Meet the conservation and veterinary team

Conservation team

Dr Helen Senn

HEAD OF CONSERVATION AND SCIENCE PROGRAMMES

Dr Helen Senn

Helen manages the RZSS Conservation department. She has worked at RZSS since 2011, including managing the RZSS WildGenes lab. She is a specialist in conservation genetics.  She also works on species conservation strategies and action plans across the globe. She has particular interests  in the management of reintroductions, the detection and management of hybridization, relationship between taxonomy and conservation, strategic planning and capacity building. Her academic research work mainly focuses on arid-land ungulate species (e.g. Arabian oryx, scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle), wildcats, beaver and other mammals.

Helen Taylor looking for pond mud snails in the wild

IMAGE: Laura Moore 2022

CONSERVATION PROGRAMME MANAGER

Dr Helen Taylor

Helen has a strong background in field-based conservation research, focusing on translocations and genetics. The majority of Helen’s work to date has been in New Zealand, where she lived and worked for eight years before returning to the UK to join RZSS. She has also worked in the Peruvian Amazon. In New Zealand, Helen spent a lot of time on offshore islands studying protected bird species such as kiwi, South Island robin, and hihi. Her research interests included inbreeding, fertility, reproductive success, and translocation management of these species.

Dr Alex Ball leading a training session in Cambodia IMAGE: RZSS 2022

RZSS WILDGENES PROGRAMME MANAGER

Dr Alex Ball

Alex has a background in molecular ecology and bird conservation. His previous work has focused on fertility and reproduction in birds and the use of genetic tools to tackle questions concerning relatedness, phylogenetics and genome architecture. This has included deciphering the evolutionary relationships of bird species using genetic sequencing along with designing and testing genetic markers that can be used in a diverse array of species in both wild and captive populations.

Liz Heap in the RZSS WildGenes laboratory on the visit of HRH Princess Anne IMAGE Amy Middleton 2023

SENIOR LAB TECHNICIAN

Liz Heap

Liz has worked on developing and implementing various genetic approaches to answer ecological, evolutionary and behavioural questions.  With a background in cutting edge DNA sequencing and conservation genetics she is interested in bringing the two together to discover and adapt new molecular techniques to support the conversation projects at RZSS.

Dr Heather Ritchie-Parker looking at pine hoverfly research report in RZSS Conservation office IMAGE Rhiordan Langan-Fortune 2023

RZSS WILDGENES RESEARCH SCIENTIST

Dr Heather Ritchie-Parker

Heather has a background in molecular ecology and evolution. Her previous work has focused on using genetic tools to investigate patterns of adaptation, population connectivity, phylogenetic relationships, and species identification of deep-sea animals. Now, working as a research scientist within RZSS WildGenes, Heather will be applying these skills and experiences to a variety of projects including studies on Northern rockhopper penguins and beavers. 

Close up of a pond mud snail in the wild on a finger tip

IMAGE: Laura Moore 2022

CONSERVATION PROJECT OFFICER

Kasia Ruta

Kasia is a Conservation Project Officer- in her role she supports the implementation of various field-based activities of the conservation department. Currently, Kasia’s work mainly involves assisting in the delivery of the pond mud snail breeding for translocation programme in Scotland and the global conservation strategy for the Pallas’s cat across central Asia.

Carl Allott at pine hoverfly release in the Cairngorms

IMAGE: Jess Wise 2021

CONSERVATION PROJECT OFFICER

Carl Allott

Carl is based at Highland Wildlife Park and works as an assistant conservation project officer reporting to the conservation programme manager. His role allows him to combine a love for conservation with a passion for plants. Carl is responsible for looking after the conservation breeding project for pine hoverfly, a critically endangered species in Britain, and helping to implement the Biodiversity Action Plan for Highland Wildlife Park.

BCFS field director David Eryenyu visiting Budongo Trail in 2023 IMAGE Allie MacGregor 2023

CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE

David Eryenyu

David is the Field Director of the Budongo Conservation Field Station. He received his BSc Forestry, and MSc in Environmental and Natural Resources from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda; and for his MSc, he researched on how weather variables and past management activities impact of carbon sequestration belowground in the forest ecosystem.

Dr Arnaud Desbiez checking on Gala after her health check up in the Pantanal, Brazil IMAGE: ICAS 2022

CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE

Dr Arnaud Desbiez

Arnaud specializes in natural resource management on topics ranging from hunting to soil management. His current work in the Pantanal provides scientific research to search for, implement and evaluate conservation actions and sustainable management strategies. In the field he is currently evaluating use and selection of pasture resources by native and wild herbivores. He has also started a new study on one of South America´s rarest mammals: the giant armadillo.

Dr Thomas Docherty Bone IMAGE RZSS 2022

CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE

Dr Thomas Doherty-Bone

Thomas co-ordinates the RZSS African Amphibian & Reptile Program. This project was founded after an RZSS funded expedition to Cameroon in 2006. 

