Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort

A partnership to study and conserve this migratory shorebird's endangered population between UMN, USFWS, USGS, NPS, DNR, more & You!

Zoo Keepers

Due to our rescue captive-rearing project, we work in collaboration with numerous zoos. These organizations and the zoo keepers that represent them take care of the eggs and chicks that hatch from rescued nests.

Zookeepers are listed in no particular order.


Monica Blackwell

Monica Blackwell of the Toledo Zoo

Name: Monica Blackwell

Zoo/Hometown: Toledo Zoo

# Years with GLPIPL: 15+

Fun Fact About Yourself: The first bird to inspire my life-long interest in birds was a Saw-whet owl when I was interning at a wildlife rehab center in college. It was the first one I’d ever seen and it was tiny and perfect. It sparked my curiosity about what other wonderful species were out there and I’ve been learning new things about birds ever since.

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? I manage a department of 11 keepers, 1000+ birds of 150+ species. I manage a home with 1 husband, 2 step-kids, 2 dogs, 1 cat, 6 finches, 1 hamster and 1 peacock. The peacock lives beside the house.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL (bird and/or recovery effort) what would it be: It is very rewarding to be involved in a project where birds are returned to the wild. There is great satisfaction in hearing that captive-reared birds have made it back for the next breeding season and are raising their own chicks.

Shawnlei Breeding on an African adventure

Shawnlei Breeding of Disney Animal Kingdom

Name: Shawnlei Breeding

Zoo/Hometown: Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL (but my true hometown is Guthrie, Oklahoma)

# Years with GLPIPL: I participated in the GLPIPL project from 2010-2013, then Disney gave other keepers the opportunity to go in 2014 and 2015. But they are sending me again this summer. Can’t wait to be back!

Fun Fact About Yourself: As a bird keeper, I’ve worked with many amazing bird species, but people are often surprised to hear that my favorite birds (besides piping plovers, of course) are chickens.

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? Taking care of the birds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, reading, birding, listening to music, spontaneous dance breaks and trying to laugh as much as possible, which is easy because my husband cracks me up more than anyone I know.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL (bird and/or recovery effort) what would it be: I love this program because it’s making a difference for this species by giving eggs that would not otherwise have hatched a second chance. These second-chance birds are contributing to the population not only through their survival but by returning to breed and produce offspring of their own. Captive-reared birds may only represent a small percentage of the total population, but when it comes to the recovery of a species, every bird counts.

Jen Hershey, Disney Animal Kingdom

Jen Hershey of Disney Animal Kingdom

Name: Jennifer Hershey

Zoo/Hometown: Disney’s Animal Kingdom/Orlando

# Years with GLPIPL: 5

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have aspirations to visit every major league baseball stadium in the US. So far I have been to 8.

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? I am a hospital keeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In my role, I help to provide husbandry and medical care for collection or native wildlife at Walt Disney World. I am a member of AAZK and help with events in my local chapter.
As a mother of a 2 year old, most of my time outside of work is spent caring for my daughter and spending time with family or friends. I enjoy the outdoors, traveling and spending time at the theme parks.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL (bird and/or recovery effort) what would it be: After my second summer helping with GLPIPL, I partnered with a fellow coworker on a conservation project monitoring shorebirds at a local state beach park. We took monthly bird counts and were excited to see wintering piping plovers in our area. Part of our project was creating a sign to help educate beach visitors and we used a story about a plover that we helped to hand-rear. This bird had been observed in the area several times and was a wonderful ambassador for the species. It was such a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that everyone’s efforts in the project to help save plovers was a success. I feel so grateful to be a part of it!

Kristin Porter of the Detroit Zoo

Kristin Porter of the Detroit Zoo

Name: Kristin Porter

Zoo/Hometown: Detroit Zoo

# Years with GLPIPL: 9

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am the godparent to my twin niece and nephew, Stella and Tyson.

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? At work I take care of vultures, flamingos, storks, cranes, rheas, emu, bald eagles, pelicans, crested screamers, and geese. On my free time I am usually bird watching and gardening with my husband.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL what would it be: Great Lakes Piping Plovers nest on the beach. Please respect the areas that are roped off for their nest areas and if you do have your dog on the beach make sure they are always on a leash.

Matt Porter of the Detroit Zoo

Matt Porter of the Detroit Zoo

Name: Matt Porter

Zoo/Hometown: Detroit Zoo

# Years with GLPIPL: 7

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve seen 36 species of wood warblers this spring + Lawrence’s and Brewster’s hybrids!

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? Birdwatching, birdwatching, birdwatching, fishing, birdwatching, birdwatching

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL what would it be: The Piping Plovers utilize great lakes beaches for breeding. Please treat the environment with respect.

 

 

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