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 OAM

CEO and Founder

In 2000, Lizzie co-founded the Conservation Ecology Centre in order to develop and deliver solutions to the most urgent conservation challenges in the Otways. She works to facilitate this important work by leading a team committed to effective conservation and through organisational development, building partnerships, and engaging community.

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 Brian Massey, the Art Director of The Hobbit and Landscape Designer of Hobbiton, Wildlife Wonders will provide outstanding opportunities for conservation and sustainable economic development in the region.

Lizzie is the recipient of the Banksia Foundation 2005 Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year, and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2020 for service to conservation and the environment. She has previously served as a Director of Ecotourism Australia and as Chair of the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority Community Advisory Group.

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.

Emma Birnbaum

Conservation Project Officer

Emma loves working in research and conservation, especially in her beloved Otways. Completing a Bachelor of Conservation Biology and Ecology, from La Trobe University, Emma then went on to focus on another passion of hers, insects, undertaking an honours project on the abiotic and biotic effects of jumping in Jack Jumper ants.

Since completing her degree, she has lived in Europe, worked as a project firefighter with Forest Fire Management Victoria, and broadened her skill set and knowledge through volunteering on a wide variety of projects both in Australia and overseas. This included an internship with the CEC in 2017, which led to her ongoing role with us.

Now happily settled in the Otways, Emma’s current role at the CEC is working with land managers, including Parks Victoria and private landowners, to enhance threatened species recovery projects through the management of feral pests including foxes and pigs.

Emma McKenzie

Nature Guide & Wildlife Keeper

Nature guide Emma has a passion for quolls. She joined the CEC in 2019 after spending four years running wildlife tours in the southern Grampians. There she worked with both Tiger and Eastern Quolls, breeding the Eastern Quoll for a release program bringing them back from extinction on mainland Australia. She also worked with Squirrel Gliders and Fat tailed Dunnarts and cared for a mob of Brush Tailed Rock Wallabies which were once part of a release program in the Grampians.

Since completing her studies in Applied Science in Environmental Management at Ballarat University (now Federation University), Emma has worked on numerous conservation projects including pest plants and animals, large scale tree plantings, wetland restoration, and fauna surveys in both the Kimberley and around Dunkeld in regional Victoria.

Emma has also been a fire fighter for 10 years and is currently a member of the Apollo Bay CFA. She worked in fire management with the Department of Environment during the Black Saturday and Northern Grampians fires.

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

Finance & administration Manager

Steve is the finance and administration manager of the Conservation Ecology Centre. He 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 also manages the Great Ocean Ecolodge with his partner and 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.

Yonina Eizenberg

2020 Intern

Yoni is a passionate member of the conservation community. She has completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours) at Deakin University in 2019. For her Honours project, she explored the breeding biology of two seabird species in northern Bass Strait. This included collecting, organising and analysing weight and morphometric data for Fairy prion (Pachyptila turtur) and Common diving petrel (Pelecanoides urinatrix) chicks. She found that throughout the three years of breeding, survival rates among common diving petrel chicks were declining due to poor food availability. Understanding that the health of our oceans, native grasslands and forests is essential for the survival of threatened species, Yoni sought to educate schools, community members and international tourists about the importance of looking after these complex ecosystems.  

In order to gain knowledge and skills in science communication, Yoni has volunteered with CSIRO, Parks Victoria and Zoos Victoria and various animal rescue shelters around Victoria. She has developed field and research skills from volunteering with Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and from working as a Field Ecologist for Deakin University. Yoni is keen to learn with the experienced team at the Conservation Ecology Centre. She aims to develop more skills in threatened species management, fire ecology and understanding the interactions of flora and fauna  species in the Otway region.

Jack Dickson

2020 Intern

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, his project investigated the prevalence of Toxoplasmosis in feral cats across Australia. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease in felines, that can also affects other warm blooded animals and that can be lethal in Australian wildlife. Throughout his honours year and into 2019 he took on as many ecology volunteering roles as possible, allowing him to travel across Australia and explore different areas in ecologic fieldwork. This ranged from kangaroo and small macropod behaviour on Maria Island (TAS), Crest-Tailed Mulgra trapping survey near Strzelecki (SA), reptile trapping survey in the Mallee (NSW), and Koala surveying on French Island (VIC). During this time Jack picked up a camera and created a love for photography which he uses to showcase the beauty of the Australian bush @regentphotographyaus .

During his internship at the CEC, Jack hopes to gain experience in land management practices, invasive species control, animal husbandry, as well as learning about current fire management practises in the Otways, and science communication & engagement to the public. Jack plans to use this opportunity as a spring board to move into further conservation and ecology roles.