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PETE COPPOLILLO, PHD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Pete received a bachelor’s degree with honors in Biology and Environmental Conservation from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis. Pete worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society for 10 years, first at their New York Headquarters and then as part of the Africa and North America Programs. Pete has studied Ferruginous Hawks in North America, avian community ecology in Kenya, and large herbivore ecology and herding systems in Tanzania. He has helped plan and carry out conservation strategies in Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Congo, Cambodia, Tanzania, and the United States. His publications appear in Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, PLOS (Public Library of Science), Human Ecology, Landscape and Urban Planning, Landscape Ecology, and Science, and he is co-author of the book Conservation: Linking Ecology, Economics and Culture (2005 Princeton Univ. Press).

DEBORAH WOOLLETT, PHD, CO-FOUNDER & DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION

Deborah received her B.S. in Biology from Saint Mary’s College of California, a M.A. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Science from the University of Washington, Seattle. Her dissertation research focused on kit foxes and the integration of detection dogs and the genetic analysis of scat as a way to enhance information on endangered populations. Deborah's commitment to conservation dogs began in 1999; she also has 30+ years of experience in field and laboratory research of wild canid species and a life-long dedication as a professional dog trainer. Most recently Deborah has found herself passionately vested in understanding care of retired working dogs and ensuring their well-being in senior years.        

AIMEE HURT, CO-FOUNDER & DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL PROJECTS

Aimee received a B.A. from the University of Montana in biology. She feels very grateful to have been part of helping the field of conservation dogs get a foothold in the US in the late 1990s, and continue its growth around the world over the last few decades. She’s had the opportunity to work with a number of very talented dogs in service to over 40 imperiled species in over a dozen countries. She enjoys tackling new and challenging projects and mentoring new conservation dog programs, trainers, and handlers.

ALICE WHITELAW, CO-FOUNDER & DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS

Alice received a B.A. in Biology from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina and an A.A.Sc. in Veterinary Medical Technology from Central Carolina Community College. She has worked as a field biologist for universities, NGO’s and state and federal agencies since 1988, and has conducted wildlife research throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Russia. She has been involved in dog training for over 42 years and has focused on detection dog disciplines since 1998. Her professional interests include wildlife disease, carnivore behavior, endangered species restoration, and refining the training and use of detection dogs in wildlife research.

NGAIO RICHARDS, PHD, FORENSICS & FIELD SPECIALIST

Ngaio is a forensic ecologist and conservationist. She obtained a B.Sc. in Environmental Science from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, an M.Sc. in Natural Resource Sciences with emphasis on applied wildlife biology and ecotoxicology from McGill University in Montréal, and a Ph.D. in Forensic Science from Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom. She is currently a member of the Investigative Chemistry Research Group at Anglia Ruskin University and a Director of the Foundation of Analytical Science & Technology in Africa (FASTA). She has authored numerous papers and chapters on wildlife monitoring and conservation, and edited the textbook “Carbofuran and Wildlife Poisoning: Global Perspectives and Forensic Approaches." Ngaio is on the Faculty of Veterinary Forensic Sciences at the University of Florida (Gainesville), where she teaches several courses on critical thinking and risk assessment of veterinary agents in relation to wildlife and environmental health.

BREANNE BLACK, OUTREACH AND DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR

Bre graduated from The University of Montana with a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation. She spent the first couple years after college working and volunteering on conservation projects in Montana and Washington. She moved back to Missoula and has spent the last 12 years working for local and national animal welfare groups.

Bre has filled many roles with animal welfare organizations including development, volunteer management, cruelty and disaster response, behavior and training. Bre looks forward to combining all of her passions to help WD4C expand their mission in Missoula and beyond.

SKYE MURPHY, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

Skye received dual bachelor’s degrees with honors in History and Anthropology/Archaeology from the University of Montana, where her studies focused on the historical archaeology of Montana and the history of international relations. She also received her Masters in Public Administration from the University of Montana with an emphasis on nonprofit management.

