Our People

About Us > Our People

Our people inspire confidence in the future through effective, innovative and engaging approaches to conserving wildlife and the ecosystems on which they depend.

Lizzie Corke

CEO and Founder

Together with Shayne Neal, Lizzie established the Conservation Ecology Centre in order to develop and deliver solutions to the most urgent conservation challenges in the Otways. With a background in natural sciences (BSc Zool, The University of Melbourne, 2001) she works to facilitate this important work by supporting a team committed to effective conservation and organisational development, building partnerships, and engaging our community. This work was recognised by the Australian Geographic Society Conservation Award in 2007.

Ecotourism plays a critical role in the CEC’s funding and engagement programs – the Centre established the Great Ocean Ecolodge in 2004 (Winner Victorian Tourism Awards for best new development, recognised by National Geographic Traveller as one of the 25 best ecolodges in the world). Lizzie is currently also working the development of a new social enterprise ecotourism venture ‘Wildlife Wonders’ on the Great Ocean Road. Designed by the Greens Master of the Lord of the Rings and Art Director of The Hobbit films, ‘Wildlife Wonders’ will provide outstanding opportunities for conservation and sustainable economic development in the region.

Lizzie is a Director of Ecotourism Australia, Chair of the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority Community Advisory Group and the recipient of the 2005 Prime Minister’s Award for Environmentalist of the Year.

Shayne Neal

Founder and Infrastructure Manager

Shayne completed his Diploma in Wilderness Reserves and Wildlife Management (The University of Queensland) and graduated with a degree in Natural Resource Management from The University of Melbourne in 2002. Understanding the importance of caring for ecosystems and the imperative for inspiring and engaging others in conservation, led him to establish the Conservation Ecology Centre with Lizzie Corke. He was awarded the Australian Geographic Society Conservation Award and National Geographic Society World Legacy Awards in recognition of this work in conservation and engagement.

Shayne grew up on a dairy farm in the western Otways and has skills in land management and restoration, construction, solar power and water management. After a lifetime of working with herding dogs on farms, Shayne began working with and training detection dogs through the Otways Conservation Dogs volunteer program and was the first team in the program to successfully qualify for field surveys – he currently works with Teddy (an experienced Tiger Quoll scat detection dog now also in training for Long Nosed Potoroo scat detection) and Gus (a newly qualified Tiger Quoll scat detection dog).

At the CEC and the Great Ocean Ecolodge Shayne is the go-to person to fix anything, and he’s the superpower behind the management of our facilities and delivery of our programs. Shayne delivers our dusk tours and other education and interpretation activities for Ecolodge visitors. Shayne is also the 2013, 2014 & 2015 Australian Ploughing Champion and volunteers in firefighting, road rescue, steep angle recovery and search and rescue with the Apollo Bay Country Fire Authority.

Dr Jack Pascoe

Conservation & Research Manager

Jack joined the Conservation Ecology Centre in 2012 to manage the ever-growing Conservation and Research Program. Jack grew up at Cape Otway before leaving to study Environmental Science at Deakin University and going on to complete a PhD with the University of Western Sydney where he studied the predators of the Blue Mountains. His key fields of interest are the ecology of apex predators and fire. Immediately prior to joining the CEC, Jack worked with one of our project partners, the Southern Otway Landcare Network, primarily focusing on mitigating the impacts of pest plants and animals throughout the Otways. Jack is currently the Vice Chair of the Otway Community Conservation Network, President of the Hordern Vale Glenaire Landcare Group and Chair of the Southern Otway Landcare Network’s Projects Committee. Jack has previously advised the Minister for Environment and Climate on the management of Cape Otway’s koalas. Jack is a Yuin man, and is passionate about restoring the productive systems in Gadubanud country where CEC operations are based. He also volunteers in firefighting, road rescue, steep angle recovery and search and rescue with the Apollo Bay Country Fire Authority.

Mark Le Pla

Conservation & Research Assistant

Mark interned with the Conservation Ecology Centre over the summer of 2014/15, before re-joining the team as our Conservation & Research Assistant at the beginning of 2016. Originally from south-east Queensland, Mark completed his Bachelor of Science (Ecology and Conservation Biology) with Honours at Griffith University in 2012. Whilst his initial research work focussed on bird communities, Mark gained a wide range of ecological field skills through several internship and volunteer opportunities before joining the CEC. Some of these experiences include: radio-tracking reintroduced Brush-tailed Possums and trapping Western Quolls in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park; trapping small mammals and reptiles in the central desert country of AWC’s Newhaven Sanctuary; and assisting in the translocation of several hundred Bridled Nail-tail Wallabies at AWC’s Scotia Sanctuary. Mark now assists in delivering the CEC’s conservation programs, including one of our most exciting projects to date, the Otways Threatened Species Research Network.

