Connect with Conservationists

Have a question for the Restore Our Shores team? Email

Restore Our Shores is one of the many conservation projects at Brevard Zoo. You can read more about the Zoo’s conservation efforts here.

Jody Palmer

Jody Cassell
Director of Conservation

I’ve developed a passion for conservation at a very young age and always knew I wanted to help ‘Save the World.’ Raised along the coast, the water has become second nature to me and made marine and estuarine conservation an important part of my life. I enjoy overseeing a dynamic team of ambitious community-minded conservationists who are dedicated to the preservation and restoration of our natural resources and promoting a sustainable community. I also value the dedication of our extended team—our volunteers, their contribution is invaluable. My background in environmental education and animal behavior makes it easy to share conservation and sustainability messages to our community. I also find it exciting to help people incorporate eco-friendly choices that can make a real difference to the future of Florida.

Ashley Rearden
Assistant Director of Conservation, ext. 284

Originally from the Midwest, Florida was always a favorite vacation spot where I could soak in sun, enjoy the beaches and watch the wildlife.  I was thrilled when a position opened at Brevard Zoo that would allow me to use my previous work experience, directing education and operation teams, to help manage the Zoo’s Restore Our Shores program.  Over time my position here has expanded to include overseeing all aspects of the conservation team, giving me the opportunity to use my experience to guide a very passionate group of individuals toward meaningful conservation action.  I really enjoy spending my time focused on making positive change in our community and in my free time I love being able to experience all that Florida has to offer with my family.

Olivia Escandell
Senior Conservation Manager

(Contact Olivia for Restore Our Shores projects and Shuck and Share partner management), ext. 431

As a Brevard county native, I spent much of my childhood exploring the Indian River Lagoon and local beaches. A fascination with marine life lead me to study Marine Affairs at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science where I learned about the importance of conserving our natural resources for future generations. I first spent time working with oyster populations in North Florida but found my way back home after wanting to conserve the natural resources of our backyard. I’m excited to be a part of the Restore Our Shores team working to bring native shoreline habitats back to the Indian River Lagoon. I love sea turtles, native plants, cooking healthy meals, and enjoying Florida’s wild spaces with my German shepherd Nyla!

Tyler Provoncha
Conservation Manager

(Contact Tyler for Oyster Reef Project Designs and Permitting), ext. 464

Born and raised in Brevard County, I have always enjoyed kayaking and exploring the lagoon. This passion for being outside and my desire to understand how to preserve the natural beauty around me led me to pursue an Environmental Science degree at Florida Tech. During my time there I worked with muck, oxygen dynamics, and other abiotic factors and how they relate to lagoon restoration. I am proud to use that knowledge to help our conservation team, as well as to direct our permitting and monitoring efforts. When I’m not in the field, I enjoy gardening or visiting parks and trails around Florida.

Hope Leonard
Conservation Restoration Coordinator

(Contact Hope for Clam Restoration Projects and Oyster Gardening site visits) , ext. 1012

Growing up in Melbourne, FL I was always outside; whether I was at the beach, on a spoil island or playing soccer, I have always loved being out in the Florida sun. As a kid I was fascinated watching Jeff Corwin and Steve Irwin on animal planet; my love for animals only grew when my dad brought me on a turtle walk for my eighth birthday. Every summer of my childhood was spent either at Brevard Zoo Camp or hiking up in Idaho with my grandmother. These experiences made choosing my undergraduate degree simple: zoology. During my time at the University of Florida, I took a specialty class in sea turtle biology which inspired me skipping my college graduation to move to Greece and accept a job in loggerhead sea turtle conservation. While I was there, I was convinced by some of my colleagues to pursue a masters in Global Ecology & Conservation based out of Cardiff, Wales, UK. When covid hit I felt the lagoon calling me home, so I finished my masters and pursued a position in Brevard. I am so happy to now be a part of the Restore Our Shores team and am ecstatic that I now get to work to make my home a better place for generations to come.

Yagen Gutierrez
Conservation Specialist

Hi, I’m Yagen! I was born in Cuba and migrated to the United States (Miami) when I was 7. I have always loved the ocean and exploring the outdoors.  Like many kids, my dream was to be a dolphin trainer.  However, I immediately changed my mind when I started working with manatees and sea turtles doing rescue and rehabilitation while doing my undergraduate.  I have a Masters Degree from NOVA Southeastern University in Marine and Coastal Studies.  Over the course of my career, I’ve developed extensive international experience and exposure which has enabled me to connect people from multiple backgrounds with conservation and educational efforts.  I joined Brevard Zoo as we become more involved with our local populations of manatees and the efforts to stabilize the species.  I have also been working very close with the Restore our Shores team and all their efforts.  I’m the happiest when I’m surrounded by other planet lovers like myself and everybody at the Zoo is just that! In my free time I enjoy camping with my family in our travel trailer, I’m the leader of my daughters Girl Scout Troop, race in endurance events (triathlons & ultra marathons) and I am section backpacking the Appalachian Trail and any other trail I can run off to!

