Our Team

Our Team

The scientists of Taronga weave existing knowledge and new data together to capture the state of our environment, foresee threats, test theories and ultimately determine the most effective conservation actions we can take.

From observing individual animals to studying whole species, habitats and ecosystems, Taronga’s scientists and wildlife managers make pioneering discoveries each and every day.

Conservation Science

Dr Justine O'Brien BScAgr (Hons), PhD

Dr Justine O'Brien

Manager, Conservation Science, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Justine is a University of Sydney graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a PhD in Veterinary Science for her work on gamete biology and assisted reproduction. 

She has 20 years experience in wildlife reproductive research, specializing in strategies for maintaining population genetic diversity and reproductive health. 

Justine joined Taronga in May 2017 as Manager of Conservation Science after her most recent role as Scientific Director at the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Centre, working closely with other leading zoological organisations such as the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. 

Her role at Taronga is to manage and support conservation science programs in line with Taronga’s commitment to increase understanding and protection of wildlife through investigation, evidence-based application and communication of science to the community. 

Her research interests continue to focus on understanding reproductive physiology, and to incorporate knowledge derived from zoo-based scientific programs into health assessments and conservation strategies for free-ranging wildlife populations.

Dr Karrie Rose DVM, DVSc

Dr Karrie Rose

Veterinary Pathology Registrar, Australian Registry of Wildlife Health

Dr. Karrie Rose enjoys a multi-faceted role in wildlife health research, education, and disease investigation as manager of the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health, a program of Taronga Conservation Society Australia. Following in the auspicious footsteps of Registry Founder, Dr. Bill Hartley, Karrie provides diagnostic services, data and advice regarding wildlife health to a broad range of stakeholders including wildlife managers, zoo veterinarians, conservation programs, government and non-government agencies.

Karrie’s research focuses on the application of an ecological approach to identify and understand pathogens at the interface of animal, human and environmental health. Investigations into disease outbreaks and population declines in wildlife often transform into collaborative research projects leading to the characterisation of emerging pathogens. 

Karrie first became interested in working with wildlife while conducting field research and population studies with Ferruginous Hawks and Burrowing Owls during university summer breaks. Further employment within the wildlife rehabilitation and pathology programs of Calgary Zoo cemented her commitment to the study of wildlife health.

Shortly after graduating with the faculty gold medal from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, in Saskatoon, Karrie pursued a 3 year residency at the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo. This residency was completed in conjunction with a Doctor of Veterinary Science Degree in Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine and Pathology at the Ontario Veterinary College. 

Since 1998, Karrie has been employed at Taronga as a veterinary pathologist and manager of the Registry.

Karrie’s career highlights include:

  • Leading multi-disciplinary teams to characterise novel viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites
  • Providing diagnostic and wildlife health support services to state and commonwealth agencies top support science-based wildlife conservation management 
  • Investigating species declines and extinctions on Christmas Island and Australia’s mainland
  • Delivering intensive graduate level short courses in Wildlife Pathology,
  • Receiving a distinguished alumnus award from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (one of nine awarded in the college’s 50 year history).
  • Growing the Registry from a discretionary activity to a well recognised research and conservation program of Taronga
  • Making the Registry’s data and assets accessible through a web-based, spatial information management and eResearch environment.

Dr Joanna Day BMarSc (Hons), PhD

Dr Joanna Day

Research and Conservation Coordinator, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Joanna Day is interested in using genetic and behavioural techniques to answer questions in behavioural ecology and wildlife conservation.

Jo graduated with a Bachelor of Marine Science from Macquarie University in 2004. She continued at Macquarie University and completed her PhD in 2010. Her PhD investigated the genetic structure, social organisation and mating system of bottlenose dolphins. During her time at Macquarie University, Jo also worked on a number of other research projects, including a study of the phylogeography of Amazonian fish and a project on the population structure of two dolphin species in the Azores archipelago.

After finishing her PhD, Jo moved to Flinders University in Adelaide for a post-doc project on the population structure of sperm whales in Australian. This project was conducted using contemporary samples and historical samples dating back 60 years.

Jo started working at Taronga in November 2010 as a Research and Conservation Coordinator. She facilitates the development of research projects at the zoo and is also a member of the zoo’s Animal Ethics, Animal Welfare, Conservation and Environmental Sustainability Committees.

Dr David Slip BSc, MSc, PhD

Dr David Slip

Research Biologist, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

David completed an MSc on the ecology of the Diamond Python at the University of Sydney in 1986. In 1987 he joined the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart as a vertebrate ecologist and began ecological research on the Southern Elephant Seal at Macquarie Island, and Heard Island. He spent two winters and eight summers on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research expeditions.

He completed a PhD on the foraging ecology of the southern elephant seal from Heard Island at the University of Tasmania in 1996. While at the Antarctic Division he conducted ecological research on Southern Elephant Seals, Leopard Seals, penguins, cormorants, and plastic marine pollution. 

In 1999 he moved to Christmas Island to work first as natural resource manager then Manager of Christmas Island National Park with the intention of researching some of the island’s sea birds. However, the emergence of the invasive yellow crazy ant as a serious threat to the island’s ecosystem diverted his attention to researching methods of controlling this pest species, for which the team won a Banksia Award.

