Meet Zoo Staff

Meet the Staff of the Alaska Zoo

PATRICK LAMPI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I am from Silverdale, Washington and moved to Alaska in 1973. I worked for local airlines until I began at the zoo in 1986. I was a zookeeper until I became Curator in 1993. I was promoted to Executive Director in 2005. Some of my favorite experiences have been raising bear cubs, training raptors and doing programs for children. My interests include fishing, skiing, hiking, camping, snow sculpting and hunting.

SHANNON JENSEN, CURATOR: I am originally from Washington and graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor of science degree in Wildlife Biology (GO COUGS!!). I was hired as a zookeeper in 1995. I have worked with birds, black bears, camels, moose, seal and otters. My interests within the animal field include wildlife nutrition, behavioral enrichment, training with positive reinforcement and animal behavior. I was promoted to Curator in September 2005. My interests include rowing, being a mom and hiking.

THOMAS "SMITTY" SMITH, ASSISTANT CURATOR: I was a zookeeper at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs for 8 1/2 years taking care of hoofstock, felines, primates and birds of prey. I moved to Alaska in the spring of 1994 to work at the Alaska Zoo. I became Head Zookeeper in 1995 when our Amur tigers arrived. I have worked for years with the tigers, snow leopards, Dall sheep, reindeer, porcupines and yaks among others. I have also added the care of our reptile collection to my list of animals at the zoo. I was promoted to the Deputy Curator position in 2015, assisting our Curator Shannon Jensen with animal and staff management tasks. My interests include spending time with my pets and photography.

JIM RUTKOWSKI, ZOOKEEPER: I am from the New England area and moved to Alaska in the fall of 1989. I began work as a zookeeper in 1998. I provide care for most of the animals at the zoo throughout a normal work week. Some of the animals I care for include the tigers, snow leopards, porcupines, reptiles and reindeer. Over my years here, my favorite experiences have been helping to hand-raise a baby musk ox (in 2000) and a river otter (in 2002). I was involved in their training and also helped to present education programs about them. My interests outside of work include hiking and fishing.

BETH FOGLESONG, ZOOKEEPER: My husband and I moved to Alaska in 1998. Prior to the zoo, I spent 6 years in Maryland working for an equine Veterinarian/Quarter Horse breeder. I have been around animals all of my life, with jobs from pet sitter to riding instructor. One of my favorite zoo moments was the introduction of our late-resident coyotes, Archie and Wiley. We released them together into a larger exhibit and watching them interact always made me smile!

TIM LESCHER, ZOOKEEPER: I have worked for various zoos, fisheries and wildlife agencies since 2003 including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Department of Conservation, California Department of Fish and Game and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. I hold a BS in Biology from University of Missouri, and a Master’s degree in Biology from University of Missouri-St. Louis. I have found a home as a zookeeper at the Alaska Zoo where I get to put my experience and education to use caring for the animals and giving educational talks. I enjoy hiking, camping and painting as well as reading books on natural history and conservation topics. My wife Rachel and I live in Anchorage with our two dogs, Karma and Sadie.

CHRISTIN GROTH, ZOOKEEPER: I grew up on my family's dairy farm in Wisconsin and discovered the Alaska Zoo as an intern for college credit during the summer of 2011. I became a full-time zookeeper after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2012. As a zookeeper at the Alaska Zoo, I love working in an environment that allows me to provide a quality life for captive wildlife, learn about them and extrapolate that information to others. When I'm not working, you can find me at the Alaska Rock Gym, hiking Alaska's wilderness (well, good luck finding me there!!) or trying not to crash my RC plane.

ANGELICA EVANS, ZOOKEEPER: I grew up in California where I spent my time competitive swimming, raising guide dogs, and volunteering at the local wild animal sanctuary. After high school, I moved to Colorado where I worked at a domestic sheep farm as well as an animal hospital while attending Colorado State University. Following my graduation, I was introduced to the Alaska Zoo as a summer intern and the next year made the move up as a zookeeper. Though I am still new to the zoo world, I have learned so much about all of the animals I care for and I enjoy conveying that information to help preserve their species. When I’m not at the zoo, I’m spending my free time exploring Alaska with my 10yr old black lab, friends and a good beer.

