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Island Arks Symposium VII Keynote Speakers

Symposium MC

Jessica McKelson, Conservation Manager, Phillip Island Nature Parks

Jessica McKelson swapped primates for penguins when she joined Phillip Island Nature Parks as Conservation Manager in 2018. Jess is a serious, driven and passionate conservationist who also has a desire to inspire future conservation leaders – especially women. Her previous roles include 13 years at Melbourne Zoo supervising the Primate Department and managing the Orangutan Quarantine Centre and pre-release training program in Aceh, Indonesia.  She is also founder of Jungle Sistas, an organisation established to mentor women leaders who work in conservation wildlife management. Jess brings advanced skills in project and business management, animal welfare, staff development and leadership, conservation program strategy and visitor and stakeholder relations to her role. Now an integral part of the Millowl (Phillip Island) community, Jess has led the Conservation Team to many successes including the development of the organisation’s first 30-Year Conservation Vision and Threatened Species Plan and guiding the welfare and rehabilitation of wildlife including 12 bushfire affected koalas from Gippsland.

Jessi Morgan, General Manager, Predator Free New Zealand Trust.

Jessi has been with the Trust since its inception in 2013. The Trust’s mission is to encourage, support and connect people and community groups all over New Zealand in their efforts to suppress and ultimately eradicate pest predators such as rats, possums, wild cats, stoats and mustelids. Before working at the Trust, Jessi led the Million Dollar Mouse fundraising campaign, a joint project between the Morgan Foundation and the Department of Conservation, raising a million dollars to eradicate mice from Antipodes Island. The project was confirmed as successful in early 2018 and endemic species on the island are now thriving. Jessi also led the Our Far South expedition, a programme that raised awareness of the issues facing the Sub-Antarctic Islands, Southern Ocean and Antarctic. She brings business and corporate experience from her previous life as Head of Operations at Trade Me, a role she held for ten years.

Dr Rachel Paltridge, Kiwirrkurra IPA Coordinator

Dr Rachel Paltridge is an ecologist who has spent 20 years as a freelance ecologist based in Alice Springs working on a variety of threatened species monitoring and management programs across the deserts of WA and NT and in the Gulf of Carpentaria. She is passionate about 2-way Science and Management, integrating Indigenous knowledge, skills, strengths and motivations with contemporary science, technology and research methods. Controlling the impacts of feral cats has been a common theme of her work with Indigenous Rangers over the past three decades. Rachel currently works as the Coordinator of the Kiwirrkurra Indigenous Protected Area, but disappears to the Pellew Islands whenever possible.

Dr Caroline Blanvillain

Caroline Blanvillain has a PhD & a veterinary PhD and is a conservationist. Caroline is in charge with land bird conservation for SOP manu (a French Polynesia ONG) since 2012 and has worked for this ONG between 1998 and 2003. Caroline initiated the Tahiti monarch recovery program in 1998, with only 21 adult birds identified and now has reached 103 adult birds in 2020 and at the same time learning to fight more than 10 invasive species in order to protect the birds, including the use of a drone against ants. She has also established a security population for a giant Pigeon and has found the last population of a nearly extinct ground dove and worked to establish a strong biosecurity of the two last inhabited islands of French Polynesia free from black rat.

Dr Mark Norman, Chief Conservation Scientist and Executive Director of Environment and Science

Mark joined Parks Victoria as Chief Conservation Scientist in April 2016. Mark is responsible for Parks Victoria’s nature conservation and research programs, ensuring effective evidence-based conservation management and support for environmental program delivery across the state. The Environment and Science Division works closely with a wide range of researchers, partner agencies, Traditional Owners, stakeholders and community groups in addressing nature conservation needs and challenges. Mark has extensive experience in wildlife research, biodiversity surveys and science communication. He is also well known as an effective science communicator. Previously, Mark was Head of Sciences at Museums Victoria. His research background has been in marine biology but he has also worked extensively in the establishment of marine protected areas, fisheries research, bird and seal ecology, conservation programs, running terrestrial, freshwater and marine wildlife surveys, science communication, media and ecotourism. Mark holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Zoology, a Diploma of Education (Biology and Environmental Science), and a Doctorate of Zoology from University of Melbourne.


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