Meet Team Zovargo's Animal Educators!
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 non-profit. 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 Training through the Association for Zoos and Aquariums, and has a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of San Diego.
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.
Juliana Henao, Senior Animal Educator
Juliana's love for animals must have stemmed from her grandmother, who would selfishly steal the baby chicks from their mama to cuddle with them at night! Or maybe it was from her grandfather, who brought home a grand total of 5 stray dogs once!
Wherever it came from, its strong roots have led Juliana to the Zovargo team as an animal educator, where animal conservation and education can inspire other kids to help animals in need. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the joy and fascination in the eyes of children when they learn about Zovargo's animal ambassadors!
Being the cat lady that she is, she loves surrounding herself with other animal lovers that care for the environment and want to protect animal habitats. She believes that making an impact on the young minds of children is the best way to really make a change for the better, and Zovargo does just that!
Marissa Villanueva, Animal Educator
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.
Sarah Fletcher, Animal Educator
Growing up on a farm, Sarah has always loved animals. Living near San Diego State University, where Sarah is currently obtaining a BSN in Nursing, she definitely started to feel a certain lack of the nature aspect of life that Sarah grew up with.
Zovargo has allowed her to not only be around animals but has pushed Sarah to broaden her horizons and learn more about all the special critters. Sarah feels so lucky to be around such great animals and people all the time working with Zovargo as an animal educator!
Jennifer Hayward, Educator / Administrative Superstar
Growing up on a steady diet of David Attenborough documentaries and bi-weekly bird watching outings, Jenny developed a strong interest in nature which ultimately led to her completing her undergraduate degree in Zoology. After graduating in 2013 she travelled to Canada to intern in wildlife rehabilitation centers that helped injured and abandoned animals (from black bears to chipmunks to pigeons to MANY raccoons) get back to good health for re-release in the wild.
She has volunteered and worked in countless animal organizations: in a reptile and amphibian zoo department, as an assistant keeper in a zoo primate department, as a dog walker and cat feeder for a re-homing organization... even in food preparation and distribution for abandoned fox cubs. After working in a veterinary hospital for several months as an animal care assistant she decided to pursue a masters in applied animal behavior and welfare at Edinburgh University. This led to an amazing opportunity to travel to San Diego to study honeybees at UCSD for her thesis. Alongside completing her M.Sc. she began volunteering at San Diego zoo (with a focus on helping study Elephant personalities and learning) and last but definitely not least began interning with 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!
Rhittyaa Hang, Photographer
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!