She grew up in Yellowstone National Park and has been involved with scientific and educational programs that further wildlife and environmental conservation since childhood. Based in Livingston, Montana, she has worked closely with several nonprofit organizations and has developed and implemented administrative procedures that have helped them achieve programmatic success. 

MELISSA STEEN, CANINE FIELD SPECIALIST

Melissa graduated from Kansas State University with B.A.s in Biology, Psychology, and Natural Resources and Environmental Science. After graduation, she headed to Zambia, where she worked for the Peace Corps on a project linking income, food, and the environment.

Melissa grew up with dogs and has always loved them. She worked as a vet tech and ran a canine day care, but her first experience with working dogs was at the Denali National Park sled dog kennel. She knew then that she wanted a career that would combine wildlife conservation and dogs. Melissa's role as a Canine Field Specialist means that she spends a lot of time on the road and in the air, handling WD4C dogs in the field, training new candidates, and making sure they're all healthy, happy, and productive.

MICHELE VASQUEZ, CANINE FIELD SPECIALIST

Michele raced sprint dogs in Quebec before graduating from The University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Wildlife and Conservation Biology. After graduation, she split her time between sled dog touring in the winters and working summer field biology positions.

In the last several years, Michele has worked with a number of different species and lead projects in multiple states. Her primary focus has been on disease ecology and carnivores, particularly canines. As a canine field specialist for WD4C Michele is hoping further the use of detection dogs in various research capacities.

PAIGE SMITH, CANINE FIELD SPECIALIST

Paige started her career working in conservation biology, participating in field work and studying wildlife disease in various species. She later moved on to conducting research with detection dogs at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Her time spent working on various research projects with detection dogs led her to discover conservation detection, which combined both of her interests of wildlife conservation and dogs. She also spent multiple years working with dogs in both detection and cognition. Paige also enjoys training with her personal dog for various dog sports.

AMANDA OTT, CANINE TEAM TRAINING COORDINATOR

Amanda received her B.S in Animal Science from Texas A&M University. She has been in dog sports, training, and medicine since she was 16 including work with exotics where she became passionate about science based animal training.  She has twelve years of experience in canine search and rescue running dogs in many disciplines. Amanda obtained the title of Certified Professional Dog Trainer and opened her own dog training and dock diving business.  As the Canine Team Training Coordinator Amanda utilizes her experience in detection dogs and training handlers. Amanda’s professional interests are in the science behind dog training, canine cognition, and how to give clear communication between dog and handler. 

RENAE COUNTER, CANINE FIELD SPECIALIST

Renae graduated from The University of Montana-Western with a B.A in Literature and Writing with a focus on Creative Writing. Her career with working dogs began when she moved to Alaska to work as a dog handler on the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. Renae spent three summers on the Mendenhall, with winters in between caretaking a remote backcountry ski lodge in Colorado and later helping to train a team of young sled dogs for Squid Acers Kennel in Fairbanks, AK. 

After working with sled dogs, Renae knew she wanted a career with dogs. Before finding WD4C she spent time working as a Veterinary Assitant and a later training protection dogs. 

MARK VICK, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR PROGRAMS

Mark has an unwavering passion for working with dogs from a trust-based, trauma-informed approach focusing on consent and choice. He joined the team full-time in 2021, having first partnered with WD4C as a contractor to assist in sourcing rescue dogs, deploying worldwide on ecological monitoring projects, and developing biosecurity programs. His career path reflects adaptability and a diverse skill set. Mark honorably served eight years in the Navy as a Cryptologic Technician and Law Enforcement Specialist. Upon transitioning out of the military, he was commissioned as a Conservation Police Officer with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and instigated VDWR’s wildlife canine program. During this time, he also started his own consulting-focused business, offering pet training insights. In this next chapter of his career with WD4C, Mark will continue to develop programs and provide operational support to the dog-handler teams while fostering training philosophies that focus on cooperative relationships, positive reinforcement, and benevolent leadership. He also intends to expand the scope of biosecurity detection dog programs, especially integrated pest management rodent approaches, intending to tailor detection dog services that improve management practices and reduce the use of pesticides, driven by an understanding of (and compassion towards) rodent biology/behavior.

