Meet the Team

David Walsh

David Walsh
President and Chief Advisor

Zachary Winfield

Zachary Winfield
Vice President

Lori Perkins

Lori Perkins
Vice President

Anna Musun-Miller

Anna Musun-Miller
Director of Planning

Gabe Buckley

Gabe Buckley
Business Analyst

Lauren Batson

Lauren David
Project Coordinator

Kristin Elliott

Kristin Elliott
Marketing Associate

Portrait of Jackie Ogden

Jackie Ogden
Of Counsel

Eric Miller, DVM
Of Counsel

Charles Hopper
Of Counsel

Kathayoon Khalil

Kathayoon Khalil, PhD
Of Counsel

Paul Noland

Paul Noland
Of Counsel

Kim Lengel

Kim Lengel

Christina Castellano
Associate Consultant

Imme Huttmann

Imme Hüttmann, Ph.D.
Associate Consultant

Kaslin Daniels

Kaslin Daniels
Associate Consultant

Elise Bernardoni

Elise Bernardoni
Associate Consultant

Sharon Joseph

Sharon Joseph
Associate Consultant

Kathy Wagner

Kathy Wagner
Emeritus Advisor

President and Chief Advisor David Walsh has spent his career connecting organizations with the people and ideas to help them grow.

David founded Canopy Strategic Partners to help cultural attractions, zoos, museums, and botanic gardens find the intersection between mission and margin. He’s assembled a team of accomplished conservation professionals, researchers, and industry leaders committed to using their expertise to help mission-driven organizations create a better future for our planet.

Prior to Canopy, David led new product and business development at PECO Energy and Verizon Communications and launched two successful start-up companies. He left the corporate world to pursue his passion for helping non-profits imagine a future – and plan for it.

He’s devoted the past two decades to sharing his expertise in business planning, market analysis, feasibility studies, financial planning, organizational dynamics, and governance studies. He has consulted with more than 150 cultural attractions to advance their missions, increase their impact, and promote their sustainable growth. As the architect of strategic plans, his greatest joy is seeing clients build on these foundations and reach new heights!

David has immersed himself in the conservation world, forming relationships with professionals at all stages of their careers. He’s created focused initiatives for women, young professionals, and black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to meet one another, building their confidence and connections so they can become leaders in the field. He also advises clients on talent acquisition and leadership development, identifying professionals who can strengthen the vision, mission, and culture of an organization.

David takes joy in fostering conversation across Canopy’s network of clients, elevating diverse voices through webinars and workshops, and surfacing best practices from the conservation industry and beyond.

His deep commitment to his clients is rooted in his belief that mission-based organizations improve the quality of life in their communities and that their commitment to the conservation of the natural world is critically important to the planet’s future.

Contact David at

Kathy Wagner‘s career underwent a dramatic transformation when she undertook docent training at America’s first zoo. The former Latin teacher went on to spend the next 30 years devoted to conservation, education, and visitor experience at the Philadelphia Zoo.

At Canopy Strategic Partners, Kathy advises clients on strategic planning, education and conservation planning, organizational assessment, and board development. She also spearheads Canopy’s women in leadership initiative. Kathy’s passion for her work and her dedication to the team’s clients is evident in her deep commitment to their success and the personal attention she brings to each project.

Kathy began her career at Philadelphia Zoo in the 70s in the newly created area of guest education—and managed nearly every area related to education, conservation, and visitor services during her tenure, along with fundraising and development.

As the zoo’s vice president for conservation and education, she led her team in developing many award-winning programs. Kathy expanded the Zoo’s international conservation program, instituted a sustainability initiative, and developed the Zoo’s first botanical collection plan. She also served as project director/principal investigator for three National Science Foundation grants. She founded and led a four-museum collaborative that worked with 12 community partners to deepen community engagement and attract new audiences.

