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

Lizzie founded the Conservation Ecology Centre with Shayne Neal based on their shared vision to support a healthy and resilient Otways landscape cared for forever. Her interests lie in creating sustainable models for conservation through building partnerships and engaging community.

Since 2000, the Conservation Ecology Centre team has restored the woodlands of Cape Otway to support koalas and other native species, undertaken landscape-scale invasive species control programs, conducted critical research in to planned burning to conserve threatened species and mitigate wildfire risk, and developed an ecological research network to share knowledge with land managers.

Lizzie has driven several innovative funding models, including establishment and operation of the Great Ocean Ecolodge, and the conception, development and operation of Wildlife Wonders, a unique ecotourism experience that operates as a social enterprise to support the CEC’s conservation efforts. In only its second year of operation, Wildlife Wonders was named by National Geographic as one of the planet’s 25 most exciting destinations for 2022.

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

Shayne Neal

COO and Founder

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

Strategic Advisor

Jack is a Yuin man living on Gadabanut Country. For the last decade, he has led the Conservation Ecology Centre’s Conservation and Research Program, which delivers adaptive management and applied ecological research across the Otway region.

Jack recently joined the University of Melbourne as a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences and his interests are in understanding and managing biocultural landscapes.

He currently sits on scientific reference groups for Zoos Victoria and the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (formerly DELWP) and was a member of the Expert Panel which recently reviewed the Victorian Wildlife Act 1975. Jack is Chief Councillor of the Biodiversity Council.

Jack completed a PhD at the University of Western Sydney where he studied the predators of the Blue Mountains.

Dr Kay Weltz

Conservation Project Manager

Kay was raised on the tip of southern Africa, where wild blue oceans collide with sheer mountain cliffs, king proteas rule the fynbos and white sharks patrol. Spending her childhood immersed in this outdoor world, Kay’s passion for nature led her to a Bachelors in Biodiversity and Ecology, an Honours in Marine Biology and a Masters in Applied Marine Sciences, studying the ecology of a variety of terrestrial and marine species.

In 2018, Kay completed her PhD in Biology with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic studies in Tasmania, investigating the extinction risk and habitat use of the endangered Maugean skate using genetics and dietary analysis.

For the past 2.5 years, Kay Co-Directed an Outdoor Education Centre in the Victorian High Country and facilitated conservation projects with young people and multiple stakeholders. This furthered her interest in wildlife and land conservation and management.

Kay loves learning about the natural world through scientific exploration and using this information for the purpose of implementing effective management strategies to conserve and protect biodiversity and ecosystems. She is excited to have joined the CEC team in 2024 as a Conservation Project Manager and to familiarise herself with another wild Cape’s fauna and flora.

James Templeton

Conservation Project Manager

James developed a strong passion for conservation whilst working at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in South Africa where he was involved in the trapping, handling, containment, care and release of wildlife such as rhinos, giraffes and raptors.

This experience led him to then pursue a degree in Environmental Management (Honours) at the University of Queensland. For his Honours Project he designed a long-term monitoring program for Logan City Council of the Slacks Creek Catchment in order to assess the success of conservation efforts in the area. His work with a variety of grassroots organisations since then, both in Australia and abroad, bolstered his beliefs in the value of community engagement, especially with indigenous communities.

After an internship with the Conservation Ecology Centre in 2021, James joined the team as a Conservation Project Officer in 2022 to assist with the control of feral pigs and deer in the Otways as a part of the Wild Otways Initiative.

James has strong ties to the region and is ecstatic to have this opportunity to live and work on Gadubanud country, getting to know the area in more detail and to participate in conservation efforts on this land.

Jesse Ellis

Conservation Project Manager

Jesse joined the Conservation Ecology Centre from Parks Victoria to assist with the ongoing management of feral pigs in the Otways. During her five years with Parks, Jesse built an array of skills in pest plant and animal management and education.  She contributed to a number of conservation programs during this time including the successful Eastern Barred Bandicoot captive breeding program, Koala assessment programs, Phytophthora management and feral pig control.

Jesse was also a firefighter with Forest Fire Management Victoria and found it fascinating to understand ground operations and broader planning objectives of current planned burning practices, along with building on previous fire ecology studies.

In addition to her work with the CEC, Jesse is currently undertaking an honours research project based at Federation University on Eastern Ground Parrot habitat in the Otways and how this has changed over time. This project gives her the opportunity to explore plant ecology, wider ecological interactions within heathlands, and further, historical management and land use of the Otways area.

Jesse has always had a keen interest in outdoor environments and, in recent years has developed a love of botany. She began her conservation journey studying Outdoor Education- Sustainable Nature Tourism before transferring in Environmental Science where she completed a bachelor in Wildlife Conservation Biology at Deakin University

Dr Claire Feniuk

Conservation Project Manager

For over a decade, Claire has worked on the interface between science, policy and practice and is passionate about translating robust research into evidence-based approaches to land management.