Karlijn Sas

Events & Ecolodge Manager

Karlijn manages the Great Ocean Ecolodge with her partner Steve. She also co-ordinates the Conservation Ecology Centre’s program of events, including the hugely successful Art & Ecology program. This annual exhibition celebrates some of the most rare and fragile inhabitants of the Otways through art – contributed by local artists. And monies raised from the sale of the artworks contribute to the Conservation Ecology Centre’s research programs. Karlijn has a Master of Science in Cultural Studies and has transformed the Gallery of The Great Ocean Ecolodge that now features many of the threatened species in the Otways. She is a people-person and along with Steve truly enjoys spending time with Ecolodge guests to assist in their itinerary so they get most out of their stay in the Otway forests.

Stephan Ras

Administration & Ecolodge Manager

Steve manages the Great Ocean Ecolodge with his partner Karlijn. He’s also expert at all things admin and helps ensure that the Conservation Ecology Centre functions as effectively and efficiently as possible. Stephan has a Master of Science in Educational Studies and feels right at home with his management skills. He enjoys engaging with guests about all that the area and the Conservation Ecology Centre has to offer. Both Steve and Karlijn are dedicated to communicating the work of the Conservation Ecology Centre and Lizzie and Shayne’s work in creating it. They have a passion for eco-tourism, sustainability, and developing an interesting guest experience with local products such as wines, beers, coffee, tea, and homegrown vegetables on site.

Toni Stevens

Communication 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. Toni also works part-time for the Ecological Society of Australia, and volunteers with Intrepid Landcare.

Hannah Thomas

2019 Intern

Hannah recently graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Hons) majoring in Ecology.

In her Honours project she compared the diets of the endangered northern quoll in the two main habitat types on Groote Eylandt – a cane toad free island in the Northern Territory which is a stronghold for this endangered species. She found that the quolls in the woodlands ate a wider variety of foods than those in the rocky habitat including more vegetation, which could have implications for the management of this species on the mainland.

She has also volunteered as a research assistant on Christmas Island, to monitor the effect of invasive black rats on the nesting success of endemic island birds; helped deploy camera traps to monitor feral dog populations on Queensland Trust for Nature properties; and trapped northern bettongs in North Queensland with WWF and James Cook University.

Originally from Scotland, Hannah comes to the CEC after spending time in both Cairns and Brisbane. Throughout her internship with the Conservation Ecology Centre, Hannah hopes to further her skills in land management, field work and science communication. She is passionate about being involved in wildlife conservation and the Otways region is the perfect place to do this, with a combination of amazing wildlife and complex conservation challenges.

Ellie Kirke

2019 Intern

Ellie recently graduated from the University of Queensland, with a Bachelor of Science (Hons) majoring in Ecology and Zoology. Her honours project involved working with the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) on Groote Eylandt, located in the Gulf of Carpentaria. This unique island is one of the few safe havens for these endangered animals, mainly due to the lack of cane toads and continuation of traditional fire regimes. Here, she studied the interplay between performance, morphology and habitat by looking at how different aspects of performance (i.e. agility, jumping, sprinting, accelerating, climbing and grasping) varied intraspecifically between two habitat types; rocky outcrops and open sclerophyll forest. Her findings suggested that some aspects of female performance were optimised in particular habitats (e.g. sprint speed was greater in open habitat), but that morphology was not the cause of variation. This is the first mammalian study to look at performance, morphology and habitat in concert, and was a great introduction into the field of research science.

Ellie’s passion for animals and the environment has also taken her to South Africa, where she volunteered as a research assistant translocating white lions from a hunting facility to a safe farm. Working so closely with such an amazing animal was an unforgettable experience, and she hopes to have many more moments like that throughout her life.

During her internship at the Cape Otway Ecology Centre, Ellie hopes to gain more experience in ecological surveying, fire and land management and active conservation methods. She strongly believes that wildlife conservation is of the utmost importance in the face of feral predators, climate change and population growth, and is excited to work alongside ecologists at the CEC that are so passionate and driven.