In 2003 he moved to Canberra and worked in strategic policy areas of protected area management and indigenous land management for the then Department of the Environment and Heritage. 

In June 2008 he joined Taronga as a research biologist of marine mammals. His research interests include foraging ecology, population dynamics, diving physiology, energetics and conservation biology of marine vertebrates.

Dr Rebecca Hobbs BSc (Biomed), PhD

Dr Rebecca Hobbs

Senior Reproductive Biologist, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Rebecca completed a PhD on genes regulating early oocyte development at Monash Institute of Medical Research (Monash University) in 2008. During her post-graduate years, Rebecca also worked as a research assistant on several projects investigating genetic markers for bovine embryo development, epididymal markers of sperm maturation and DNA mutations related to male infertility in mice.

In 2008, she travelled to Washington DC to join the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and apply her skills to develop optimised assisted reproductive techniques in endangered felids. Rebecca worked primarily on assessing the impact of exogenous hormones (used during ovulation induction) on the quality of ovulated oocytes in the clouded leopard. She also had the opportunity to develop skills in reproductive endocrinology; artificial insemination; semen collection and cryopreservation; and oocyte aspiration, IVF and embryo culture in a variety of wild felid and ungulate species.

Rebecca joined Taronga as a research biologist at the Wildlife Reproductive Centre in 2013. Rebecca’s primary research interest is in cryobiology of non-mammalian sperm, such as coral and squamate lizards.

Rebecca plans to expand Taronga’s existing genebank reserves – the Taronga CryoReserve – as a vital resource for conservation managers and scientific researchers to increase basic knowledge of reproductive biology, cell physiology and genetics, and to develop breeding management tools to aid in the long-term preservation of ecological communities.

Dr Neil Jordan BSc, MSc, PhD

Dr Neil Jordan

Conservation Biologist, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Neil is a joint research fellow at the University of New South Wales and the Taronga Conservation Society, based in the Wildlife Reproductive Centre at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

Neil completed his BSc at the University of Manchester in 2000, including a professional placement in Paignton Zoo’s science department studying the effects of captive baboon population management on stress and welfare. Before completing his MSc thesis on latrine use in wild meerkats at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) in 2005, Neil managed the Kalahari meerkat project for four years. He oversaw the work of a large international research team onsite, and managed all aspects of scientific research, study site development and logistics, including management of a research reserve, and reintroduction of native species.

In 2009, Neil completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge (UK). His work investigated scent communication in wild banded mongooses in Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda), combining behavioural observations, experimental manipulations and analytical biochemistry. Neil then worked for The Vincent Wildlife Trust for two years, as their pine marten project manager. His work resulted in the first hard-evidence of this locally endangered species in northern England for 20-years, and he developed a national conservation strategy for the species.

Since 2011, Neil has worked for the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, as a post-doctoral researcher on their African Wild Dog Bioboundary Project. This work investigates the scent-marking behaviour of African wild dogs in the Okavango delta, and particularly whether synthetic scent signals can be developed to manage the ranging patterns of this endangered species in order to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

In December 2014, Neil joined Taronga as a research biologist. His research interests include: animal communication and conservation; “problem animal” ecology and management; human-wildlife conflict; invasive carnivore ecology and management.

Dr Peter Harlow BSc (Hons), PhD

Dr Peter Harlow

Terrestrial Biologist, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Peter completed his PhD in 2002, the same year he started work at Taronga Zoo as the manager of the Herpetofauna Division (reptiles and amphibians). His PhD was on the distribution and evolution of temperature-dependent sex determination in Australian dragon lizards.

Before joining Taronga he worked as a research assistant at Sydney University for many years, studying aspects of the biology and ecology of a diverse range of reptile and amphibian species, including salt water crocodiles, lizards, snakes and turtles.

As well as extensive field work in Australia, his work took him to Southern Africa, Canada, Indonesia and Fiji where he started research projects on the conservation of Fijian Iguanas. With his Fijian collaborators, research partners and students he has surveyed over 90 islands in Fiji for the presence and absence of iguanas, described two new species of Fijian iguana, and has been involved in a 19 year conservation project to save the Monuriki Island crested iguanas from extinction by captive breeding and reintroduction after goats and rats were eradicated from the island.

In 2016 he joined the Research and Science group at Taronga as a Terrestrial Biologist. Today his work involves co-ordinating and genetic management of captive breeding programs for two species of Christmas Island lizards that are extinct in the wild, encouraging native species back to the Taronga site by bandicoot monitoring, improving fox control, on-site microbat surveys and designing and installing bat roost boxes in the zoo grounds, and a citizen science project with Macquarie and Sydney universities into antibiotic resistance in native animals, through DNA testing of possum scats. 

His research interests include invasive species ecology, in-situ conservation, restoration ecology, captive breeding, and reintroduction.