Kathy has shared her expertise with the zoological and cultural community nationwide. She was founding Chair of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Advisory Board and has served on professional boards including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Visitor Studies Association. She’s also served on community boards including the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, the Awbury Arboretum Association in Philadelphia, and the Center for Aquatic Sciences in Camden, New Jersey.

A graduate of Bucknell University, Kathy has a master’s degree from Villanova University and a certificate in management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Kathy’s devotion to clients is rooted in Margaret Mead’s counsel to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Contact Kathy at

With over 15 years of experience, Zachary Winfield brings an expansive set of skills to Canopy gained through a multifaceted career in the zoo, consulting, and business worlds. He has extensive expertise in business and earned-revenue operations; analytics and data systems; guest services functions; as well as membership, marketing, and fundraising programs.

Zachary has special expertise in creating full-scale, holistic operational models of zoos and aquariums, which are backed with years of industry data from facilities all around the country. These models are tailored to each client. They quantify and correlate discreet operating areas of client organizations; reveal areas for opportunity; and unify disparate data sources into digestible, reliable, and actionable projections.

With an emphasis on analysis, reporting, and data strategies, Zachary focuses on guiding organizations through the process of choosing and implementing systems to integrate departments, remove silos, and maximize resources. In addition, his analytical background complements and supports the strategic and business planning initiatives for Canopy’s clients. With a deep and abiding love for numbers and data, Zachary is an expert at extracting meaningful and actionable information from large datasets.

Zach found his niche as the Membership & Marketing Director at Reid Park Zoological Society in Tucson, AZ, where he oversaw the membership and marketing operations. He further developed his expertise as a consultant working with zoos, aquariums, and other non-profits throughout the United States. Zach is a graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Contact Zach at

Kathayoon Khalil, PhD, developed a passion for wildlife and conservation as a teen volunteer at Oregon Zoo, putting her on a path to become an accomplished social scientist and conservation psychologist.

Providing Of Counsel services to Canopy, she helps clients engage in future visioning, a way of creatively discerning an organization’s aspirations and goals. This work informs strategic plans with detailed metrics and measurements to quantify success.

Kathayoon is a recognized leader in the conservation education field for her decades of research into how mission-based organizations can change people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. She uses her extensive experience to help clients evaluate and enhance their efforts to educate visitors, advocate for public funding, and inspire membership.

She also is deeply committed to empowering the next generation of conservationists. An alumna of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program, she helps lead Canopy’s black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) initiative and its emerging leaders initiative. She also is an instructor for Project Dragonfly at Miami University of Ohio.

Kathayoon is currently the Associate Vice President of Conservation Learning at New England Aquarium. Prior to her current role, Kathayoon acted as conservation impact manager for the Oregon Zoo and the principal evaluator for the Seattle Aquarium. She received her doctorate in learning sciences and technology design from Stanford University, her Masters of Environmental Science from the Yale School of the Environment, and her bachelor’s degree in organismal biology from Claremont McKenna College in California.

She is a speaker and writer for Fostering Empathy for Animals, a collaborative project between the Seattle Aquarium, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, and the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., about the role that zoos and aquariums can play in fostering empathy toward animals and nature.

Kathayoon believes that cultural attractions like zoos, aquariums, and botanic gardens have the greatest potential to inspire conservation, making it vitally important that they continue to demonstrate value to their communities.

Contact Kathayoon at

Gabe Buckley‘s passion for the natural world has taken him from his childhood home on a small Colorado pig farm to scuba diving with giant groupers and sea snakes on the Great Barrier Reef.

At Canopy Strategic Partners, Gabe uses his expertise in financial management to help clients make sense of their complex revenue streams and leverage revenue-producing tools and techniques developed in the for-profit world. His work empowers mission-driven organizations to make decisions regarding pricing updates, employee compensation, and master and strategic plans.

