Meet the Staff


Edward Clark, Jr.
President & Founder

Since the late 1970s, Ed Clark has been a national leader in the field of conservation. His involvement has ranged from wilderness designation and public land management to pesticide regulation and endangered species protection. Raised in Flint Hill, Virginia, Ed received a B.A. in history and political science from Bridgewater College. He did graduate work in education at James Madison University and University of Virginia. His professional training includes environmental mediation, organization management, and strategic planning.

In 1979, Ed became the first executive director of the Conservation Council of Virginia Foundation, the environmental advocacy and education organization known today as the Virginia Conservation Network. In 1980, he co-founded and became assistant director of the Environmental Task Force in Washington, DC, a national grassroots support network. In 1982, he returned to the Shenandoah Valley and began his work as a leadership trainer and organizational consultant for national conservation and non-profit groups, including Trout Unlimited, the Sierra Club, Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society International, the Appalachian Trail Conference, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and many others. In November of 1982, Ed co-founded The Wildlife Center of Virginia.

From 2006 to 2008, under Ed's leadership, the Wildlife Center successfully undertook a project, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Defense, to create a working model of a North American Wildlife Disease Surveillance Network, originally known as Project Tripwire. This network was fully deployed in 2012 and is now able to link wildlife hospitals and rehabilitation centers across North America and beyond, through a shared online database. The system, today known as WILD-ONe, is currently deployed across the U.S. and Canada and tracks the health information on tens of thousands of wild animals being treated in nearly 100 participating wildlife care facilities.

In 2010, Ed was part of an interdisciplinary team of experts asked to visit the states impacted by the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and conduct an assessment of the potential damage, the adequacy of the government's response, and the implications for future public policy. Following visits to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, Ed published extensive reports on his findings, along with recommendations for strengthening a generally ineffective response effort. Ed remains active in discussions and policy debates on the subject.

Throughout his career, Ed has been active in public service. He has been appointed by three Virginia Governors to various boards and commissions, including the Virginia Council on the Environment (the state environmental policy board), the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (one of the nation's largest government land trusts), the Virginia Environmental Education Commission, and the Governor's Commission on Natural Resource Funding. Ed has also served on boards and advisory councils of more than twenty regional, national, and international conservation organizations, recently including the National Wildlife Federation (Eastern Vice Chair), International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (President), Philippe Cousteau Foundation (Founding Secretary), and Southern Environmental Law Center (President's Council). He is currently a member of the Steering Committees of the National Endangered Species Coalition (based in Washington, DC) and the Human/Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (based in Bethesda, MD) and serves on the Advisory Committee of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The Wildlife Center has received many honors under Ed's leadership. In 1993, the Center received the National Environmental Achievement Award for Wildlife Conservation. In 2004 the Computerworld Honors Program and the Smithsonian Institution presented the Center with its 21st-Century Achievement Award, for the "best information technology application in the world, in the category of Environment, Energy, and Agriculture." In November 2007, the Wildlife Center received the National Wildlife Federation's highly prestigious Conservation Achievement Award and was named the Wildlife Conservation Organization of the Year for the entire United States.

Ed has received many individual honors as well. In 1987, the Virginia Wildlife Federation named him Conservation Educator of the Year. In 1992 the U.S. Committee for the UN Environment Programme named him one of the "500 Environmental Achievers". He received the 1993 Conservation Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1997, he received the prestigious "Chuck Yeager Award" from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for his conservation work "on the ground". In 2000 he received commendation from the Venezuelan Ministry of Education for his work promoting environmental education in rural communities. In 2001, he received recognition from the Venezuelan Guardia Nacional and the Ministry of Defense for his work combating the illegal trafficking of neotropical wildlife. In 2006 Bridgewater College named Ed its Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, and the Virginia Conservation Network recognized Ed for his lifetime achievements and outstanding contributions to conservation and environmental protection. In 2012, Ed received national recognition with the prestigious "Rare Life" award from Eagle Rare, given to an individual who leads a rare life of courage, leadership, survival, devotion, character, and heroism. In winning this competitive award, Ed received a record-shattering 180,000 votes, nine times the previous total for winning nominations.