Dr Ben Pitcher BSc (Hons), PhD

Dr Ben Pitcher

Behavioural Biologist, Behavioural Studies Unit, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Ben Pitcher is a behavioural and sensory ecologist whose research focuses on the evolution of animal cognition and how animals use multiple sensory systems for foraging, communication and recognition in complex and changing environments.

Ben completed his Bachelor of Science at the Australian National University. In 2010 he completed his PhD at Macquarie University, Australia, and University Paris Sud, France, studying individual recognition and multimodal communication in Australian sea lions. Ben has worked with a variety of species including birds (from wrens to penguins), seals and ungulates.

In April 2017 Ben joined Taronga as a Behavioural Biologist. His research interests include animal behaviour, communication, cognition and sensory ecology, and explore how we can translate behavioural research into conservation and welfare outcomes.

Ms Jane Hall BSc, GradDipSci (Biomed), Cert II Zoo Keeping, Diploma of Business Administration

Ms Jane Hall

Wildlife Health Project Officer, Australian Registry of Wildlife Health

Jane Hall graduated from the University of New England in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science Degree focusing on Zoology and Ecology and completed a thesis on the cognitive behaviour of the Common Marmoset.

Jane worked as a Zookeeper in a small native fauna park before moving to Sydney in 2002 where she began work in a human pathology laboratory. In 2003 Jane began working with the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health as the Information and Resource Coordinator, where her role has continued to evolve along with the Registry itself. While working at the Registry, Jane also completed a Graduate Diploma in Biomedical Science from the University of New England (2007) and Certificate III in Captive Animal Management from the Taronga Training Institute in 2009. 

In 2016, Jane was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to travel overseas and investigate ways to improve Australia's capacity to manage wildlife disease incidents.

Jane’s role as Wildlife Health Project Officer is widely varied and includes: project administration; diagnostic haematology, biochemistry, parasitology and microbiology; gross pathology; research and data analysis; asset and data management and maintenance; coordinating internal and external material submissions; assisting external parties with research and enquiries; producing training and education materials; forensic photography; and managing and administering the registry’s online information management system, and public website.

Dr Hannah Bender BVSc, PhD, Diplomate ACVP

Dr Hannah Bender

Wildlife Pathologist, Australian Registry of Wildlife Health

Hannah is a veterinary pathologist with a long held interest in wildlife health and conservation.  After graduating from the University of Sydney’s faculty of Veterinary Science in 2005, Hannah undertook a PhD studying the genomic basis of Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) at The Australian National University.

Hannah was fortunate to be part of a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team working to characterise the pathogenesis of an unusual emerging disease. She used molecular cytogenetic techniques to confirm DFTD clonality, and collaborated on tumour sequencing projects to identify the DFTD cell of origin. Hannah additionally identified a novel pattern of telomere length dimorphism in dasyurid marsupials, consolidating her belief that Australian animals are some of the strangest, and most surprising and rewarding species to study.

Hannah subsequently complete a residency in anatomic pathology at Cornell University, followed by a fellowship in comparative pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, culminating in board certification by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.  In 2013 Hannah returned to Australia, first to a lectureship at Murdoch University, followed by a year at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

Dr Alicia Burns BSc (Hons), PhD

Dr Alicia Burns

Behavioural Studies Unit, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Alicia began as a volunteer in 2011 before joining the Taronga Behavioural Studies Unit full time in 2015.

She studies the ecological consequences of animal personalities, and how individual behavioural differences shape the social dynamics of animal groups.

At Taronga Alicia combines studies of personality and cognition to inform welfare practices, and is currently devising a new tool to measure the welfare of all collection animals.

Mr Rodd Stapley BSc Biology

Mr Rodd Stapley

Curator, Australian Shark Attack File

Rodd Stapley is the Manager of Wildlife Operations at Taronga Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoos. He has been the Curator of the Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF) supported by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia for the last 4 years. His work in analysing shark attack has assisted governments and general public to better understand the interactions between shark and man.

Rodd started his career at Manly Oceanworld in 1999 and Sydney Aquarium where he worked for the next 10 years with a strong focus on Elasmobranch management. Following an aquarium focus, Rodd transitioned to zoo management as Life Sciences Manager of Wildlife Sydney and then Australian Fauna Precinct Manager with Taronga prior to his current role. During this time Rodd played an active role in representing the Zoo and Aquarium industry of NSW by acting as President and Executive Committee Member of the NSW Fauna and Marine Parks association for several years.

As Curator of the ASAF Rodd has focused on raising the media profile of the ASAF by implementing a plan that includes Zoo Shark Biologist’s presenting ASAF data across media outlets in addition to the ASAF strategic goal of educating the public to the real threats of Shark Attack by presenting unbiased Scientific data. Most recently the ASAF database has been crucial in steering state and federal Governments through the challenges associated with managing Shark /Human interactions.

Mr John West Dip Aquia, PSM

Mr John West

Former Curator, Australian Shark Attack File

John West is a former Manager of Life Sciences Operations at Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo and the former Curator of the Australian Shark Attack File supported by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia (TCSA) for over 30 years.