Before coming to Canopy, Gabe spent four years with the USDA National Wildlife Research Center as an animal caretaker for species like racoons, coyotes, black birds, brown tree snakes and more. He later became a behavior specialist working with animal cruelty cases for the ASPCA and a writer for biology-focused websites and organizations. Gabe also has expertise in small business administration, spearheading a construction company’s conversion from paper- to cloud-based financial systems.

Gabe has a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in business administration from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. He also completed his master’s degree in zoo, aquarium, and animal shelter management there. He is a PADI-certified dive master.

Gabe hopes his work at Canopy helps zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and cultural attractions sustain the educational programs and funding needed for world-wide efforts to maintain the biodiversity of our planet.

Contact Gabe at

Eric Miller, DVM, Of Counsel to Canopy, brings 35 years of experience as a seasoned zoo executive and veterinarian to our team. Eric rose through the ranks at the world-renowned Saint Louis Zoo to become Senior Vice President and Director of Zoological Operations. Eric offers ZA’s clients his extensive conservation mission perspectives as well as strategic advice on a wide range of issues facing today’s zoos. He has an amazing depth of knowledge surrounding animal welfare and wellness. Eric expands Canopy’s international reach and broadens our focus on local and global conservation issues.

Dr. Miller was integral to the founding and design of the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute, the umbrella organization for the Saint Louis Zoo’s field conservation work. During his tenure, Eric was part of the leadership team that opened many of the zoo’s award-winning exhibits.

Dr. Miller completed a residency in Zoo Animal Medicine at the Saint Louis Zoo/University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. He also is past President of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians and the American College of Zoological Medicine, and has been a Board Member of AZA as well as an active member of WAZA. Throughout his career, Eric has provided advice and counsel to many U.S. and international zoos, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the Luanda (Angola), Rainforest Habitat (Papua New Guinea), and Los Angeles Zoo.

Contact Eric at

Lori Perkins has worked in nearly every job you can have at a zoo during her more than three-decade career in wildlife conservation and management.

She was drawn to Canopy by the opportunity to help zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and cultural attractions embrace a broader perspective on their work. Lori now guides clients in strategic plan development, drawing on her thorough understanding of operational management and workforce leadership to help them reach their goals. She helps clients with workforce optimization, including talent acquisition, coaching and development, and with accreditation, animal welfare, and education strategies.

Lori leads Canopy’s work in diversity, equity, access, and inclusion, helping clients create a safe space to articulate the issues and challenges in embracing social equity.

Prior to Canopy, Lori served as deputy director at the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama, where she led all aspects of animal care, education, and park operations. She previously worked at Zoo Atlanta, at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as the education and science director for Disney Parks & Resorts.

Lori is a renowned expert in the collective management of zoo populations. Her research in the conservation and management of apes led to her chairing the nation’s orangutan species survival plan (SSP) and leading the umbrella group overseeing all ape management programs. She serves on the Board of Directors of the highly regarded Center for Great Apes sanctuary for chimpanzees and orangutans and has also shared her expertise as chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) wildlife conservation and management committee. Lori also led the AZA’s animal welfare committee and was elected twice to its national Board of Professional Ethics, which she chaired during her second term.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Lori earned a masters in psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology as a National Science Foundation graduate fellow.

Contact Lori at

Jackie Ogden knew she wanted to spend her life working with animals after she touched a snake and was introduced to a bird of prey during the San Diego Zoo’s summer camp.

At Canopy Strategic Partners, she uses her more than 30 years’ experience in the zoological world to help clients find and develop their leadership teams, craft strategic plans, and create organizational cultures that support their vision for the future.

Jackie spent 19 years with The Walt Disney Company, where she served as vice president of animals, science, and environment for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. During her years there, Jackie helped Disney achieve national and international recognition for their work in animal wellbeing, conservation, education, science, and environmental sustainability. Her executive experience provides Canopy clients with unique guidance in these areas, as well as leadership and administration.