SAMANTHA CASTLE, ENRICHMENT COORDINATOR: I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska and have been an enthusiastic Alaska Zoo visitor for as long as I can remember. I started working here as a summer intern, returned the following summer as a relief zookeeper, and became the full-time Enrichment Coordinator after graduating college. Researching and creating new ways to keep the zoo residents engaged, enthralled, and mentally stimulated in their captive environments is very rewarding, and I am grateful to work hands-on with so many amazing animals. Some of my favorite experiences include helping raise an orphaned wolf pack, training bear cubs, and watching the introduction of our resident wolverines. Outside of the zoo, I enjoy fishing, camping, and hiking with my dog.

JAMIE GAGNON, COFFEE SHOP MANAGER

DOUG STEWART, EVENTS MANAGER: I am the proud father of four boys. I became involved in PTA on both a local and state level. I traveled as a national and international motivational speaker for 20 years, talking with thousands of youth about self-esteem and suicide prevention. After being on the road for speaking engagements, I decided it was time to raise a family and build a career in Anchorage, Alaska. I have a background in Psychology and Education and experience with many community and non-profit organizations. I am on the Leadership Council for the American Lung Association, Board of Equalization for the city of Anchorage, Head Coach for the West Anchorage High School DDF Team and a Cub Scout Leader. I enjoy working with customers to create perfect events and memories in our rental facilities here at the Alaska Zoo.

SUE HEDGE, GIFT SHOP MANAGER

STEPHANIE HARTMAN, EDUCATION DIRECTOR: My husband and I moved to Anchorage after graduating from Washington State University in 2006. I began at the Alaska Zoo as a zookeeper and trainer working with the birds, otters, black bears, moose, wolves and polar bears. After working as a keeper for over four years, I joined the Education Department as the Camp Coordinator, and then after about a year was given the amazing job as Education Director. The Alaska Zoo has given me many phenomenal opportunities and by far the best is my relationship with the zoo's wolf pack that I have been privileged enough to have raised and continue to interact with since their arrival in 2006.

RYAN KILDEA, CAMP COORDINATOR: I moved up to Alaska from Philomath, Oregon in the fall of 2015 after graduating from Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. While going to school, I worked as the Lead Educator and Fair Manager for Brads World Reptiles, a company specializing in zoo-quality, traveling, reptile exhibits. In 2013, I met my girlfriend while working the reptile exhibit at the Alaska State Fair, which helped prompt my move up to Alaska after graduation. Our passion for cold-blooded creatures brought us together and we now have over 60 different reptiles, amphibians, and insects that we keep, breed, and will bring to educational shows. While my true passion is working and teaching people about reptiles, it has been a blessing being able to work with the amazing mammals and birds here at the Alaska Zoo.

SAMANTHA LAVIN, DISTANCE LEARNING COORDINATOR: I was born in Anchorage and grew up visiting the Alaska Zoo. After college, I moved to Montana and spent several years on my hobby farm of misfit pets and a lot of time practicing and learning as much as I could about wildlife rehabilitation for orphaned and injured animals. I volunteered as an educator for the State of Montana teaching people of all ages about being outdoors and wildlife. When I moved home with my insanely supportive husband, the Alaska Zoo became home for the ambassador porcupine I had spent four years doing education programs with, and eventually I found my way here as well.

NATHAN HOLLENBECK, OUTREACH COORDINATOR: I graduated from Alaska Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Environmental Science. I have experience working with big cats, bears, primates, small aquariums and a variety of other wildlife. My true passions are scuba diving, octopus and providing education through outreach and research.

