Meet the Bloggers

Alan Varsik, Santa Barbara Zoo

Posted at 6:59 pm February 12, 2009 by admin

Alan likes to tell the story of how he was inspired to pursue a career in conservation on a field trip while he was a biology student at Cal Poly State University (San Luis Obispo) and saw a wild California condor in 1983. He joined the staff at the Santa Barbara Zoo as its first full-time general curator in 1999. His first zoo job was as a keeper at the Oakland Zoo and he has since worked at the Brookfield Zoo and the Lincoln Park Zoo, both in Chicago and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where he was the zoological manager for the Tree of Life. He received his master’s in conservation park management from DePaul University in 1995. Alan is vice chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Board of Regents and population manager for Channel Island fox. He serves as vice president of the Friends of the Island Fox.

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Geoff Grisdale, Santa Barbara Zoo

Posted at 4:17 pm January 23, 2008 by admin

sb-zoo-geoff-grisdale.jpgAs the Santa Barbara Zoo Intern Nesting Technician, Geoff Grisdale works to determine pairing and locate nests of wild California condors in southern California. Originally from Ann Arbor Michigan, he attended Michigan State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. Geoff moved to Southern California in 2007 to work as an Intern Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California Condor Recovery Program. His past experience includes working in southern Kentucky on a hair snare DNA census on black bears.

Joseph Brandt, Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Posted at 10:34 pm January 21, 2008 by admin

joseph-brandt.jpgJoseph Brandt is currently a Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He has been involved in the California Condor Recovery Program since 2005 and has worked with condors in southern and central California. Joseph is a graduate of the University of Oregon where he earned degrees in biology and environmental science. Prior to working with condors, he worked as a biological technician for the Columbia River Avian Predation Project and the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear DNA Project. He has also worked abroad as a Magellanic Penguin Colony Monitor in Southern Chile. As an avid mountaineer and rock climber, Joseph has used these skills to play an integral role in gaining access to condor nests and advancing the knowledge of condor nesting behavior.

Michael Wallace, Ph.D.

Posted at 10:00 am January 21, 2008 by Michael Wallace, Ph.D.

Mike WallaceAs a wildlife scientist for the San Diego Zoo, Dr. Mike Wallace coordinates the California Condor Recovery Program that manages and reintroduces the endangered California condor in Baja California, Mexico. He is the California condor species coordinator for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and Condor Recovery Team leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mike received a bachelor’s degree in wildlife science from Unity College in Maine. He earned a master’s degree in wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, followed by a doctorate degree in wildlife ecology. He has participated in numerous field research projects throughout North and South America and has extensive experience in techniques for wildlife capture, marking, and census.

James Sheppard, Ph.D.

Posted at 9:50 am January 21, 2008 by James Sheppard

sheppard-baja-field-site.jpgDr. James Sheppard’s research is focused on using tracking technologies and spatial analysis to help the conservation of threatened and endangered species. He comes to the San Diego Zoo as a Postdoctoral Fellow with extensive experience GPS-tracking wild dugongs along the coast of Queensland, Australia, and understanding their ranging patterns. He received his Ph.D. from James Cook University.

In September 2007, he joined the California Condor Recovery Program in Baja California, Mexico. In the field, he’s collecting and analyzing data on condor movements, activities, and the complex social hierarchy of the birds.

Read about James’ project here.

Catalina Porras

Posted at 9:50 am January 21, 2008 by admin

Catalina PorrasCatalina studied biochemical engineering at the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She worked with endangered species of Latin America birds at Fundacion ARA, a nonprofit organization in Monterrey, Mexico, where she managed the diets of 80 different species of birds, incubated eggs, and hand raised chicks.

Catalina also collaborated on field research projects studying the peregrine falcon and golden eagle using conventional and satellite transmitters. In September 2002, she joined the California Condor Recovery Program to work on the condor release effort in Baja California, Mexico. She is a field assistant for the San Diego Zoo.

Michael Mace

Posted at 9:45 am January 21, 2008 by admin

mike_mace.jpgMichael Mace serves as curator of birds for the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. He is responsible for the management of the Avian Department, both the collection and related conservation programs. He participates in conservation field projects involving numerous species, including the release programs for the California condor, Andean condor, Guam rail, and light-footed clapper rail. He has authored numerous articles and papers on avian science in peer review journals and in magazines.

Michael joined the Wild Animal Park in 1973. He earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology and an associate of science degree in biology. Michael is a Professional Fellow in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has chaired or served on numerous elected committees and specialized groups, including the Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee. He is the AZA Species Survival Coordinator for the Andean condor, International Studbook manager for the California condor, and is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife California Condor Recovery Team member.

Juan Vargas

Posted at 9:45 am January 21, 2008 by admin


Juan Vargas is the field site manager in Baja California, Mexico, for the California Condor Recovery Program, San Diego Zoo.

Don Sterner

Posted at 9:44 am January 21, 2008 by admin

Don SternerDon Sterner is an animal care manager at the condor breeding facility at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park and has been responsible for hand-rearing chicks born in captivity. Prior to working at the Wild Animal Park, Don gained important experience with birds while working to hand raise chicks for private breeders. He has been instrumental in helping the Wild Animal Park develop the husbandry protocols to raise California condors and maintain the adult birds.

Don has a bachelor’s degree in geography and two minor degrees, one in zoology and one in anthropology.

Fernando Gual-Sill, MVZ, MSc

Posted at 9:40 am January 21, 2008 by Fernando Gual-Sill

(click here for English)
El Dr. Gual Sill obtuvo su licenciatura en Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. El grado de maestría le fue concedido con honor al mérito en Salud de Fauna Silvestre en el Royal Veterinary College, Universidad de Londres / Sociedad Zoológica de Londres. Curso el Postgrado en Entrenamiento en Manejo y Enfermedades de Fauna Silvestre de la Sociedad Zoológica de Londres, así como el Diplomado en Medicina y Manejo de Fauna Silvestre de la Facultad de Medicina veterinaria y Zootecnia de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Ha asistido a más de 60 cursos y simposia, y presentado más de 170 pláticas y publicaciones relacionadas con la medicina y manejo de fauna silvestre en eventos nacionales e internacionales.