Jackie is well known within both the global and national zoological communities. She has served as chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and was a key developer for both the AZA’s Executive Leadership Development Program and AZA’s SAFE program – Saving Animals from Extinction. She also works with nonprofit boards, including Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders and GRACE: The Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center, as well as advisory boards for projects related to guest research, environmental education, and conservation psychology.

She received her PhD in general/experimental psychology, with a specialization in animal behavior from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She also is certified in executive coaching.

Jackie’s work at Canopy is inspired by a belief that zoos, aquariums, and related cultural attractions need great leaders to realize a vision of communities acting together to drive movement for wildlife.

Contact Jackie at


Anna Musun-Miller’s career in conservation began with a question: who wrote the exhibit signs she saw as a teen volunteer at Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas? The answer led her to a decades-long passion for telling stories about animals, museums, and the natural world.

As Canopy’s director of planning, she asks meaningful questions of clients and their stakeholders to identify the shared visions and values that will define the direction of the organization. Her detailed strategic plans plot the story of an organization’s future, with objectives, distinct actions, and measurable results so clients can celebrate when they’ve achieved success.

Anna has been blending stories and science since her school days where she double majored in anthropology and English at Vanderbilt University, and then completed a master’s degree in museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. She has expertise in strategic and interpretive planning, content development, and evaluation training and planning.

She worked for 15 years as an exhibit developer, curator, and manager creating guest experiences that connect people to an organization’s mission. As an independent consultant, she assisted institutions of every size and every stage of development, from just erecting steel to 160 years and counting. She’s worked on projects with zoos, aquariums, children’s museums, living history sites, National Heritage Areas, public television stations, and museums of art, history, and culture.

Anna’s passion for doing work that is meaningful underlies her commitment to Canopy’s clients. She believes that by contributing to their success, she’s playing a small part in creating a better future for our planet.

Contact Anna at

Charles Hopper provides Of Counsel services and expertise to the Canopy team on equity, diversity, and accessibility initiatives and business and finance strategies.

His unique perspectives and guidance will assist Canopy to grow our leadership and executive search offerings. Charles has 15+ years of experience in the aquarium field, helping to connect and inspire guests in protecting our ocean planet. As the Chief Operating Officer at Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, CA, he provides strategic leadership and is responsible for oversight of organizational strategy, business development, and operational execution.

Charles was previously Senior Manager of Business Operations at the Seattle Aquarium. He served in the United States Air Force out of Lackland, Altus, and McChord Air Base(s). An AZA Professional Fellow, Charles has also served on the AZA Professional Development Committee and the AZA Business Operations Committee.

In his (very little) spare time, he founded and owns Raw Finger Productions, a professional music production company for TV and film.

Contact Charles at

Kim Lengel has devoted her three-decade zoological career to creating environments where animals, employees, volunteers, and guests succeed. She believes transformative change happens when individuals—whether human or animal, paid or volunteer, guest or employee—are self-actualized and aligned with an organization’s strategic mission.

At Canopy Strategic Partners, she draws on her extensive experience in zoo leadership to provide executive coaching that creates visionary leaders. She provides essential guidance on hiring and employee engagement, cultivating community relations, managing complex initiatives, and operational issues—including animal husbandry, change management, accreditation, and conservation science. She helps guide organizations to attract and hire the right people, empower them to meet the organization’s goals, and then give them the autonomy to succeed.

Kim was attracted to Canopy by the opportunity to help zoos, aquariums, and cultural attractions leverage their most unique assets—their diverse animal populations and natural collections—in service of their mission. She helps organizations facilitate connections between animals, people, and the environment by integrating audience programming, animal husbandry and training, conservation action, sustainable operation, and attentive human resources for maximum mission realization.  

Kim started her career as an intern with the Philadelphia Zoo, and has held various leadership roles at the zoo, including vice president of conservation and education, international conservation program leader, general curator, and children’s zoo director.