John started his career in the Taronga Zoo Sydney Aquarium in 1966 and has been studying sharks for over 40 years. As the Supervisor of the Aquarium in 1980 he developed the Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF) to help him understand more about shark attacks in Australia. His work in analysing shark attacks has assisted governments and general public at large to better understand the interactions between shark and man.

John initiated the original Sharks Down Under, International Shark Conservation Conference hosted at Taronga Zoo Sydney in 1991 and has been involved with the conservation of sharks over many years. He was honoured in the 2005 Queen’s Birthday Honours list when he was awarded the Public Service Medal for his work with the Australian Shark Attack File and his contribution to shark conservation. John is a member of the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group, a member of the American Elasmobranch Society (AES) and sits on the International Shark Attack Committee of the AES.

Ms Margaret Hawkins BSc (Hons)

Behavioural Biologist Emeritus

Margaret’s first career was in biochemical research. After completing an honours degree at Sydney University in 1962, she held research positions at CSIRO, Sydney Hospital, Australian National University and Royal North Shore Hospital working on projects in lipid metabolism, high blood pressure in pregnancy and development of hormone radio-immunoassays.

She came to Taronga Zoo as a volunteer in 1975 and, as well as enjoying guiding visitors around the Zoo, soon became involved via the volunteer committee in the organisation and training of volunteers. She was a member of the inaugural Zoo Friends Council, which set up the Zoo’s support organisation. 

In 1985 she was asked by keeping staff to carry out some behavioural observations on primates, initially Capuchin Monkeys, gibbon and chimpanzees and the Animal Watch program was born. Margaret went back to university to update her qualifications in zoology and animal behaviour and was appointed to zoo staff in 1988. Volunteers were trained in quantitative behavioural data collection methods and the scope and complexity of projects undertaken increased. 

Projects that stand out from those early years were the behavioural monitoring of the Giant Pandas, the introduction of a new male to the chimpanzee group, the move of the orang-utans to their new exhibit and the investigation of the effects of NightZoo.

Margaret developed a keen interest in environmental enrichment and was instrumental in increasing awareness and enrichment implementation around the zoo and formalising zoo programs Australia wide-through conference workshops and involvement in keeper training.

In 2007 the program was renamed the Behavioural Studies Unit and became an inherent part of Scientific Research and Wildlife Conservation at the Zoo. With the appointment of Dr Vicky Melfi as the Behavioural Biologist, Margaret has changed her focus to the writing up and publishing of collected data and the supervision of research projects, and has taken up an Emeritus position at Taronga.

Projects currently being worked on are the breeding behaviour of platypus, the little-known behaviour of the cryptic and endangered Long-beaked Echidna and the effects of exhibit moves and exhibit design on a variety of Zoo species. She remains involved in world zoo environmental enrichment as co-chair of SHAPE Australasia and secretary of SHAPE International and the IEEC committee.

Conservation and Recovery Programs, Population Management and Welfare

Mr Nick Boyle BSc, LLB

Mr Nick Boyle

Manager, Conservation Health and Welfare, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Nick has worked in the zoo and aquarium industry since 2002, and at Taronga since 2007. During his time at Taronga Nick has undertaken a range of roles including Zoo Keeper, Precinct Manager, Curator and Acting Director of Taronga Western Plains Zoo. 

In his current role Nick has responsibilities for Taronga’s strategic focus areas ‘Conservation Outcomes’ and ‘Animals in Our Care’, having oversight for Taronga’s conservation programs and partnerships, Wildlife Hospitals, Nutrition Department and Animal Population and Welfare team. 

Nick has a background in law, biological sciences and communication. Nick is an Advisory Board Member to the Conservation Centres for Species Survival (C2S2), an Executive Committee Member of the Southern Black Rhino Sustainability Program and sits on the NSW Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee. 

He is also a member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association Animal Management Committee and a co-convenor of the Australasian Ungulate Taxonomic Advisory Group. 

Mr Andrew Elphinstone BSc (Env), MEnv

Mr Andrew Elphinstone

Manager, Conservation and Recovery Programs, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Andrew has been working professionally in threatened species recovery and conservation management for nearly 10 years across a range of Australian fauna and landscapes. 

Andrew’s focus and skillset lie in the development and implementation of conservation management strategies, combining an evidence based decision making process with the real world challenges of working in conservation. 

He applies these skills on a daily basis in his role as Manager of Conservation and Recovery Programs at Taronga Conservation Society, but still loves to get hands on in the field as much as possible. 

Andrew is a council member of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW and member of several national threatened species recovery teams.

Ms Claire Ford BSc

Ms Claire Ford

Manager, Population Development and Welfare, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Claire joined the Taronga team in 2016. She is responsible for strategically planning Taronga’s animal population and promoting positive animal welfare outcomes at both Taronga Zoo and Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Claire has a background in small population management, focusing on genetic and demographic management in zoo populations as well as conservation planning incorporating less intensively managed populations and wild populations.

In Claire’s previous role managing the Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Australasian Species Management Program she has worked with many zoos within Australia and internationally to facilitate zoo conservation breeding programs.

Ms Leanne Elliot MEnv

Ms Leanne Elliot

Wildlife Conservation Officer, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Leanne is passionate about wildlife conservation and has been working on a range of conservation projects over the past 10 years.

