Meet Team Zovargo
Our team is built on the foundation of animal welfare, conservation, and youth education. As any team, it's only as strong as the individuals who put their time, hearts, and energy into our organization.
Zovargo is extremely lucky to have talented, compassionate individuals who strive to make a change in the local community by giving their time and energy to Zovargo.
Amanda Plante, Animal Educator / Creator/CEO
Three themes have continued throughout Amanda's life: continued dedication to learning and teaching, passion for conservation, and a never-ending love for all animals! Zovargo is the creative combination of these themes resulting in a genuine desire to spread conservation awareness and help 'save the world.'
She has served as a devoted volunteer wildlife animal educator and rehabilitator for many years. In this position she helps the community learn how to coexist with wildlife and has rehabilitated hundred of birds of prey (raptors). Amanda has also developed and managed an education/outreach program for a local wild parrot rescue. She is a Navy Veteran and works as a trainer and web application administrator for the Navy as a Department of Defense employee.
Amanda has an MBA and a Bachelor of Science. Additionally, she is a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG), has completed Conservation Education and Program Animal Management Training through the Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and has a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of San Diego. Most recently, Amanda completed the AZA's comprehensive professional development program, earning a certificate in Education & Interpretation.
Larry Miller, Stewardship Guide
Coming from a family that would go out of their way for any stray animal; the concepts of care, rescue, and rehabilitation for all animals was instilled within Larry’s core values as a young child. As a way to connect with the world and give back to the planet he is an advocate for conservation.
Larry studied Microbiology at the University of California Santa Barbara before pursuing a career in the IT field. Having held numerous Information Technology (IT) support roles throughout his profession; interacting and mentoring individuals are common daily tasks. He is also an active volunteer for multiple wildlife organizations.
When not implementing new technologies, Larry spends his free time tending to wildlife rehabilitation patients, volunteering at booth events, giving presentations, speeches and talks for various audiences. You’ll find him researching and studying in an effort to support the continuous development of new education programs. Zovargo is the ideal platform that allows him to combine his skills and devotion to conservation awareness.
Marissa Villanueva, Senior Animal Educator, Zovargoian
In a party full of people, Marissa would naturally gravitate toward the dog (and every other critter in the vicinity)! As a young girl, her bedroom walls were plastered with pictures published in National Geographic of animals from around the globe! Towers of paperback books filled with animal facts guard her bedside. Marissa is lucky enough to have had several animal interactions with a variety of pets at home and through volunteering and educational programs.
When an animal conservation group visited her classroom in elementary school, Marissa was informed that people just like her could make a difference. Through Zovargo, Marissa is determined to help foster a connection between animals and people and hopes every program inspires the public to help preserve nature for future generations to enjoy!
Marissa is currently working on obtaining her undergraduate degree in Psychology. She plans on continuing her education after graduation by either working towards an advanced degree in School Psychology or attending Moorpark College to earn a degree in Exotic Animal Educator Training and Management.
Jorge Ibarra, Senior Photographer
Since his childhood, Jorge has been in touch with different kinds of animals. Back at home, he and his family learned to look after their dogs, ducks, peacocks, parrots, macaws, cockatoos and parakeets with respect, care and kindness. When not interacting with their pets, Jorge and his brothers would play soccer, hide and seek, tag, and visit the old, big log at the backyard, roll it aside and handpick their favorite insects from the many that wildly scattered all over the place.
During his free time, he plays golf, goes hiking, cycling, tastes beer and travels around the West U.S. – Mexico border region. Currently enrolling in digital photography in San Diego, he enjoys photographing places, events, people, fine art and animals; particularly, small animals, insects and exotic species. Through Zovargo, Jorge seeks to bring the audience closer to nature’s living marvels, and raise awareness of related current trends and issues. For him, wildlife and environment preservation practices are paramount in leaving a worthy legacy for our future generations.
Vanessa Morgan, Animal Educator, Zovargoian
Even before she could remember animals have always been Vanessa’s passion. Rather than playing with dolls she would much rather play with her own little animal kingdom with animals from all over the world. This passion remained consistent and lead her to pursue raising a variety of livestock and eventually pointed her in the direction of Zovargo. It was through Zovargo that she discovered that she didn't just have a passion for animals, but a passion for the Earth. Now, Vanessa is working towards a degree in environmental science and hopes to pursue a career in sustainability.