Ed is a well-known and widely recognized television personality. He was the host and narrator of "Wildlife Emergency," the award-winning series about The Wildlife Center of Virginia which aired worldwide on Animal Planet. He also hosted the weekly series "Virginia Outdoors" and "Wednesdays Untamed" on Virginia Public Television. Ed has appeared in several films and documentaries and has been seen frequently on network television programs such as CNN's Larry King Live, NBC's TODAY, FOX News, CBS Saturday Morning, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

Ed is in great demand as a motivational speaker, organizational consultant, and trainer. His conservation work takes him across the United States and to many foreign countries each year. When he is not on the road (and often when he is) Ed enjoys his passion for wildlife photography, shooting, and horseback riding.

Ed and his wife, Dr. Kim West Clark, live in the woods near Waynesboro, Virginia with their dogs, cats, horses, and birds.


Randy Huwa
Executive Vice President

Randy has spent three decades in leadership and program management positions with national and regional nonprofit organizations. He spent nearly 20 years at Common Cause, the 250,000-member national citizens’ lobbying group, including more than a decade as vice president, leading its fundraising and communications programs. Randy was deputy director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, directed communications and development for Montpelier [the home of James and Dolley Madison in Orange County, Virginia], and served as director of major and planned giving for WMRA, the National Public Radio station for Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley. Randy holds a B.A. from Colorado College and an M.A. from Rutgers University. Randy joined the staff of the Wildlife Center of Virginia in October 2005. As vice president at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Randy helps with administration, fundraising, budgeting, and public relations for the Center – and other things to keep the trains on the track. He and his wife Jackie Howell, a massage therapist and yoga instructor, live in an old farm house with a bushel of cats.


Lacy Kegley
Assistant Vice President of Administration

Lacy was born and grew up in southwest Virginia and developed a passion for nature and wildlife at an early age. In 2008, she graduated with a biology degree from James Madison University and looked for an opportunity to stay in the Shenandoah Valley and expand an interest in wildlife conservation. She found that opportunity at the Wildlife Center of Virginia as an animal care preceptorship student, and, soon after, as the weekend front desk coordinator. In the fall of 2011, she began working full-time as the Development Associate and advanced her experience interacting with the Center’s generous donors. In 2017, Lacy was promoted to Assistant Vice President of Administration and looks forward to working more closely with other departments, learning more about the internal workings of the Wildlife Center, and exploring leadership opportunities. Lacy enjoys reading, camping, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her furred, scaled, and human family and friends.



Kayla Cline
Office Administrator

Kayla was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley and graduated from college in Memphis, Tennessee with a degree in Illustration and Art History in 2011. From a young age, she has always been passionate about helping animals, and hopes to continue facilitating that passion here at the Wildlife Center as Office Administrator! She spends her free time being creative and spending time with her pigeon, cockatiel, and corgi-border collie mix.


Kelly Matherly
Fundraising Coordinator

Kelly volunteered at the Wildlife Center when the new facility first opened in Waynesboro in 1995 and became a permanent staff member with the development team in December 2001. During her time at the Center, Kelly has had the opportunity to support and enrich the essential relationships with the Center's supporters through open house tours, environmental education programs, Gala organization, animal releases, and the personal acknowledgement of contributions. Kelly received a B.S. in forestry and wildlife from Virginia Tech in 1998 with a focus on environmental education and human dimensions related to wildlife and natural resource management. Kelly enjoys spending time with her family and pets as well as traveling, reading, kayaking, and cooking.


Kristen Sluiter
Special Projects Coordinator

Kristen began at the Wildlife Center in 2008 as front-desk coordinator, responding to wildlife inquiries and admitting patients. In 2009, she became the special projects coordinator as a part of the development team. Kristen is largely responsible for planning the Center’s annual Gala & Benefit, assists with grant applications and fundraising, plus any other “special projects” that arise. Kristen holds a degree in biology from James Madison University and enjoys camping, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.


Cat Buchanan
Development Associate

Catherine was born and raised in Staunton, Virginia, where she developed a passion for the environment and wildlife.  In 2015, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in integrative biology from Christopher Newport University. During school, she spent time in Arizona and New Mexico with many different species of bats, focusing on the Lesser Long-nosed Bat. At CNU, she found her passion for animal research and conservation and an interest in learning how to aid in those efforts without compromising wildlife. Cat most recently worked with Bat Conservation International as part of the wind energy efforts, using thermal imaging cameras and 3D tracking technologies with bat flight paths. In her free time, Cat enjoys hiking, reading, traveling, and hanging out with family and her fluffy pups Grace and Juniper.