Prior to joining Taronga, she worked in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific on coastal and marine species conservation, supported the CEO and Board of WWF-Australia for 4 years and was also based in Southern Africa, working on a cheetah research and wildlife conflict management initiative in the Kalahari.

Leanne is now responsible for population management for exotic species at both Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoo and project manages Taronga’s involvement in the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project.

Mr Gary Fry MWldMgt

Mr Gary Fry

Wildlife Conservation Officer, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Gary has worked in and with zoos and botanic gardens across most of his career. This is the second time he has worked at Taronga having been away for 14 years. 

Gary’s zoo career commenced at Victoria’s Open Range Zoo at Werribee working with ungulates and native mammals. Gary spent much of his first 10 years at Taronga managing the native mammal team. 

In most of the intervening period, he was thriving in the opportunities offered up by central Australia. During this time Gary was Director of the Alice Springs Desert Park. Highlights for him included helping move Mala (Rufous Hare-wallaby) to the next level of conservation management. He was honoured to work with Anangu and celebrate the return of Mala to Uluṟu after being missing for many decades.

An important project in Alice Springs was the development of a horticultural endeavour for local plants, the Desert Farm. The farm provided food for the animal population within the Desert Park and was used by Arrernte women

for medicine, food and stories.     
His interest in habitat connectivity has seen Gary have different levels of involvement with the Great Eastern Ranges initiative, especially with the Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance. 

Gary has some responsibilities for Australian mammals at both Taronga Western Plains Zoo and Taronga Zoo, and for some of the work being supported by Taronga in Sumatra. 

Dr Monique Van Sluys BSc, MSc, PhD, Cert IV Training and Assessment

Dr Monique Van Sluys

Wildlife Conservation Officer, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Monique Van Sluys has always been passionate about wildlife ecology. She received her MSc and PhD degrees in Evolutionary Ecology at Universidade Estadual de Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil during which time she undertook research on lizard ecology (population dynamics, reproduction, behaviour, parasitism, and spacing dynamics). 

Monique was Associate Professor at the Ecology Department from Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro for 20 years. She founded the NGO ‘Instituto Biomas’ in Brazil and forged strategic partnerships for the development of conservation programs. Monique is especially interested in understanding ecological processes and how this understanding can be applied to conserving biodiversity. 

Monique has supervised more than 30 students and published more than 100 articles, book chapters and books. She spent two years at Griffith University studying the geographic distribution of the chytrid fungus in wild frog populations and actively took part in teaching activities, including training students on biodiversity monitoring tools and data recording systems.

In 2011 Monique joined Taronga Conservation Society Australia and brought her extensive experience in planning and coordinating conservation projects and managing people. At Taronga, her organisation skills and attention to detail were instrumental for streamlining the field conservation programs and budget review. She managed scientists and research programs, mentored and supported staff to embed best scientific practice throughout project execution as well as progressed key administrative and financial areas of community campaigns.  Monique is currently responsible for strategically planning the Amphibian, Reptile and Bird populations across both Taronga zoos (Sydney and Dubbo). She also coordinates and oversees recovery and field programs.

Mr Michael McFadden BSc (Hons), PhD Candidate

Mr Michael McFadden

Unit Supervisor, Herpetofauna, Taronga Zoo Sydney

Michael is the Supervisor of the Herpetofauna division where he oversees the Zoo's collection of reptiles and amphibians, including managing conservation programs for a number of critically endangered species. He began working at Taronga Zoo in 2003, soon after completing his honours degree on endogenous seasonal cycles in the endangered Regent Honeyeater. 

Michael currently works mostly closely with the Zoo's amphibian conservation projects in collaboration with Office of Environment and Heritage. This work focuses mostly on reintroduction biology and developing techniques to improve captive breeding and rearing success in threatened Australian frogs. These include conservation breeding and release programs for the highly endangered Southern and Northern Corroboree Frogs and Yellow-spotted Bell Frog, which have declined to the brink of extinction due primarily to chytrid fungus. The latter species was thought to be extinct in the wild for over 30 years until a small population was rediscovered in late 2009. Fortunately, an insurance population was established at Taronga Zoo and successful breeding in recent years has permitted an experimental reintroduction programs to re-establish the species.

Michael is co-convenor of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) Amphibian TAG and sits on a number of recovery teams and working groups. He has published over 30 scientific articles and book chapters. He has shared his knowledge of amphibian husbandry by assisting Amphibian Ark in instructing conservation and husbandry workshops in five Australasian countries to build capacity for amphibian conservation programs in the region. Michael also works closely on ex-situ programs at Taronga Zoo for critically endangered reptile species, such as the Blue-tailed Skink and Lister’s Gecko from Christmas Island and the Bellinger River Turtle.