She led the Philadelphia Zoo’s efforts to redesign its educational programming to reach people of all backgrounds and abilities. Her changes improved the accessibility and experience for people with cognitive and physical disabilities. Additionally, she partnered with local school districts to connect students with animals and nature through programs that met state and district educational requirements.

Kim earned her Bachelors degree with honors in biology from Franklin & Marshall College and her Master’s degree in biology from Villanova University. Her graduate work in conservation genetics launched a more than 20-year project to save the critically endangered Rodrigues fruit bat from extinction. She spearheaded the partnership between the Philadelphia Zoo and a local preservation trust to establish an environmental education and conservation program that reversed the bats’ extinction trajectory.

In addition to her work at Canopy, Kim teaches a course in the Animal Biotechnology and Conservation program at Delaware Valley University.

Kim is passionate about helping zoos and cultural attractions engage their communities in action that makes a difference in the world at large.

Sherrie Graham brings more than 35 years of hands-on non-profit executive and fundraising experience to our team. Over an extensive career, she has developed a depth of expertise in a range of critical areas including organizational development, board management, and team building. She has sat on ‘both sides of the desk,’ running an organization, but also providing expert counsel to Presidents, Development Staff, and Boards. She’s raised money, developed programs, and implemented plans, driving institutions to higher levels of achievement. Most recently she was the Director of Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan. Hired as the Executive Director of the Potter Park Zoological Society, she crafted a successful public/private partnership between the Society and Ingham County, the government entity responsible for animal care and park maintenance and then was named Zoo Director. Shedding the past traditional bifurcated leadership, Potter Park was positioned to grow and flourish under Sherrie’s leadership. She built a strong, talented and cohesive management team that worked together to develop a long term strategic plan, expand the animal collection, add new exhibits and attractions, enhance the grounds, improve the guest experience, implement new education and conservation programs, initiate new events, communication, membership, and fund development strategies as well as improve employee morale and job satisfaction, Sherrie has served on numerous professional committees and boards and has spoken extensively around the country on Women in Leadership. Sherrie graduated from Adrian College with a BA in Elementary Education and Music and has done extensive graduate work in both education and leadership.

Contact Sherrie at


Denise Aster has a broad leadership background in the Attractions Industry stemming from her 32 years working for AZA accredited facilities. She has stewarded many departments to high levels of success over the last 15 years, including Animal Husbandry, Public Safety, Site Security, Guest Service, and Visitor Experience. Denise’s service and expertise include project management, risk management, asset protection, facility operations, organizational restructure, box office operations, standard operating procedures and policies, AZA accreditation, and business management.

As the Attractions Director at Adventure Aquarium, Denise routinely analyzed the results and principle components of daily operation and systematically corrected conditions in order to reach established objectives. She elevated the guest experience and has contributed by improving Net Promoter Scores.

In addition, Denise led the startup of many new and novel attractions, expansions, and grand openings. These operational experiences have given her a unique understanding of guest expectations and how to improve on the visitor experience.

Denise has been on the AZA accreditation inspection team for 15 years and has served as a mentor for facilities seeking accreditation.

Contact Denise at

Kristin Elliott‘s passion for exploring our country’s national parks has inspired a sense of responsibility for conservation that she brings to her work with Canopy Strategic Partners.

At Canopy, Kristin shares the latest thought leadership insights from zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and cultural attractions through the Articles blog,  Community Conversations Webinars, and Speechless Podcast series. The “voice” of Canopy on social media, she takes joy in sharing the successes of Canopy’s clients, whether they’re executing a master or strategic plan or celebrating the impact they’re making in their community.

Kristin joined Canopy with more than two decades of experience in digital and traditional strategic marketing. She has served as a vice president for marketing, public relations, communications, and management consulting firms, including SVA Bio-Ops, Gregory FCA, and Digitas Health. She also has led marketing strategy for product launches across top-tier life sciences companies.

