Zovargo 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.
“Surround yourself with people who are going to motivate and inspire you.” -Charles M. Marcus
Amanda Plante, CEO, Founder, Animal Educator
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! As the Founder of Zovargo, she crafted an organization that is a combination of these themes resulting in a powerful community-based group of dedicated people (and animals) that help foster conservation stewards and make the world a better place!
Like a true super hero, Ms. Plante has several uniforms and powers! When she is not managing the daily operations at Zovargo, she is working in her other full-time career as a knowledge manager and IT developer for the Navy. In what little spare time exists, she can be found working as a volunteer wildlife educator and raptor rehabilitator; or attending training courses to build on her skills as an educator, zoo manager, and business CEO. She is an awarded Navy Veteran and has remained dedicated to wildlife having served for the same wildlife rehabilitation facility for the last decade!
Amanda has an MBA and a Bachelor of Science. Additionally, she is a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG), Certified as a Knowledge Management (KM) professional; has completed Conservation Education, Program Animal Management, and Animal Training Applications courses through the Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). She also holds a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of San Diego. In 2016 she 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.
Angelica Grunloh, Senior 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 is Zovargo’s Senior and lead educator where she delivers and develops programs as well as trains new educators and animal care personnel. She also volunteers with a group that rehabilitates injured and displaced wildlife. 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.
Abrey Hughes, Senior Animal Educator
Abrey spent most of her life in rural Arizona where she grew up raising and caring for a multitude of animals. From the age of 11 to 17, she lived on a small, remote farm and had the responsibility of looking after cows, goats, pigs, chickens, even geese, and more! She took this love for animals a bit farther by volunteering at the Humane Society and rescuing/fostering kittens. Abrey still wanted to do more though; she wanted to make an impact. This became a reality when she moved to San Diego and discovered Zovargo. Ms. Hughes began her internship in March of 2017 and has appreciated all the opportunity to grow and learn as an educator, animal handler, and animal care team member.
When she’s not working at Zovargo, Abrey is looking after dogs at her doggy daycare job. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her new dog on her sailboat.
Anthony Gomez, Animal Educator Volunteer
Anthony is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran. While he may look like a grizzly bear, he is more like Pooh bear once you get to know him. Anthony was not allowed to have any animals growing up, so watching Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin was the closest experience with animals he could get. After serving honorably in the Marine Corps, he knew he wanted to pursue a career with animals. Zovargo gave him that opportunity.
Anthony is currently a student at Mesa College majoring in Biology. He hopes to continue his animal education and become a zoo keeper.
Fun Facts about Anthony: A good salsa dancer. Political junkie. Favorite anime is Dragonball Z/Super
Madison Hills, Animal Educator
Since Madison was a kid she has always had a love and compassion for all animals. You can ask anyone close to her what path she was meant to follow and they would all undoubtedly say something in an environment with animals around her.
As Madison grew up her desire shifted from simply working with animals to working for animals and the planet. After receiving her degree in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution from the University of California San Diego, Madison has been pursuing a career to help humans and wildlife coexist better.
In the time that Madison has been interning with Zovargo, she has found a love for educating others on conservation and sharing her passion of wildlife with those around her and she hopes to continue doing so wherever it takes her.
Diane Tripp, Animal Educator
Diane grew up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and learned to respect and appreciate nature from bald eagles and loons to bears, deer and even flying squirrels.
Her heart lead her to the ocean and after visiting coastal cities San Diego became a favorite. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater with a degree in marine biology after spending 2 semesters in Australia. It was a magnificent experience and an epic adventure.
Diane feels lucky to have found Zovargo to help build her experience and help her get closer to her dream job facilitating interactions between people and amazing animals.
Rhittyaa Hang, Digital 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!
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.