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

Community Engagement Manager

Karlijn is the Community Engagement Manager at Wildlife Wonders, and for the Conservation Ecology Centre.

She works collaboratively to co-ordinate events, including the hugely successful Art & Ecology exhibit, Big Otway Tree Plant, Otway Threatened Species Research Forum, and much more.

Karlijn is also responsible for community outreach, engaging with volunteers, school groups, local artists & makers, and the local community more broadly. She works with the CEO and other staff to develop a vision for community engagement and plays a lead role in implementing this vision.

Karlijn has a Master of Science in Cultural Studies and is a talented artist. She has a passion for eco-tourism, sustainability and is dedicated to sharing the work of the Conservation Ecology Centre with a broader audience.

Born in the Netherlands, Karlijn managed the Great Ocean Ecolodge on the grounds of the Conservation Ecology Centre from 2015 to 2021 with her partner Steve Ras.

Stephan Ras

Finance Manager

Steve is the Finance Manager at the Conservation Ecology Centre, which founded Wildlife Wonders as a social enterprise to help fund their conservation and research program.

He is responsible for the day-to-day financial management of both organisations and is also responsible for implementing the financial strategy and direction, which support this innovative approach to wildlife conservation.

He identifies and implements systems, policies and processes to improve financial monitoring, accountability and growth across the Conservation Ecology Centre and Wildlife Wonders.

Steve has a Master of Science in Educational Studies and feels right at home with his management skills. He has a passion for eco-tourism and sustainability and managed the Great Ocean Ecolodge on the grounds of the Conservation Ecology Centre from 2015 to 2021 with his partner Karlijn Sas.

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.

Tamika Farley-Lehmer

Fire Ecologist

Tamika’s interest in fire ecology was sparked during three seasons working as a Project Fire Fighter with Forest Fire Management Victoria in the Dandenong Ranges National Park and Warrandyte State Park, as well as her experience fighting fires in East Gippsland during the summer periods, including during the Summer of Fire in 2019/2020.   

While working with FFMVic Tamika was introduced to the use of fire as a land management tool and was able to build her practical field skills and land management knowledge.

Now returning to a research role with the Conservation Ecology Centre she hopes to gain a better understanding of post fire habitats through projects like the Wild Otways Initiative, building on her existing interest in ecosystem dynamics and interactions.

Tamika was an intern at the Conservation Ecology Centre in 2019 and has undertaken various other volunteer and paid opportunities working in conservation (or ecosystem science), both within Australia and internationally.

Tamika holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Zoology from Monash University and received a first class for her Honours project, which focussed on how nutrition influences life trait response to temperature in Drosophila fruit fly.

Erin Liddell

2021 Intern

Growing up in rural Gippsland fostered Erin’s passion for protecting Australia’s native species and ecosystems. She recently completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at Monash University, where her honours project examined how genetic data are used to inform management recommendations for threatened species.

Erin has volunteered for a range of organisations and projects, including at Healesville Sanctuary and the Australian Conservation Foundation. Erin is thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from the Conservation Ecology Centre team and to contribute to their important work in the beautiful Otway region. She is excited to further develop her fieldwork and species identification skills, and to learn more on topics such as fire ecology and feral pest management. Erin hopes to use the skills she gains at the CEC to pursue a career that combines her passion for threatened species research with advocacy and community engagement.

Luke Bonifacio

2021 Intern

Luke is an enthusiastic ecology graduate determined to make a difference in wildlife conservation. He developed a strong sensitivity for animal conservation during a volunteer trip to Costa Rica in 2011, where he assisted with research into the conservation of bottlenose dolphins and poison dart frogs. The experience opened his eyes to the threats faced by wildlife globally, motivating him to pursue a career in the conservation field.  

In 2018, Luke graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Science (Hons), majoring in Ecology and Conservation Biology. His Honours project saw him travel around Australia investigating predictors of extinction risk in Australian skinks. He also assisted with several conservation research projects during his degree, developing skills in fauna surveying, research design and community engagement. His highlights included conducting an inbreeding avoidance project on helmeted honeyeaters, volunteering with the Marine Mammal Foundation and visiting the Galapagos Islands where he helped investigate the reproductive success of Darwin’s finches.

By joining the Conservation Ecology Centre, Luke is excited to learn about the complex conservation challenges in the Otways and advance his skills in animal husbandry, land management and species identification. Luke is also keen to explore the vast wilderness of the Otways and capture its spectacular biodiversity using his wildlife photography kit.