Rhittyaa Hang, Digitial Media/Marketing
Rhittyaa is a young spirit but with an old soul. You'll probably end up seeing him either snoozing on the grass at the nearest park enjoying the breeze, or wandering up the trails of the closest mountains to him. He love the adventures that nature can give him which in turn gives him stories he loves to tell.
Just last year he moved into the big city from a small town to get his degree in Graphic and Web Design. Throughout that he realized he was missing something and later on had rediscovered his love for nature. His dream is to be an art director for National Geographic. While still a long way to go, he's assured that nature is on his side. He strongly follows these two messages that helps him keep his head up. "Listen to nature, and she will listen back." and "The best version of yourself is when you are outdoors."
When Rhittyaa was a child, he crossed paths with a bright red fox! That experience began his early connection with the Fox and with nature!
Ehani Hunter, Animal Educator
Ehani's love for animals started when she was just a young child. From the very beginning Ehani has always preferred animals over people and has volunteered for other animal organizations throughout her life. Her first Pitbull, Monkee, was super special to her because it was her responsibility to take care of him. She loves that Zovargo teaches about animals and conservation to help spread the word on how to make the world a better place.
Currently enrolled at Mesa College, Ehani is studying Animal Science. Her goal is to become a large exotic Animal Veterinarian so that she can help make a difference for animals that are most threatened.
Sarah Gleason, Animal Educator
Sarah was always the person people trusted to take care of their animals. Her family always referred to her as the “animal whisperer”. Years later, she now gets to take part in a wonderful organization that not only allows her to handle all types of different animals but also educate people about them and their conservational messages.
She is currently the proud owner of a cat, frog, gecko, snake, millipedes and a tortoise and jokes that one day she will have a zoo of her own.
Sarah’s volunteered with animal adoption organizations, soup kitchens and currently tutors refugee students that have made San Diego their new home. She is currently enrolled in the honors college at San Diego State studying Biology and is part of a research lab studying the sensory ecology of rattlesnakes.
Angelica Grunloh, Animal Educator
Angelica, born into an extended family of herbalists and wilderness-loving hippie types, was instilled with a love and respect for natural things from the jump. She grew up with many pets (mostly wild lizards delivered by her well-meaning father) and her love of animals has been growing and evolving since she can remember. In her late teens, she deviated from the flower child template that her family had laid out and she channelled her love of nature into scientific pursuits. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from UC Davis and plans to someday continue her education and pursue a career in the field, studying the responses of wildlife to man-made changes in their environments.
Currently, she works in a restaurant, volunteers with a group that rehabilitates injured and displaced wildlife, and loves every minute of interning with Zovargo. When she’s not working, she spends her time hiking, gardening, and raising “the best dog to have ever lived:” a pitbull mutt she found in Davis. She grew up watching animal programs and she understands the impact that conservation-based education had on who she is today, and she loves that Zovargo has given her the opportunity to inspire the next round of advocates and environmentalists.
Ann-Cathrin Howard, Animal Educator
Since childhood, Ann-Cathrin has been an absolute animal lover. Having been fortunate enough to grow up with many different kinds of pets and rehabilitating wildlife growing up, Ann-Cathrin could not imagine her life without animals. She is also a passionate environmentalist and spreading the word about conservation to help nature and make the world a better place for future generations is very important to her.
After attending a presentation by Zovargo, Ann-Cathrin knew that she had found the right place to share her passion for animals and the environment.
Ann-Cathrin was born and raised in Germany. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Geography, as well as a Master of Arts in International Relations. Ann works at the Center for Plant Conservation at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park when she is not working at Zovargo.
Angelina Nguyen, Videographer
Growing up, Angelina was surrounded by pets. She had a father who loved animals just as much as she did and introduced her to all sorts of different species. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in the animal field, but didn't know which job specifically.
While Angelina was attending college, she realized that she had an interest in creating video content. So she decided to combine her hobby of video editing and her passion for animals.
One day, she stumbled across an internship posting for Zovargo. The listing stated that this animal conservation program needed a videographer to join their team! Of course, thinking this was the perfect position for her, she applied and the rest is history!
Extended Zovargo Team
Todd Jackson, Videographer
Trenton Badillo, Photographer