Taronga Wildlife Hospitals

Dr Larry Vogelnest BVSc (Hons), MVetStud (Wild Med Husb), MANZCVS (Zoo Medicine), PSM

Dr Larry Vogelnest

Senior Veterinarian, Taronga Zoo Sydney

Larry graduated with a BVSc degree from the University of Sydney in 1984. He then worked in mixed private practice before travelling overseas and working in England.  On return to Australia he worked in an avian practice in Sydney before starting as a Veterinary Intern at Taronga Zoo Sydney in 1990.  During this time he completed a Masters in Veterinary Studies in Wildlife Medicine and Husbandry. The research for his masters was on haematology and biochemistry of Australian cockatoos.  Since completing his internship, Larry has been employed by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia and is currently the Senior Veterinarian at Taronga Zoo Sydney. Together with a multidisciplinary veterinary team, he is responsible for the health of the Zoo’s animal population and sick, injured and orphaned native Australian wildlife admitted to the Taronga Wildlife Hospital. 

In 1996 Larry gained membership to the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists by examination in Zoo Medicine.  In 1998 he took a 12 month sabbatical, and worked at Melbourne Zoo for two months and Victoria’s Open Range Zoo at Werribee for 10 months, where he was employed as their first full-time veterinarian, before returning to Taronga Zoo Sydney as Senior Veterinarian.

In 2009 Larry was awarded a Public Service Medal for his contribution to conservation medicine and service to the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. He is the principal editor of “Medicine of Australian Mammals”, CSIRO Publishing (2008) and author and co-author on several chapters; author and editor of “Radiology of Australian Mammals” CSIRO Publishing (2015) and principal editor of “Current Therapy in Medicine of Australian Mammals”, CSIRO Publishing (2019) and author of several chapters. He has also authored several other book chapters and authored or co-authored several peer reviewed journal publications.

Larry specialises in the health and reproductive management of small populations including ex-situ breeding programs for endangered species. He has participated in and advised on both in situ and ex situ components of numerous conservation projects, both in Australia and overseas. He has extensive experience with preventative medicine programs, zoonotic disease management, chemical restraint, reproductive management and clinical medicine in a wide range of species. His experience extends across mammalian, avian, reptilian and amphibian taxa.

Dr Benn Bryant BVSc

Dr Benn Bryant

Senior Veterinarian, Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo

Dr Benn Bryant graduated from Sydney University in 1988, and earned a Masters degree in Zoo Animal Medicine and Husbandry in 2000. 

He was admitted to the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists by examination in Zoo Animal Medicine in 2010, and has been working exclusively as a wildlife veterinarian for 20 years.

Benn was appointed Senior Veterinarian at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo (TWPZ) in 2002. At TWPZ he is responsible for the health management of an extensive collection of zoo-based wildlife, including three species of rhinoceros being managed in international cooperative breeding programs. He has extensive experience with the transfer of rhinoceros between institutions by road and air including several greater one-horned rhinoceros from the USA to Australia and a group of seven white rhinoceros from South Africa to Australia.

Benn has authored and co-authored numerous papers concerning rhinoceros veterinary medicine in peer-reviewed journals and is a veterinary co-advisor to the AZA Rhinoceros TAG research council. He is currently the Primary Veterinary Advisor to the Zoos and Aquaria Australia’s (ZAA) ungulate taxon advisory group.

Benn has been a veterinary consultant to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia since 2007. He has travelled to the SRS on numerous occasions to provide emergency veterinary support to the resident Sumatran rhinoceroses.

Dr Frances Hulst BVSc (Hons), MVS (Wildlife Medicine and Husbandry)

Veterinary Officer, Taronga Wildlife Hospital Sydney

Frances Hulst graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science in 1983. She worked for a number of years, both in Australia and the UK, in domestic and exotic small animal practice before spending a brief period in clinical research.

She commenced a veterinary internship at Taronga Zoo Sydney in 1991 during which she completed a Masters’ degree in Wildlife Medicine and Husbandry. After working as a veterinary locum at several zoos in Australia, Frances joined Taronga Zoo Sydney as Veterinary Officer in 1995.

She is responsible for maintaining the health and welfare of the Zoo’s animal collection; together with treatment of wildlife brought into the Taronga Wildlife Hospital and participation in conservation, research and education programs. Advice and veterinary services are provided to in situ and ex situ wildlife conservation and recovery programs across a range of taxa from amphibians to chimpanzees. She participates in internal and external Taronga approved research projects, and marine animal stranding/rescue events.

Frances has been the veterinary representative on the Taronga Animal Ethics Committee since 2001. 

Dr Kimberly Vinette Herrin MS, DVM MANZCVS

Veterinary Officer, Taronga Wildlife Hospital Sydney

Dr Kimberly Vinette Herrin graduated from Colorado State University in 1995 and has since pursued a career in zoo and wildlife medicine. Kimberly has been a veterinary officer for Taronga Zoo Sydney since 2006.

She came to Taronga after gaining over eight years of zoo medicine experience as a veterinarian at Gladys Porter Zoo in the South of Texas and Ocean Park aquarium in Hong Kong. 

Kimberly has a strong interest in conservation medicine and is passionate about post-graduate training of foreign veterinarians. Research endeavours include participating as the attending veterinarian on subantarctic research projects assessing elephant seals and sea lions and satellite tracking marine turtles rehabilitated through Taronga Wildlife Hospital.