Caroline Elpers
Front-Desk Coordinator

Caroline was born and raised in Northern Virginia and has always known she wanted to work with animals. She graduated in May of 2018 from the University of Virginia with a degree in biology and a specialization in conservation. After graduation, Caroline took a seasonal wildlife rehabilitator position at Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary, which solidified her love of wildlife rehabilitation. Caroline joined the Wildlife Center team in the fall of 2018 as the front-desk coordinator; she enjoys helping the public to ensure all injured wildlife find their way to the Center. Outside of work, Caroline enjoys visiting her family, hiking, and spending time with her cat Minerva.


Amanda Nicholson
Director of Outreach

Amanda first became involved with the Wildlife Center of Virginia when she attended Bridgewater College – first as a volunteer, then as an animal care preceptorship student in 2000. After graduating with a degree in biology in 2001, Amanda joined the staff as the weekend receptionist and part-time rehabilitator. Over the years, Amanda has held several different positions at the Wildlife Center; currently she serves as the director of the outreach department. In this position, Amanda oversees the department responsible for public education and community involvement. Amanda oversees the Center’s ever-changing website, manages the “Critter Cam” and moderated discussion, organizes the annual Call of the Wild conference, helps plan various events, and finds placement for non-releasable animals at educational facilities. She also serves as the program coordinator for the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association's annual symposium. Amanda loves the dynamic nature of the ever-changing activities going on at a wildlife hospital and sharing the Wildlife Center’s mission and stories with others.


Raina DeFonza
Outreach Coordinator

Raina grew up in the city of Pittsburgh until her family relocated to the seaside-suburbs of Ocean County, New Jersey. At an early age, Raina developed a love for exploring the natural world, as well as a deep appreciation of and respect for wildlife. While pursuing a degree in art and liberal studies at Rutgers University, and eventually Stockton College, Raina took courses in wildlife studies to better develop her understanding of the natural world. During and after college, Raina spent several years working for large and small legal and education non-profit organizations, developing her business sense and client relations skills. After accepting a position as a naturalist at Cattus Island County Park in Toms River, New Jersey, Raina realized her true passion of caring for wildlife and teaching people about human-wildlife interactions. Following that passion, Raina relocated to Virginia in August 2012 to begin her career as an outreach coordinator at the Wildlife Center. As outreach coordinator, some of Raina’s responsibilities include  conducting public education programs, creating content for the website, and working with the Center's team of education animals.


Alex Wehrung
Outreach Coordinator

A North Carolina native, Alex was inspired to pursue a career in the outdoors from a young age. After graduating from West Virginia University with a B.S. in parks, recreation, and tourism resources in 2012, he traveled the country exploring a number of different professions – from park ranger to zoo keeper -- and quickly understood the value of connecting others to nature through education. Alex discovered the Wildlife Center when he moved to Virginia in 2015, and began training as a volunteer outreach docent shortly afterwards. He joined the full-time staff as an outreach coordinator in 2016, graduating from Slippery Rock University with a M.Ed. in environmental education later that year. As a member of the outreach department Alex works to create meaningful and lasting relationships with the public in a variety of ways, such as presenting educational programs, creating website and social media content, training volunteer docents, and providing care for the Center’s non-releasable education ambassadors.


Maggie McCartney
Wildlife Care Academy Coordinator

Maggie was born and raised outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, where she developed an early interest in wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in environmental science from Christopher Newport University.  During graduate school, Maggie served as a graduate STEM fellow in K-12 education through the National Science Foundation.  Following graduation, Maggie returned to CNU as adjunct faculty while working as a zoo herpetologist (reptile and amphibian specialist) and veterinary assistant.  From 2015 through 2017, Maggie served as a sea turtle biologist on a remote South Carolina island where she managed more than 600 loggerhead nests.  After returning to Virginia, she joined the Wildlife Center in March 2018 as a front-desk coordinator.  In September 2018, Maggie became the coordinator of the Center’s Wildlife Care Academy, where she is responsible for management, development, and execution of online classes in wildlife biology and rehabilitation as well as the general management of the Academy.  The Wildlife Care Academy provides training and continuing education for wildlife care professionals around the world in order to expand and advance care for injured and orphaned wildlife, and to promote conservation education.


