and studying coyote and mule deer relationships in central Nevada.
Jill began working at the Wilder Institute in 2008. She communicates the Wilder Institute’s conservation work with external audiences, focusing on visual storytelling. Through photography, film and other creative tools, she aims to foster curiosity, new perspectives and a deeper awareness of wildlife conservation research and community conservation. Jill is also the Communications Officer for the IUCN SSC Conservation Translocation Specialist Group where she leads communications for the group’s activities and coordinates online training. She holds a B.Sc. in Geography from the University of Calgary and went on to pursue work in environmental communications before joining the Wilder Institute team.
Dr. Mary Liao
Mary draws on her extensive experience to advise on formalizing our valuable partnerships and stewarding our community conservation partnerships in Ghana. Her M.Sc. focused on feminist geography and environmental refugees in the informal market in Khartoum, Sudan. She then pursued her Ph.D. at Loughborough University, UK, examining the role of spirituality in international development in the water resources sector in Namibia. Mary has worked for over 20 years in international development with a focus on gender and social inclusion. Mary was a former Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Art, University of Calgary, teaching courses in the Development Studies Program.
Don is the Field Lead on the greater sage-grouse project, which aims to create an assurance population for Canada and enhance wild populations through a conservation breeding and release program. Don has worked as an Ecologist for 40 years and is experienced in data analysis, wildlife management and population research. He has worked for the Saskatchewan Wetland Conservation Corporation and the Fish and Wildlife Branch with Saskatchewan Environment. Don completed his B.Sc. in Biology at the University of Regina and an M.Sc. in Zoology at the University of Alberta. For his M.Sc., he studied spruce grouse population dynamics. In addition to greater sage-grouse, Don has experience working on many bird species, including dusky grouse, sooty grouse, and various duck species.
Lea works on the genetics, reproduction, and reintroduction of northern leopard frogs. She received her B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Victoria and her M.Sc. in Ecology from the University of Calgary. She previously worked for the Yukon Department of Environment and NatureServe as a wildlife and habitat technician which gave her the opportunity to work on a variety of species. She is a member of the British Columbia Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada Amphibian and Reptile Subcommittee, the IUCN Species Survival Commission Amphibian Specialist Group, and chairs the City of Calgary’s BiodiverCity Advisory Committee and the Oregon Spotted Frog and Northern Leopard Frog Captive Husbandry Working Group.
Allison works to integrate information from initiatives that the Institute leads or collaborates on into engaging, cohesive, and accurate stories that appeal to broad and diverse audiences. She has worked in science communication in informal education settings, striving to inspire awe and wonder for the natural world with the goal of enabling action. Allison has a B.Sc. in Wildlife Biology from the University of New Brunswick and has spent time working and exploring in the forests of Canada, documenting plant communities and searching for rare plant species. Learning from some of the world’s leading science communicators through the Best of Banff Science Communications Program, Allison is excited about the possibilities when it comes to engaging communities with science and conservation.
Dr. Donna Sheppard
Living in Kenya, Donna leads our long-term collaboration with the Rhino Ark Kenya Charitable Trust working in the highland forests on mountain bongo, a beautiful and critically endangered antelope. From 2004 to 2014, Donna was based in Ghana, leading our partnership with the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary. Donna is passionate about connecting directly with local people in the communities where we work and exploring how they can benefit tangibly from conservation. To achieve this, she mentors young, university-trained scientists in field conservation and research. Donna holds a Ph.D. in Rural Studies and Environmental Design from the University of Guelph where she explored conservation values in belief-based sacred forests and a B.Sc. in Physical Anthropology from the University of Calgary.
Rebecca lends technical support to the northern leopard frog reintroduction project through planning and completion of field work, management and analysis of field data, and drafting of technical reports. She completed her B.Sc. in Biology at Wilkes University and her M.Sc. in Biology at the University of Saskatchewan. She has accumulated over ten years of research and field experience in the United States, Costa Rica, and Canada, working with government, universities, private consulting firms, and non-profit organizations. She has experience with banding and measuring more than 100 bird species, as well as conducting surveys for a wide variety of taxa, including grassland and boreal forest birds, kangaroo rats, and sensitive raptors, snakes, and amphibians.
Dr. Danica Stark
Danica leads the Vancouver Island marmot and fisher projects. She has also supported the mapping and remote sensing needs in both the conservation translocation and community conservation portfolios. Danica completed her B.Sc. in Primatology at the University of Calgary, M.Sc. in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University and Ph.D. at Cardiff University. Previously, Danica worked as the Scientific Field Officer at a research centre in Sabah, Borneo, overseeing field projects on primates (including proboscis monkeys, macaques, orangutans, slow lorises and tarsiers) and botany, and advised on external projects to understand the movements and habitat requirements of wild populations, their response to deforestation, their role in disease transmission, as well as for post-release monitoring of rescued animals.
Tara leads the Canadian Prairie Dog Ecosystem Research Project in collaboration with Parks Canada to take an ecosystem approach to the recovery of black-footed ferrets in Canada. Tara completed a B.Sc. at the University of Guelph and an Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems at the Centre for Geographic Sciences. For her M.Sc., she studied black-tailed prairie dog habitat and population dynamics at the University of Calgary. Tara is a member of the Great Plains Conservation Network and the USFWS Black-footed Ferret Conservation Sub-Committee.
Juanita’s role is to manage the Wilder Institute’s finances to ensure sound resource utilization and transparent reporting. Working collaboratively with the team, she helps to establish and support the existing and future resource needs across all the conservation programs. Juanita holds a CPA designation and brings over 20 years of experience to the team. Prior to joining the Wilder Institute, Juanita held various positions developing a wide breadth of experience and knowledge in finance, customer relations and project management. Always having a passion for nature, she was excited to become part of such an amazing team and help to support their endeavors.
Kelly joined the Wilder Institute in 2012 and has since filled a variety of roles, including Field Technician, Research Fellow, and Population Ecologist. She completed a B.Sc. in Zoology at the University of Toronto, an M.Sc. in Biology at the University of Victoria, and has over 18 years of experience conducting wildlife research for government, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions. In her capacity as Research Associate, Kelly supports a variety of Wilder’s projects. She currently spends five months of the year in the mountains on Vancouver Island, collecting data on critically endangered Vancouver Island marmots, and the other seven months providing writing and research support to the Canadian Prairie Dog Ecosystem Research Project.
Dr. Typhenn Brichieri-Colombi
Typhenn is a Population Ecologist with the Wilder Institute. She is currently on leave.