Kristin’s commitment to her work at Canopy comes from a belief that we all have a role to play in educating and conserving natural resources – whether they be animals or plants, open spaces, or natural wonders.

Contact Kristin at

Paul Noland is an accomplished senior executive with unique experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, operations, finance, and revenue management. He has helped build world-class organizations that deliver industry-leading results in both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds. Paul’s experience includes leading cross-functional teams dedicated to strategic growth at The Walt Disney Company, Marriott International, the International Association of amusement parks and Attractions and Accesso Technology Group. He currently serves and CEO and Principal of RPN Associates, a management consulting and project management firm. 

Christina Castellano, PhD, MBA, is driven by her life-long passion for promoting action for the conservation of wildlife and developing solutions that benefit our planet. For over two decades Christina has been building, implementing, and promoting strategic conservation and business programs. She has led successful field-based endangered species projects and facilitated wildlife initiatives within cultural and academic institutions worldwide.  

Her extensive background with zoos and aquariums and other non-profit organizations includes executive leadership roles with Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Zoos Victoria, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, and HawkWatch International. Equipped with a solid business acumen for budgets, forecasting and fiscal oversight, operational improvements, fundraising, grant making, and conservation strategic planning. She is also an accomplished team leader able to cultivate strong relationships and engagement with donors, staff members, community leaders and stakeholders. Her enthusiasm for preserving the natural world is contagious.

Christina has served in noteworthy roles for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, including Program Coordinator for SAFE, Vice Chair of the Wildlife Conservation Committee, and on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Conservation Grants Fund. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences from Fordham University and completed her Master of Business Administration from Western Governors University. Christina is an internationally recognized conservation biologist and author of 20+ publications.

Imme Hüttmann, Ph.D., has been developing her passion and career in informal education institutions for over 15 years. Imme’s background includes cultural heritage conservation and heritage policies, museum research, evaluation, and exhibit development.

Her early interests in informal education were sparked by casual museum visits as a student of fine arts at the University of Costa Rica. At the University of Tsukuba, Japan, she completed a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage Conservation Sciences and a Ph.D. in Central American Cultural Heritage Policies.

Imme was previously a Research and Evaluation Associate at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where she helped develop and design bilingual exhibits, led the research and evaluation of numerous projects, and served as a co-PI for an NSF-funded project focused on youth and climate action. She also held the position of the Guest Director of Exhibitions at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Much of Imme’s work revolves around making information more accessible through data visualization, bilingual copywriting, and the use of a multicultural lens. She believes that communication is key so that educational institutions can create positive, meaningful change in the communities they serve.

Kaslin Daniels has a deep commitment to public gardens and a passion for building bonds between people and places. She is an accomplished leader with broad experience in horticulture operations, public/private partnerships, urban and heritage landscapes, and strategic planning.

Kaslin previously served as Assistant Director of Garden Operations at the iconic Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Prior to that, she completed the Longwood Fellows Program, the world’s premiere development program for leaders in public horticulture. She has broad professional experience at a variety of public horticulture institutions, from urban parks to secluded pleasure gardens, including at the NYC Parks Department, Central Park Conservancy, Wave Hill, Mt Cuba Center, Our City Forest, and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in heritage studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and her bachelor’s degree in biology from Reed College.

Kaslin is an enthusiastic advocate for the expansion of access to public green space and the role it plays in community vitality and environmental sustainability. She leverages her international perspective and expertise in horticulture, leadership, and heritage to develop dynamic, multifunctional, and community-driven green spaces.

Lauren David has always had a love for animals and the outdoors. From a very young age, she enjoyed exploring local zoos, aquariums, and museums. Now, she has the honor of working hand in hand with these community organizations and she couldn’t be more thrilled!

As Canopy’s Project Coordinator, Lauren uses her project management expertise to support her fellow Canopy team members in any way she can. She plays a critical role in the project planning process and works alongside the team and clients to ensure each project is executed smoothly. She has a passion for supporting and helping others and takes pride in being a resource for everyone.