Dr. Ernesto Domínguez
Hospital Director

Dr. Ernesto grew up in Mexico City. He always loved animals, and after a safari in South Africa in 2002, he knew he wanted to be a veterinarian. After two years of studies in medical school (2003-2005), he quit med school to follow his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Dr. Ernesto graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. Since the second year of veterinary school, he volunteered at the Wildlife & Exotic Pet Hospital at UNAM. During his last year of veterinary school, Dr. Ernesto spent some time doing his graduation project in avian orthopedics at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. After getting his degree, he completed different postgraduate training in wildlife centers and zoos around the world, including the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic, Arcas Wildlife Center in Guatemala, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Africam Safari Zoo in Mexico, the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa, and a second externship at the Wildlife Center of Virginia as a veterinarian. From September 2015 to June 2016 he completed an internship in Raptor Medicine and Surgery at the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. He is interested in Conservation Medicine. Dr. Ernesto is excited to be back at WCV to work with black bears and reptiles, and be part of the staff. Ernesto is currently pursuing board certification by the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.


Leigh-Ann Horne, LVT
Hospital Manager / WILD-One Coordinator

Leigh-Ann was born and raised in Texas. She was a competitive figure skater from elementary school through high school. She graduated from Southwestern University in 2001 with a degree in animal behavior and moved to Virginia that same year. Leigh-Ann completed an animal-care preceptorship at the Wildlife Center in 2001 and then was hired to be the weekday front-desk coordinator. After a year-and-a-half she enrolled in the veterinary technology program at Blue Ridge Community College. During school she continued to work as the receptionist, as well as assisting the rehabilitation staff and the education department. Leigh-Ann earned her veterinary technology degree and became a licensed technician in 2005. She immediately transferred into the role of LVT at the Center. Her current job responsibilities include performing in-house diagnostics; teaching veterinary and vet tech students; working with the vet staff to complete daily patient treatments; supervising the diagnostic intern, vet tech students, and hospital volunteers; maintaining hospital inventory and seeking medical donations; and working with the veterinary director to develop WILD-ONe (the Center’s medical record database). Leigh-Ann was elected to the executive board of the Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians for 2011-2012.


Dr. Peach Van Wick
Wildlife Research Fellow

Dr. Peach grew up in the small town of Pearl, Mississippi, and, following in the footsteps of her parents and older brother, attended Mississippi State University after high school. Dr. Peach had always known she wanted to be a veterinarian, so while she was an undergraduate student, she spent three years working three different positions at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Peach attended MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine from 2011-2015, and while she enjoyed working with cats and dogs, she also became extremely passionate about directing her career path in a way that would benefit the “un-owned” animals of the world, particularly free-ranging wildlife. This interest in wildlife was solidified when Dr. Peach studied abroad in South Africa and had the chance to work with free-ranging African species in a conservation medicine course. During her third year of vet school, Dr. Peach enrolled in her school’s DVM/MS dual degree program in order to pursue a Master’s degree in population medicine. She received her DVM in May of 2015 and spent the next twelve months completing her Master’s by gaining experience and exposure to different aspects of wildlife medicine and conservation. Dr. Peach spent time at the Audubon Institute in New Orleans, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, and of course, the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Additionally, Dr. Peach provided relief work at various small-animal practices in north Alabama between her externships. She is extremely excited to be back in Waynesboro joining the WCV team and is most looking forward to working with bears, raptors, and contributing to public outreach efforts.


Dr. Karra Pierce
Veterinary Intern

Dr. Karra is from Canada, and grew up just outside of Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. She did an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island, and during this time started working as a staff wildlife rehabilitator at a large wildlife rehabilitation center. Here, she fell in love with wildlife rehabilitation. Following her undergraduate degree, Dr. Karra moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (in the middle of Canada), to attend the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. During this time she continued to dedicate herself to working with wildlife, doing multiple external rotations with a wildlife focus, including a six-week veterinary externship at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in August 2016. After receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, she did a one-year small-animal rotating internship at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Karra is thrilled to be working with wildlife again and is honored to join the team at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. 