Claire has a background in ecology, completing a Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Leeds. Her PhD in Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge was funded by Birdlife International and explored landscape-scale conservation strategies for over 100 species of birds, trees and sedges in Eastern Europe. She then worked in policy and advocacy for the RSPB (the UK’s BirdLife partner), with a focus on understanding the potential impact of Brexit on UK farmland biodiversity.

Since moving to Australia, Claire has spent five years working as an environmental consultant providing advice and analysis to government departments and agencies on a wide range of NRM projects across south-east Australia.

Claire now lives in the Otways with her young family. Drawn to the region’s wild and rugged natural landscapes, Claire is excited to work with the CEC to conserve this beautiful part of the world.

Mark Le Pla

PhD Candidate

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.

Tamika Farley-Lehmer

PhD Candidate

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.

Toni Stevens

Manager, Communications & Stakeholder Engagement

Toni Stevens is a communication professional with a background in environmental science. For the past 10 years she has been working with scientists to share their stories via media, social media, online and in-person.

Toni treasures her time in the Otways and loves sharing the experience with others. She believes telling 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.

She now oversees all the communication and digital marketing activities for both Wildlife Wonders and its founding organisation, the Conservation Ecology Centre.

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.

Dr Andrea de Kauwe

Fundraising Coordinator

Andrea de Kauwe trained in the biomedical sciences, completing her PhD in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne in 2007.  Inspired as a child by David Attenborough’s documentaries as well as an innate sense of wonderment and curiosity of the natural world, Andrea has long been interested in conservation and environmental protection efforts in Australia. 

After completing a post-doctoral position in Finland and freelancing as a science communicator/editor, Andrea moved to the Otways with a strong desire to spend less time in artificial environments and more time in nature with her young family of avid bushwalkers and biophiliacs.  Her interest in protecting and nurturing Australia’s wild places has deepened and she sees the work of the Conservation Ecology Centre as being vitally important to conserving the ecosystems of the Otways.  

Andrea’s research background has given her an understanding of the challenges of scientific research and funding cycles, while her other work with Landcare and Apollo Bay WORDfest has given her insights into event planning, promotion and management, as well as stewardship of volunteers, supporters and funding partners.  She works for the CEC part-time, coordinating our fundraising strategy and giving program.

Julia Delgado

Digital Marketing

Julia is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at the Conservation Ecology Centre, working mainly on Wildlife Wonders, ensuring our online presence is up to date and the best it can be.

Julia has a Bachelor of Marketing, a career background in tourism and a passion for conservation and wildlife. 

First becoming familiar with the Conservation Ecology Centre through volunteering at our Big Otway Tree Plant and Koala Counting days, then working with Wildlife Wonders during her time at Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism, this role seemed like a natural fit.

Molly Fisher

2024 Intern

Molly grew up in Apollo Bay and the Horden Vale region. She left the beautiful seaside town to complete a Bachelor of Science at Monash University where she majored in Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Plant Sciences. Since completing her degree Molly has worked with the Threatened Species Conservancy where she has contributed to and managed conservation projects aimed at protecting a range of species including Harrow Wattles (Acacia acanthoclada) in the Mallee, Butterflies and Snails in the Otways, and Black Gums (Eucalyptus aggregata) in Woodend.

While Molly grew up in Apollo Bay and knows the area well, she is excited to explore the ecology of the Otways and give back to the community that gave so much to her. She is particularly keen to learn more about mammalian ecology, develop her trapping and animal husbandry skills, and solidify her identification skills with a range of species right at the CEC doorstep! The provided stipend will also allow Molly to fully invest her time into learning as much as she can during her internship position.

Miranda Braakhuis

2024 Intern

Miranda grew up in Melbourne and went on family holidays to the Otways, so has many fond memories exploring waterfalls, boogie-boarding and snorkelling in the region. She studied a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife & Conservation Biology) at Deakin University and completed an honours degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her honours project was comparing the accuracy and cost of different methodologies to survey for koala density, including the traditional method of line-transect distance sampling with more emerging techniques including thermal-imaging drones and acoustic recorders. During her time on the Sunshine Coast she also worked as a conservation detection dog handler with the Detection Dogs for Conservation team, partnering with rescue dogs to help find koalas, quolls and their scat in the landscape.

Miranda is passionate about optimising survey methods for threatened species conservation and loves all things fieldwork. Whilst interning at the CEC, Miranda is looking forward to gaining knowledge and experience in fire and feral animal management, deepening her flora and fauna ID skills and contributing to effective on-ground conservation in the Otways.