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Our People

About Us > Our People
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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

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

Conservation & Research Manager

Jack is a Yuin man who grew up on Gadabanut Country before leaving to study Environmental Science at Deakin University. Jack completed a PhD with the University of Western Sydney, where he studied the predators of the Blue Mountains. His key fields of interest are fire ecology and biocultural landscapes.

Jack is the Conservation & Research Manager at the Conservation Ecology Centre and is passionate about restoring productive ecosystems on Maar Country, where the CEC operations are based. 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 a member of the Independent Expert Panel reviewing the Wildlife Act 1975 on behalf of the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and is also a member of both the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning’s Scientific Reference Panel and Zoos Victoria’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

He also volunteers in firefighting, road rescue, steep angle recovery and search and rescue with the Apollo Bay Country Fire Authority.

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.

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.

James Templeton

Conservation Project Officer

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.

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.

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.

Toni Stevens

Communication Manager

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.

Elodie Brooks

2022 Intern

Having grown up in the Adelaide Hills with a love for nature Elodie later decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science majoring in Biodiversity and Conservation at Flinders University. She became inspired by a university trip to Fiji, where she gained local knowledge of the relationship, awareness, and communication of environmental issues such as deforestation within rural communities.

Much of the time she spent volunteering included part-taking in the implementation of bushfire and biodiversity recovery programs in Kangaroo Island as well as the application of predator-free design mechanisms for the wild Bettong with Arid Recovery.

Elodie’s undertook an honours project which focused on the utilisation of genetic techniques to analyse population structure of the Critically Endangered Spiny Daisy within Mid-north South Australia. This information was then embedded within conservation management intervention for the species, prioritizing strategies that better maximize genetic diversity in aim to enhance the species evolutionary resilience and long-term persistence within the wild.

She undertook an Internship with CEC to increase practical skills within the conservation industry; some which include wildlife handling, flora and fauna analyses, feral animal control programs and fire ecology within the Otway’s region. She hopes to further progress a career within conservation management and the environmental field.

Emma Fitzsimmons

2022 Intern

Like others in the conservation community, Emma’s love and curiosity with nature started from an early age with some of her fondest childhood memories involving insect collecting, bush walking, and listening to her cassette tape of “What Bird Call Is That?” ad nauseum. These interests led her to completing both a Bachelor of Environmental Management (Natural Systems and Wildlife) with honours and a Master of Conservation Science at the University of Queensland.

Emma’s honours project saw her assess the effectiveness of Australia’s protected area network at conserving the most at-risk bioregions, while her master’s project focused on evaluating the costs and benefits of both in-situ and ex-situ management actions in the conservation of the southern Black-throated finch (Poephila cincta cincta). During this period, Emma also spent several years volunteering at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital on the Gold Coast, assisting with the rehabilitation of native wildlife. Although her cassette tape listening days may be over, Emma is still an avid birder and spends a lot of her spare time outdoors with binoculars and camera in hand.

Emma is excited to be spending the next few months interning at the Conservation Ecology Centre and hopes to deepen her animal handling and survey skills as well as gain new knowledge of fire and invasive species management in the Otways.