Dr Gabrielle Tobias BVSc

Veterinary Officer, Taronga Wildlife Hospital Sydney

Gabrielle Tobias graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Science (Veterinary) in 1995 and Bachelor of Veterinary Science in 1997.

After a year in practice she completed a small animal Internship at the Sydney University Veterinary Teaching Hospital to gain her Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Clinical Studies. Gabi then worked as a small animal veterinarian within a specialist practice in Sydney for 12 years while completing a Masters in Wildlife Health and Population Management.  

Gabi has completed theses on faecal sex steroid analysis in Long- and Short-beaked Echidnas as well as ulcerative disease in Malayan Tapirs.

Gabri first began working at Taronga Zoo in 2005 as a veterinary locum and commenced her current part-time veterinary position in 2012. She has continued her small animal clinical work as an Emergency and Critical Care Veterinarian at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital, which allows her direct access to veterinary specialists in all aspects of veterinary science.

Gabi's enthusiasm for African wildlife is only surpassed by her fascination for echidnas. She is currently investigating gastritis in Short-beaked Echidnas and gastric neoplasia in Little Penguins.

Dr Michelle Campbell BSc, BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS, DZooMed, MRCVS

Dr Michelle Campbell

Veterinary Officer, Taronga Wildlife Hospital Dubbo

Michelle Campbell is a graduate of the University of Sydney with degrees in both zoology and veterinary science. Following graduation she worked in mixed veterinary practice for several years and became involved in nutrition and conservation research projects in Australia, Peru and Russia. In 2004 she took up a post with the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Zoo and a number of smaller Scottish zoos – initially as a Resident and subsequently as Lecturer in rabbit, exotic animal and wildlife medicine and Manager of the Exotic Animal and Wildlife Clinic.

Michelle has extensive experience in first opinion and referral wildlife medicine and surgery, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and clinical research. Michelle was awarded the RCVS Certificate in Zoological Medicine in 2005 and the Diploma in Zoological Medicine in 2007, becoming an RCVS Recognised Specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine the following year.

Michelle returned to Australia in November 2008 to take up the post of Veterinary Officer at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. She is the Primary Veterinary Advisor of the ZAA VetSAG Nutrition Group, the Secretary/Treasurer of the ANZCVS Zoo and Wildlife Medicine chapter, a consultant for the Veterinary Information Network and a veterinary advisor for Conservation South Luangwa in Zambia. Michelle is a contributing author, editor and reviewer for a range of veterinary textbooks and scientific journals. She has a wide range of interests including animal welfare and ethics, comparative gastroenterology and enteric microbiology, zoo and wild animal nutrition, paediatrics and conservation medicine. Michelle is a member of Taronga’s Green Team and a veterinary representative on the Animal Care and Ethics Committee.

Dr Lydia Tong MA VetMB

Dr Lydia Tong

Zoo and Wildlife Pathologist, Taronga Wildlife Hospitals

Lydia is Taronga's veterinary pathologist and is responsible for conducting diagnostic surgical pathology and necropsy of any and all animals in Taronga's care.

Lydia has a diverse professional background as a clinical vet and pathologist, working with domestic and wild species around the world, including Borneo, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, East Timor, Vanuatu, Tonga, the UK and Australia.

In her role as Taronga's in-house pathologist Lydia works with a broad range of exotic and native species including wild and captive mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. As part of her role she also provides consulting services for other zoological collections, wildlife sanctuaries, and animal welfare organisations.

Lydia has specialist expertise in forensic pathology of animals and regularly performs forensic necropsies of animals or animal remains suspected to be victims of, or otherwise involved in, criminal acts. She managed the first excavation and forensic analysis of a mass grave of any species on Australian soil and has assisted the NSW Coroners office with homicide investigations involving animals. She has been deployed overseas by Taronga to conduct field necropsies on critically endangered megafauna.  

She is passionate about pathological and forensic research that leads to positive welfare outcomes. Currently she is part of a Taronga-led team working to develop forensic scientific methods to combat the illegal wildlife trade. Other areas of research include osteopathology, pathology of myrmecophages, the pathology and diagnosis of animal abuse, veterinary medical entomology, avian tuberculosis, and the links between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence.

She is currently Secretary of the Australian Society of Veterinary Pathology, and in 2016 she was the inaugural winner of the RSPCA Australia Hugh Wirth Future Leader in Animal Welfare award.

Ms Libby Hall

Ms Libby Hall

Manager, Taronga Wildlife Hospital Sydney

Libby has been a keeper and vet nurse at Taronga for over 20 years, during which time she has worked with a wide variety of animals across the Zoo from enormous hippos to tiny sugar gliders.

As Manager of the Taronga Wildlife Hospital in Sydney, Libby assists with the health care of animals from the Zoo’s population, as well as many species of Australian native fauna that are brought to the hospital by members of the community. These animals, including marine turtles, birds of prey and seals, are found sick, injured or orphaned and are rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

One of Libby’s favourite parts of her role is returning rehabilitated wildlife back to the wild. Some animals arrive at the hospital with severe injuries and require weeks of intensive care and months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Seeing them survive and released into the wild is a highlight for the entire team.