Helen Taylor releasing dark bordered beauty moths

IMAGE: Jess Wise 2023

EXPERIENCED ANIMAL KEEPER

Adam Button

Adam works as an Experienced Invertebrate Keeper on the conservation team and is based at Highland Wildlife Park. His main focus is the conservation breeding programs for the pine hoverfly and the dark bordered beauty moth, predominantly centred on the husbandry and management of these species. Adam also assists with invertebrate surveys for these conservation priority species as part of the conservation department at RZSS.

Cecelia Langhorne in the RZSS Biobank putting samples in the freezer

IMAGE: Allie McGregor 2023

BIOBANK COORDINATOR

Dr Cecilia Langhorne

Cecilia is the Biobank Coordinator within RZSS WildGenes. Focused on preserving genetic material for long-term storage and use by the conservation community, Cecilia is promoting the wider use of biobanks. Cecilia has a background in reproductive physiology, gamete cryopreservation and amphibian conservation. Her previous research focused on enhancing conservation breeding efforts in North American amphibians through assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). This included the development of gamete stimulation, artificial fertilisation, and sperm cryopreservation techniques for several threatened and endangered anuran species.

Laura Daniels

ASSISTANT CONSERVATION PROJECT OFFICER

Laura Daniels

Laura is an assistant conservation project officer based at Edinburgh Zoo. She carries out a range of project support activities for the conservation department, with her main focus being coordinating our projects based in Africa alongside the head of conservation and science programmes. She also ensures the smooth running of the department by performing a variety of administrative duties.

Magda Butowska in the RZSS WildGenes laboratory IMAGE Rhiordan Langan-Fortune 2024

RZSS WILDGENES GENOMICS TECHNICIAN

Magdalena Butowska

Magda is an undergraduate Zoology student at the University of Glasgow, currently undertaking her MSci work placement with the RZSS WildGenes laboratory at Edinburgh Zoo. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to work in the field of conservation. Magda has a keen interest in conservation genetics and in avian research. During her placement, she hopes to develop new laboratory and data analysis skills and learn how genetic data is applied directly in conservation programmes.

Sam Mitchell

RZSS WILDGENES RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Sam Mitchell

Sam is a research assistant based at Edinburgh Zoo working on a range of conservation genetics projects. His background is in ecology and evolutionary genetics, and he is interested in the ways that novel insights from genetic data can enhance our understanding of the specific needs of vulnerable populations and species, resulting in more effective conservation practice. Sam’s previous work has combined empirical data and simulations to investigate the factors contributing to maintenance of genetic diversity after population bottlenecks, as well as using genomic data to reconstruct the demographic histories of populations.

Jo Howard-McComb

RZSS WILDGENES RESEARCH SCIENTIST

Dr Jo Howard-McCombe

Jo has a background in molecular ecology and population genomics. Her previous work includes using genetic data to study hybridisation in Scottish wildcats, investigate sand cat taxonomy and monitor critically endangered endemic reptile species.  Currently Jo is working on post-translocation genetic monitoring of Nubian giraffe populations in Uganda.

Georgina Lindsay

CONSERVATION MANAGER

Georgina Lindsay

Georgina is the conservation manager for the field team at Highland Wildlife Park. She manages various invertebrate conservation breeding projects, including pine hoverflies, dark bordered beauty moths, and medicinal leeches. This involves overseeing conservation breeding efforts and contributing to releases and surveys in the field. She is also responsible for managing the roll out of the park's Biodiversity Action Plan, overseeing tasks ranging from the management of wetland habitats for wading birds, to the removal of invasive species, forestry and the enhancement of wildflower populations.

STUDENT

Frankie McCrea

Frankie is an undergraduate student studying Zoology at Queen’s University Belfast, currently working with the RZSS WildGenes team at Edinburgh Zoo. With her academic background steeped in ecology and population genetics, she has special interest in the application of molecular techniques in conservation programmes. Frankie hopes to develop her laboratory skills and apply her academic knowledge in the monitoring and preservation of endangered populations. She plans to continue with her passion for molecular genetics by pursuing further research in the field following her time with us at WildGenes.

Saving Wildcats project team

David Barclay setting a camera trap in the Cairngorms

CONSERVATION MANAGER (EX-SITU)

David Barclay

David's main area of interest is with felid conservation, population management and animal husbandry. Most of his recent work has been focused on the development and management of a dedicated conservation breeding for release centre for wildcats as part of the Saving Wildcats recovery project. David also helped establish and manage the Pallas’s cat International Conservation Alliance in collaboration with Nordens Ark and Snow Leopard Trust.

CONSERVATION MANAGER (IN-SITU)

Dr Keri Langridge

Keri manages the in-situ conservation side of the project, planning and implementing the field programme and managing the field team. She is based at Highland Wildlife Park. Keri has worked in the field with Scottish wildcats for the past five years as a Project Officer for Scottish Wildcat Action, where she coordinated the monitoring and conservation action in three of the six Wildcat Priority Areas (Strathpeffer, Morvern, and Strathspey). 