Lauren began her career stage managing at various theaters throughout the U.S. Working in outdoor theaters such as Williamstown, American Players Theater, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Shakes in the Park will always be wonderful memories from early on.

From there, Lauren transitioned to an administrative career working in the architectural design and construction industry where she enhanced her project management skills and utilized her strengths as a team member, leader, and problem solver.

Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Production & Stage Management from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

She strives to champion Canopy’s philosophy to provide clients with thoughtful solutions and the resources they need to succeed for their organizations and communities. Lauren hopes that by doing this, she is a part of something much larger—making our world a better place! 

Contact Lauren at

Elise Bernardoni was only thirteen when she was certified as a marine mammal medic while on a trip to New Zealand.  Although she never participated in a stranding rescue operation, she still scans every beach she’s on for animals in distress.

Elise’s lifelong love for wildlife drives her calling to work with mission-driven organizations that play a part in saving our world. At Canopy Strategic Partners, she supports clients with strategic, education and engagement, and organizational culture planning. She also supports Canopy’s women in leadership initiative. She is passionate about helping organizations find their “why” through collaboration, consensus building, and uplifting diverse voices.

Before joining Canopy Strategic Partners, Elise spent fifteen years with Friends of the National Zoo’s (FONZ) education team in roles ranging from unpaid intern to education programs department director. While managing the standard portfolio of lifelong learning programs, she also founded and managed an internal grant program supporting keepers and science staff, served on pan-Smithsonian strategic planning teams, and developed innovative cross-departmental organizational plans. Following her time at FONZ, Elise was a founding member of Conservation Nation, where she developed youth leadership programs.

Elise is an ardent believer in giving back to her community. She has served as president of the National Capital chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK); is a long-time instructor in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Learning professional development courses; and is an Education Co-Advisor for the Felid Taxonomic Advisory Group.  Elise is also an Industry Advisory Board member for the Washington, D.C. Public School System.

Elise holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater from Carnegie Mellon University and a Masters of Arts in Teaching; Museum Education from The George Washington University.

Contact Elise at

Sharon Joseph’s love affair with animals started while she was still in a stroller visiting the San Diego Zoo. After a brief time thinking she wanted to become a mathematician, Sharon launched her zoo career as a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. From there, her career has spanned time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Animal Care Manager), pre-opening and opening teams at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Curator), Houston Zoo (VP of Animal Operations), and Denver Zoo (Director of Animal Welfare and Research). Sharon is energized by building things, whether a new theme park, taking an aging facility from disrepair to prominence, or launching or rebuilding a program.

Now an independent consultant, Sharon provides contract services for zoos and other sites such as nature centers. She has strong interpersonal, leadership, teamwork, and partnering skills and a demonstrated ability to build effective programs that advance organizational objectives. She effectively applies these skills in the areas of animal care and wellbeing, AZA Accreditation, emergency response procedures, operating procedures, organizational leadership, process improvement, staff training and development, and project management. Sharon values working together with a variety of stakeholders to improve animal and organizational wellbeing. 

Sharon is currently the Chair of the AZA Animal Welfare Committee and past Chair of the AZA Professional Development Committee. She was a member of the AZA Board Animal Welfare Task Force that developed the new AZA Animal Wellbeing Strategy recently launched and is currently a member of the AZA Board Elephant Strategy Task Force. She is an instructor in the AZA Professional Development courses Principles of Elephant Management and Animal Welfare: Evidence-Based Management.

Sharon is a “process person,” but not process for the sake of process, but process that yields real improvements. And while she believes we need to employ change management practices for individual initiatives, we should also be focusing on building a staff that is “change-ready.” She is passionate about the interconnections between animals, people, and organizational health, and is especially fond of the saying “where people matter, and animals thrive” coined by retired San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Corporate Director of Animal Health Dr. Don Janssen.

+49 856 9568 95

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