Libby also specialises in marine wildlife and rehabilitation techniques and is a member of the International Response Team for Oiled Wildlife. She has travelled to Malaysia, South Africa, New Zealand and Spain to help in emergency oil spills, treating and rehabilitating affected wildlife and training in Oiled Wildlife Care. During the Cape Town oil spill in South Africa, Libby and her team had 18,000 penguins in their care at any one time. A total of 33,000 African penguins were washed, rehabilitated and returned to the wild during that oil spill event.  

In 2016 Libby travelled to Congo in Africa on a fellowship to work at the Jane Goodall Institute Tchimpounga Chimpanzee sanctuary and to assist with rehabilitation techniques for African Wildlife.  

Libby currently runs a Marine Turtle Satellite Tracking program to monitor the survival of marine turtles released from Taronga Wildlife Hospital and to research critical habitat for marine turtles in New South Wales.

"Working in the Wildlife Hospital is fantastic because we work with so many different species. I love the fact that every day is different and that we do not know what animals will be arriving for treatment or requiring assistance in the zoo grounds on any given day. The fact that we can be feeding a tiny rainforest frog one minute and treating a huge Tiger the next makes me realise that I am very privileged."

- Libby Hall

Dr Paul Thompson BMedSc, MSc

Dr Paul Thompson

Senior Laboratory Technical Officer, Taronga Wildlife Hospitals

After obtaining his Bachelor of Medical Science (Pathology) from the Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Paul worked as a microbiologist and haematologist in a number of Sydney based hospitals, before moving to the United States of America. 

Paul worked for several years as a specialist microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre in the USA, while also working towards a Master of Science (Infectious Disease and Microbiology) from the University of Pittsburgh. 

Paul joined the Taronga Conservation Society Australia in 2010 as a Laboratory Technical Officer where he manages the operations of the Taronga Wildlife Hospital’s diagnostic pathology laboratory. Paul’s experience and qualifications have fuelled his interest in zoo collection and wildlife parasite and bacterial disease. Paul also enjoys developing knowledge in the physiological blood reference parameters for many of the less studied species in our care.

Ms Natalie Miller Dip Biological Techniques

Ms Natalie Miller

Laboratory Technical Officer, Taronga Wildlife Hospitals

Natalie joined the Taronga Wildlife Hospitals laboratory in 2017 where she assists in the operations of the diagnostic pathology laboratory.  

Natalie began her career as a trainee, spending four years at the CSIRO, in the department of Animal Health. From here she moved over to human pathology where she has worked for 25 years, specialising in Microbiology for the majority of that time.

Prior to starting at Taronga Natalie’s focus was predominantly microbiology and microbiology management, bringing her laboratory into full automation and implementing a Mass spectrophotometer (Maldi-tof) to aid in bacterial identification. Natalie brings knowledge of the human pathology world into the animal world and enjoys working out the comparisons between.   

Dr Phoebe Meagher BSc (Hons), PhD

Dr Phoebe Meagher

Pathology and Research Coordinator, Taronga Wildlife Hospitals

Phoebe joined Taronga in 2012 and is currently the Pathology and Research Coordinator at Taronga Wildlife Hospital and part of the Australian Shark Attack File curatorial team. Phoebe is also a member of the Taronga Animal Welfare Committee.

Dr Phoebe Meagher completed a Bachelor of Science, Biodiversity and Conservation, at Macquarie University and received first class honours for her work assessing the genetic diversity of Grey nurse sharks on the east and west coast of Australia.

She completed her PhD in Zoology at the University of Sydney in 2010 investigating the reproductive biology of Eastern shovelnose rays. She has previously worked in several leading scientific research centres including the Centre for Research of Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities and the Australian Museum.

She has a special interest in marine biology and endangered animal research. Her current research focus is wildlife forensics, specifically, the application of nuclear technologies to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Ms Michelle Shaw BSc (Hons), MSc

Ms Michelle Shaw

Zoo Nutritionist, Taronga Animal Nutrition Centre

Michelle joined Taronga Conservation Society Australia in December 2013, and has over 20 years experience in zoo nutrition. 

As Australia’s first and only Zoo Nutritionist, Michelle manages Taronga’s Animal Nutrition Centre, directs Nutrition research, oversees the nutrition of all animals at both of Taronga’s Zoos and consults for zoos, rescue organisations and conservation programs internationally.  

Michelle spent ten years as a Nutrition Researcher and Nutrition Supervisor at Toronto Zoo in Canada after receiving a Masters degree in Comparative Animal Nutrition at the University of Guelph.  She then spent five years consulting for zoos in Asia and a year as Director of Product Development at Zukudla Inc., designing dry feeds for zoo animals.  

Michelle is a member of various Nutrition Advisory and Research Groups internationally and advises on nutrition guidelines for several great ape Species Survival Plans (SSPs). She focuses her research efforts on improving the nutrition of zoo managed species by studying species-specific physical and metabolic adaptations to their natural diet, increasing an understanding of the nutrient requirements of wildlife species and the effect of diet on overall health.