KATIE LARSON, GRAPHICS AND WEBMASTER: I grew up in Kansas and moved to Alaska in 1998. I have a B.S. in Biology from Kansas State University and attended Eastern Kentucky University for post-graduate work. My work experience includes designing interpretive programs for State Parks in Kansas (summer intern), working as a technician at Konza Tallgrass Prairie reserve in Kansas and being a wildlife technician for biological surveys in Kentucky. I was hired as Education Director in 1998 and left that position in October 2011 to focus on updating zoo interpretive signs for visitors, producing graphics projects for zoo marketing, writing the zoo's bi-annual newsletter and maintaining the website. I relocated to Fairbanks in 2011, where I spend my free time with my family, chickens, rabbits and sled dog team at our off-the-grid homestead in the hills.

JEANNETTE MENCHINSKY, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR: I love the Alaska Zoo! I have been coming to the zoo since 1982 and never dreamed of someday working here. As the Development Director, I get to advocate for the Alaska Zoo by making sure it is funded for years to come. I have the experience, education and "go to" attitude to get the job done. I love all of the animals and people at the zoo. I still can't believe I get to go to the zoo every day! This is a dream job!

HEATHER SCHAAD, OFFICE MANAGER

HEATHER DONCASTER, VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR: I am from Quincy, Washington and moved to Alaska in August 2004. I have an A.A. degree from Wenatchee Valley College, and a B.S. in Biology Education and Art Education from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, ID. I am a science/art teacher at Clark Middle school and was hired as Volunteer Coordinator in September 2005. I enjoy giving Discovery tours and helping with zoo babies in the summer. I hang out with my own tiny home zoo of "the world's cutest tiny dog", cats, fish, turtles, a parakeet, a mouse and more additions in the future! I am very artistic and often spend my free time painting, making jewelry or pottery. I also like to go camping, ride my motorcycle and play/coach sports.

DAWN LEMONS, DATA ENTRY: I am originally from Oregon (5 generations) and graduated from UOP with a Masters in Adult/Distance Education and a Bachelors from Linfield in Social/Behavioral Science. I was hired to assist the Office Manager and Development Director at the Alaska Zoo in 2013. I have always enjoyed animals and have owned a wide variety of pets over the years. I enjoy gardening, fishing, hunting, shooting, crafting and learning new things. I also enjoy spending time with my 3 children, 6 grandchildren and my cat Payne.

ED BAIER, HEAD GARDENER: I have lived in Alaska since 1982 and worked at the Zoo as a Gardener since May 2002. Since our growing season is so short, late May to September, we start most of our flowers from seed in our greenhouse in January. Some of the hardier and more popular flowers we start are cineraria, delphinium, salvia, echinacea, lobelia, geranium, violets, dianthus, and cosmos. Fuchsia, clivia, gerbera, osteospermum, ivy geranium, periwinkle, and hibiscus are some of the plants we over-winter. Only the hardiest can survive in winter (-20F). Some of them are hosta, false spirea, monkshood, trollius, sedum, primrose, bleeding heart, and peony.

KEVIN PICKEL, PROJECT AND FACILITIES MANAGER: I am originally from Lancaster, PA. My wife and I moved to Alaska in 1992. I was initially hired by the zoo in 1992 to be a carpenter. My experience included attending Technical School and 6 years of carpentry, including certification. Two years after starting at the zoo, I became Maintenance Director. My duties and experience at the zoo include plumbing, electrical work, and both exhibit and general maintenance. I also supervise other staff. I was recently promoted to Project Manager, supervising the construction of several new projects. My interests include hunting, fishing, shooting, and spending time with my daughter and wife.

BOB RAUTH, NIGHT SECURITY WATCHMAN: I was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Colorado. I started married life managing a ranch in Colorado then moved on to working as a cowboy, feed truck driver, and Assistant Manager on cattle feed lots in Kansas and Nebraska for 30 years. I am married, have six children, and 17 grandchildren and great-grand children. Moved to Alaska and took a job at the Alaska Zoo as Night Security Watchman.