Virginia Wine
Field Technician, ext. 376

Hi! I’m Virginia from Virginia! Since I was a kid, I’ve been very passionate about wanting to educate people about environmental and wildlife conservation. Specifically, I wanted to help people build a positive relationship with the outdoors. Following this call, I earned my BA in Conservation and MS in Sport and Recreation Administration from George Mason University.  During college, I volunteered with the Martin County Parks and Recreation Department doing mangrove restoration on the Indian River Lagoon. I remember that being the moment I fell in love with Florida and telling myself that I would move here one day! After college, my career shifted from conservation research and education to outdoor leadership and challenge course development with George Mason University, and later with Florida Tech after moving to Florida in 2016. These programs encompassed the design, installation, and maintenance of large obstacles; all while also focusing on program administration and facilitation. Through the pandemic I found myself missing the environmental fieldwork I fell in love with as a child and in college. In March of 2022, I was able to put my kids back into school and began volunteering at the Brevard Zoo. I’ve had the honor of volunteering with the Wild Florida Tail Loop, Manatee Provision project, and Restore Our Shores! When the opportunity arose to work with Restore Our Shores, I dived right in! I have particularly found my happy place in Restore Our Shores as it brings me to my first love; water conservation and education. l found renewed vigor in the programs I support and I’m proud to bring my environmental experiences and knowledge to share with zoo patrons and the programs I’m asked to support. When I am not working, I am with my family backpacking the Appalachian Trail, helping with my daughter’s Girls Scout and son’s Cub Scouts troops, and taking care of my pets (mutt mix, ball pythons, savannah monitor, bearded dragon, tarantulas, discoid roaches, and isopods).

Kelsey Koonce
Field Technician, ext. 376

Hi, I’m Kelsey! I was raised in Colorado where I spent most of my childhood playing outdoors. Whether I was backpacking through the mountains or vacationing with my family at a beach, I always found myself being drawn towards a body of water.  I’ve been enchanted by dolphins and ocean macrofauna ever since I can remember. While my childhood ambitions of being a dolphin trainer changed throughout the years, I knew from a young age that I ultimately wanted my career to involve marine life. I chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of San Diego where I focused my studies on marine science. I fell in love with field work while studying abroad at a field-based marine resource center in the Turks and Caicos Islands. After graduating, I moved to Florida and promptly started working at the Brevard Zoo as an educator in the Education Department. Although I enjoyed sharing my passion for animals with local youth, I longed to be among nature rather than in a classroom. When a position in the Conservation Department opened, I jumped on it. I am honored to use my background to aid the Restore Our Shores team with lagoon restoration projects, and I am so thrilled for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing staff. When I’m not in the field, you can find me rock climbing, scuba diving, practicing yoga, herping, or performing at aquariums around the country as a professional mermaid!

Amber Santoso
Conservation Seagrass Coordinator

(Contact Amber for any seagrass questions), ext. 492

As a Florida native, I have always had an appreciation for the outdoors and the beauty of the natural environment, especially when it comes to animals. My passion has been focused on marine life for as long as I can remember, encouraged by many trips to the Brevard Zoo and SeaWorld, and it has always been a dream of mine to be a Marine Biologist. I earned my BS in Biology at the University of Central Florida with a focus on marine aquatics. During my time there, I had the opportunity to intern with the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group and continued on as a field researcher for 3 years. It is an absolute pleasure to combine my knowledge of fieldwork and my love for the planet to put that energy towards the conservation efforts of the Restore Our Shores program. I am excited to see what the future holds on our mission to preserve the Indian River Lagoon!

Liam Corcoran
Field Technician (Construction)

Hi, I’m Liam. Born and raised in Northern Virginia, I moved to Melbourne to study Marine Biology at the Florida Institute of Technology. After moving to the area, I quickly fell in love with the Indian River Lagoon and the surrounding wildlife. Growing up, I spent my free time learning about and exploring my local forests, streams, and ponds. I still take that wonder into my daily life, I enjoy camping, hiking, and spending time in the water. My passion for the water doesn’t stop in the field, I am an avid aquarist with a mix of freshwater and marine aquariums. Now, working in conservation to protect our local ecosystems, things have come full circle.

Yates Carrier
Field Technician

Hey, I’m Yates!  Raised on the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, I have spent my life on the water.  Conservation, and a passion for how ecosystems work, has been instilled into me from a young age.  I moved to Florida for school and graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.S. in Fisheries and Aquaculture.  I previously worked on an oyster farm in the Indian River Lagoon that provided me with a deep knowledge of the location ecosystem and the key role that oysters play.  Now as a member of the ROS team, I have the ability to combine my passion for conservation and experience in commercial aquaculture while learning new areas of restoration.

Kimberly Rudolph
Conservation Office Administrator

(Contact Kimberly for any questions regarding the Restore Our Shores programs), ext. 381

After working with the State of New Jersey for 29 years, it was time to retire and relocate to the beautiful State of Florida.  It wasn’t long after settling in that I began volunteering at Brevard Zoo.  Being a new resident to Brevard County and hearing about the perils of lagoon conditions, I wanted to learn more and see what I can do to help.  This led me to my current position with the Conservation Department.  It’s rewarding knowing that my small part can help in the larger picture of restoring the lagoon!  If I’m not at my desk assisting homeowners, and the opportunity arises, I’m out in the field assisting the team.