OUTREACH AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER

Helena Parsons

Helena is responsible for engaging the local community and other stakeholders with the ongoing efforts to restore Scotland’s wildcats. She has a background in felid conservation and public engagement, with an interest in using social science methodologies to engage communities with wildlife restoration. During her undergraduate degree in Geography she researched visitor perceptions of Scottish wildcat conservation in zoos, while also becoming familiar with research methodologies in social sciences. 

Veterinary team

HEAD OF VETERINARY SERVICES

Prof Simon Girling

Simon joined RZSS in 2009, although he was part of their Ethics and Welfare Committee from 1999-2003 and has been involved professionally with the zoo through his work with DEFRA from 2007-2009. His work at RZSS involves overseeing the health plan for all of the animals held on site at both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park as well as much of their work on in situ projects in the UK and overseas (such as Eurasian beavers and Scottish wildcats). Simon has worked with a number of private zoological collections in Scotland and England over the last 30 years as well as other zoo licensed premises.

Steph Mota vet doing health check on lion cub

IMAGE: Laura Moore 2022

VETERINARY SURGEON

Dr Stephanie Mota

Stephanie developed an early interest in zoo and wildlife medicine and during her undergraduate degree direct her externships towards several zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centres in Portugal, Spain, England and Brazil. Stephanie started her professional career with a small animal rotating internship at the veterinary teaching hospital in Vila Real, Portugal.  Her integrated Master’s degree thesis investigated the acute phase proteins in blonde capuchin monkeys in Brazil and her Wild Animal Health Master’s degree thesis studied symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) as a kidney biomarker in captive tigers. 

VETERINARY SURGEON

Dr Georgina Cole

After completing a veterinary externship with Bristol Zoo in 2011 Georgina moved to South Africa and began working at the Johannesburg Zoo. While being involved in the clinical care of a varied zoo collection she also undertook field work with wild white rhinoceros, collecting data for her MSc in veterinary research at the University of Pretoria. In 2013 she took up the post of veterinarian for the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. At the aquarium Georgina was providing veterinary care for a large aquatic collection as well as a turtle rehabilitation and release program. She was also involved in various research activities including acoustic monitoring of wild seven-gill sharks and tiger sharks, and satellite tracking for investigations into foraging ecology of Cape fur seals.

VETERINARY SURGEON

Dr Alice Bacon

Alice is the Saving Wildcat's veterinary surgeon, providing expertise for both the ex-situ breeding centre and the in-situ field work. She is based at Highland Wildlife Park, where she is part of the RZSS veterinary team, responsible for the health and welfare of all the animals at the park. Alice has provided veterinary services to in-situ wildlife conservation and research projects for the past ten years, mainly working on Scottish native species recovery projects. She was the veterinary advisor for Scottish Wildcat Action from 2015-2020 and has also worked on conservation projects as far afield as East Africa, Mongolia and Nepal.
 

VETERINARY SURGEON

Dr Rebecca Amos

After qualifying in 2012 Rebecca worked in mixed practice in Cornwall supporting several native species projects including British Divers Marine Mammal Rescue teams and local wildlife sanctuaries. Following this she moved to South Africa to work as a volunteer veterinary surgeon for a baboon rescue and rehabilitation centre (C.A.R.E) facilitating two troop releases and the development of a new field clinic. She then returned to the UK to study a Masters Degree in Conservation Medicine at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. As well as training in India working with Interventions in Wild Animal Health and human-wildlife conflict teams, she completed a 12 month research project on the prevalence of leprosy in UK red squirrels its relationship with health status and parasites.

REGISTERED VETERINARY NURSE

Louise Stott

Louise qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2017 after completing the Veterinary Nursing BSc degree at Middlesex University and has also undertaken the Vets Now certificate in Emergency and Critical Care and the City and Guilds Advanced Veterinary Nursing Zoo Animal certificate. Louise has previously volunteered in zoos and recently went on a working holiday to Arica to work with African wildlife. Since qualifying she has worked in a variety of practices including first opinion, emergency and referral. Louise went on to teach Veterinary Nursing and Animal Management students before joining the team in May 2022.

REGISTERED VETERINARY NURSE

Hannah Jane Brazier

Hannah qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2017 from Middlesex University. After qualifying she worked in a private practice focusing on exotic pets. Whilst doing so she worked at a small community zoo on the weekends as a keeper. Once qualified Hannah completed the advanced programme in veterinary nursing of exotics, wildlife and zoo animals. In her spare time, she has volunteered at a hedgehog sanctuary and travelled to Vietnam to volunteer with pangolins. Hannah hopes to continue her education in in zoological nursing with further post graduate study in the future.

VETERINARY SURGEON

Barbara Ferreira

Barbara Ferreira is a veterinary surgeon from RZSS with a passion for conservation and wildlife, particularly felids. She graduated from University of Lisbon, completed a Master in Conservation Medicine - University Edinburgh and a Master in Wild Animal Health - Royal Veterinary College/Zoological Society of London. She worked with domestic and exotic pets in Portugal and in the UK. While working with wildlife in Southern Africa she finished a Feline Medicine Certificate - University Sydney, a General Practitioner Certificate in Feline Medicine, and an Advanced Certificate in Feline Behaviour. She is still involved with some conservation projects in Southern Africa.