Brie Hashem
Wildlife Rehabilitator, Black Bear Focus

Brie is a Pennsylvania native who earned her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resource Management from Penn State University. After graduation, she spent almost five years as a Clinic Supervisor at Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc. in Newark, Delaware. She recently earned a Graduate Certificate in Wildlife Management from Oregon State University and is currently pursuing a Master of Natural Resources. Brie is a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. She is also a permitted bird bander through the United States Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory and bands the Center’s raptor patients before release. As the head of the rehabilitation department, Brie is responsible for overseeing the post-clinical care and rehabilitation of the thousands of native wildlife patients the Center receives each year, hiring and training wildlife rehabilitation interns and externs, and maintaining rehabilitation inventory and caging. Brie is also responsible for the Center’s behavior-based black bear cub rehabilitation and release program. When she is not working or studying, Brie can be found exploring the mountains or practicing yoga.


Kelsey Pleasants
Wildlife Rehabilitator

Kelsey was born and raised in Waynesboro, Virginia and has always had a passion for animals.  She earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Longwood University in the spring of 2013.  During her time at college, Kelsey completed a wildlife rehabilitation externship at the Wildlife Center of Virginia and upon graduation, she completed a year-long wildlife rehabilitation internship.  It was during her time at WCV that she realized her biggest passion was working with wildlife.  From 2014-2017, Kelsey worked at a wildlife center in south Florida doing wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.  She returned to Virginia in the fall of 2017 to re-join the team at the Wildlife Center as a wildlife rehabilitator. In this role, Kelsey oversees the care and rehabilitation of the thousands of native patients the Center receives each year and also trains wildlife rehabilitation interns and extern students. Kelsey is very excited to be back at the Wildlife Center and to once again work with black bears and American robins. While she is not working, Kelsey enjoys attending concerts and traveling.



Jaclyn Neri
Licensed Veterinary Technician

Jaclyn is originally from Lake Bluff, Illinois and knew from a young age she wanted to work with animals. She received her Bachelor’s degree in biology and English from Augustana College in 2015. While in college, she studied at the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic which sparked her passion with wildlife. After obtaining her degree, Jaclyn moved to Sanibel, Florida to work as a fellow at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). It was through this experience that her passion for saving wildlife grew and sent her on her path to become a licensed veterinary technician. After nine months in Florida, Jaclyn decided to move to Colorado to pursue her veterinary technician degree. Toward the end of her schooling, Jaclyn wanted to explore what it was like to work with wildlife in other areas of veterinary medicine. She interned at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and at a small-animal and exotics veterinary clinic in Colorado. She graduated from Bel Rea Institute of Animal Technology in December 2016. Following graduation, she worked at a small-animal and exotics practice in Denver, Colorado for several months. After working with small animals and in a zoo setting, Jaclyn realized that working with wildlife and conservation medicine was her true passion. She is extremely grateful and excited to be a part of such a talented and dedicated team at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.


Jess Dyer, LVT
Veterinary Technician Intern

Jess is originally from Baldwinsville, New York, a small suburb of Syracuse. She is a 2015 graduate of Unity College, with a B.S. in Captive Wildlife Care and Education. During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to complete a wildlife rehabilitation internship at Wildcat Creek Wildlife Center and studied veterinary topics abroad in Belize. After graduating from Unity, she completed a six- month fellowship at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation for Wildlife (C.R.O.W.) in Sanibel, Florida, which solidified her love of wildlife and veterinary medicine. After completing her fellowship at C.R.O.W., Jess went back to school to pursue a degree in Veterinary Technology at Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York. During her time in tech school, she focused all of her clinical externship hours toward wildlife, zoological, and emergency medicine, participating in preceptorships at Cornell University’s Wildlife Health Center, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and the Veterinary Medical Center of East Syracuse. Jess is incredibly grateful for this opportunity to join the Wildlife Center team as the veterinary technician intern from August 2018 to September 2019. She loves working with all species of wildlife and looks forward to learning as much as possible during her time here in Virginia.