ERIC VAN PELT, FACILITY MANAGER

Eric grew up with the Colorado Rockies in his backyard, and Legos all over his floor. He went to flight school before transitioning to aviation maintenance while living on the Western Slope. He moved to Alaska and became a maintenance technician for Sitka National Historical Park, where he was exposed to unique, hands-on work in natural and cultural conservation. In Montana, he has worked as a mechanic, then as an installation and repair specialist in on/off-grid heating, water, and solar power. Eric likes new challenges and is grateful for the opportunity to expand his skills and knowledge with WD4C.

 

ELLIE WARGA, CANINE CARE MANAGER

Ellie began her career working with dogs at a vet hospital on the East Coast. After moving to Montana in 2015, she managed a dog boarding facility where she oversaw play groups of 30 to 50 dogs. From there she mentored under several trainers, and went on to train dogs for 3 years focusing on improving the relationship between dogs and their humans. Ellie started working for WD4C in 2021 as the Canine Care Manager and has been focused on providing a calm, balanced home life for the working dogs. 

VICTORIA PROBE, CANINE CARE SPECIALIST

Tori spent three years working in pet dog training before growing a passion for working dogs and joining the WD4C Team. Tori is passionate about canine enrichment and ensuring that our working dogs have a work-life balance.

 

SCOTT GAFFEY, CANINE CARE SPECIALIST

BIO COMING SOON

JAY CRAFTER, DIRECTOR Of LAW ENFORCEMENT

Jay Crafter, born and raised in Zimbabwe amongst a family that dedicated themselves to conservation efforts with Zimbabwean National Parks. With over 25 years of expertise in Law Enforcement and Military Working Dog Programs, Jay is recognized by many as an authority in advancing canine capabilities.

In his role as an advisor for the Department of Homeland Security, Jay worked within a nationally recognized team, spearheading initiatives to enhance canine capabilities and fortify National security measures. As the Project Manager for the Marine Corps IDD Program, he demonstrated exemplary leadership optimizing training schedules. This supported achieving an outstanding 90% certification rate for over 800 Working Dogs that deployed to high-risk environments.

Returning to his roots, Jay aligns his career with his true passion—conservation. His adaptability shines through as he channels the knowledge gained into anti-poaching endeavors. By designing and implementing a unique plan, Jay has been able to employ and utilize over 40 K9 teams across Africa. Jay takes pride in developing the abilities (and lives) of the men and women single handedly selected as K9 handlers. He recognizes they are the backbone of the success, which foster self-sustainability within the program.

MARTHA KAUFFMAN, BOARD MEMBER

Martha Kauffman is the Managing Director for World Wildlife Fund’s Northern Great Plains Program.  Based in Bozeman, Montana she works with local ranchers, Native American tribes and government agencies to increase protection for the landscape, create economic incentives for conservation, and restore native species including: bison, prairie dogs, sage grouse and the most endangered mammal in North America, the black-footed ferret. She has a B.S. from Stanford in Environmental Earth Science and a M.S. in Earth Sciences from Montana State University.

Martha was on the board of Montana Conservation Corps for 9 years and is a co-founder of the Montana Outdoor Science School, a Montana-based non-profit that utilizes field-based inquiry to teach K-12 youth about natural sciences.

HENRY HAPPEL, JD, BOARD MEMBER

Henry Happel was a founding partner of Mundt MacGregor LLP, a Seattle law firm, where he practiced corporate and commercial law from 1976 until 2001. 

Henry has served on the board of directors of a number of commercial and non-profit entities. He is currently the Chairman of the City of Bozeman’s Community Development Board. 

A Houston native, Henry received a BA in Economics from Yale University in 1967 and a law degree from Stanford University in 1970.

MELISSA RICHEY, BOARD MEMBER

Melissa has two decades of experience in non-profit and higher education major donor fundraising and institutional development. Her experience includes fundraising for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Global Conservation Program, Montana State University, and Duke University School of Law. Melissa earned an M.P.A. with a focus in nonprofit management from North Carolina State University. She currently works in philanthropy for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.