Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden®
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VP of Conservation Science & Director of CREW
“At CREW, we remain optimistic that science will withstand the test of our current societal shifts and will prevail to guide decisions on conservation, health, and environmental policies vital to the long-term existence of Earth’s amazing diversity of life.”
Dr. Roth earned both her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. She then was awarded a Board of Regents Fellowship at Louisiana State University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Animal Reproductive Physiology with a minor in Immunology. She conducted her post-doctoral training at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. before accepting the position of Director of the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in October 1996. Dr. Roth has conducted research with species ranging from toads to rhinos, but is most renowned for her scientific breakthroughs that led to the success in breeding Sumatran rhinos at both the Cincinnati Zoo and the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. Dr. Roth has served on the board of the International Rhino Foundation since 2002 and has published over 175 scientific papers and abstracts. She was the 2004 recipient of a Chevron Texaco Conservation Award, “Honoring Our Environmental Heroes” for her Sumatran Rhino work. She is also the subject of an award-winning young people’s book, Emi and the Rhino Scientist, and in 2010 was named a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement in Cincinnati, OH.
Director of Animal Research
“Small wild cat species, such as ocelots and Pallas’ cats, historically haven’t received the same level of conservation and science attention as the larger cats, but our research at CREW is helping to correct that knowledge deficit. CREW’s science is now having a meaningful impact on our capacity to conserve many of these species within zoos but also increasingly in the wild.”
Dr. Swanson’s educational background includes a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Texas, a D.V.M. from Texas A&M University and a Ph.D. in Animal Science from Louisiana State University. Following graduate school, Dr. Swanson worked for five years at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park before beginning his employment at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1997. Over the past three decades, his research efforts have focused primarily on investigating the reproductive biology of domestic cats and endangered small-sized wild cat species to improve their breeding management and conservation, as well as evaluating non-surgical approaches to feral cat sterilization. His studies, conducted in the United States and 18 foreign countries, have involved research with over 30 felid species. Dr. Swanson served for 10 years as Co-Chair of the Felid Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), helping to oversee population management programs for the 17 wild cat species maintained in ~230 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. He currently serves as the Coordinator of the AZA’s Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP), reproductive advisor to the Felid TAG, and Ocelot, Fishing Cat, and Pallas’ Cat SSPs, and scientific advisor to the AZA’s Reproductive Management Center and the Michelson Found Animals Foundation.
Director of Plant Research
“The challenge of conserving the world’s plant diversity is daunting, but one that we can face by combining science and collaboration to multiply knowledge and facilitate plant conservation on a global scale.”
Dr. Pence earned her B.S. in Biology (botany) at Mount Holyoke College and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biology (plant developmental physiology). She then did 2 years of post-doctoral training in the Horticulture Department at Purdue University studying embryogenesis in cacao and another year in the Botany Department at the University of Florida studying in vitro nitrogen fixation. She then worked as a Senior Research Associate in Biology at the University of Cincinnati studying plant hormonal effects in vitro before accepting the position of Director of Plant Research at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 1987. Dr. Pence has developed in vitro propagation protocols for several dozen endangered plant species and studied cryopreservation in seeds, embryos, gametophytes, pollen, spores, and shoot tips of numerous species. She is also interested in developmental abnormalities in vitro related to plant adaptations and how to overcome them. Dr. Pence currently serves on the Board of the Lloyd Library and Museum and has published over 188 scientific papers, book chapters, and abstracts. She has been the recipient of the Fellow Award from the Society for In Vitro Biology, and conservation awards from the Center for Plant Conservation, The Garden Club of America, and the Association of Zoological Horticulture.
“I’m fortunate to have the unique opportunity to help increase our understanding of species threatened with extinction and to develop methods to preserve and expand the genetic diversity of those species. Using my scientific training in conjunction with my commitment to and passion for helping wildlife, I plan to integrate innovative scientific approaches to non-invasively monitor and learn about polar bear physiology and reproduction at the molecular, whole animal, and population levels.”
Erin Curry, Ph.D., is a staff scientist at the Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Originally from Philadelphia, Dr. Curry earned her B.S. degree in Animal Science from the University of Delaware in 2003, with minors in Wildlife Conservation and Psychology. After working as a veterinary technician, she went on to graduate school at Clemson University in South Carolina, where she earned her M.S. (2007) and Ph.D. (2010) in Animal & Veterinary Sciences, with concentrations in reproductive physiology and molecular biology. Her graduate research involved the analysis of sex determination in cattle and the identification and characterization of microRNAs in pig gametes and embryos.
Dr. Curry joined CREW as a Post-doctoral Fellow in January 2011 and began working with polar bears, an iconic species for climate change due to their dependence on sea ice for survival and reproduction. In addition to developing novel methods for non-invasively monitoring reproductive activity in polar bears, in 2012, Dr. Curry led a CREW team in performing the first ever artificial insemination procedure in a polar bear. Dr. Curry was hired as a staff Reproductive Physiologist in March 2014 and she currently oversees CREW’s Polar Bear Signature Project®.
“As a veterinarian, I am part of a profession whose primary responsibility is the health and well-being of animals. That responsibility extends past pets and livestock to wildlife species. Research in reproductive sciences is vital to conservation biology because, for many endangered species, we lack a basic understanding of their reproductive physiology. At CREW, we use a systematic research strategy to improve our understanding of each felid’s unique reproductive biology and develop assisted reproductive technologies to serve as a population management tool to conserve these iconic animals.”
Dr. Vansandt completed her undergraduate requirements at the University of Missouri-Columbia, double majoring in Animal Sciences and Biology. She spent a semester in Costa Rica studying sustainable agriculture before beginning veterinary school. Lindsey graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. Upon completion of veterinary school, Lindsey spent a year at the Saint Louis Zoo performing a research internship, and gained clinical experience by working at an emergency veterinary clinic. She then obtained a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences at the University of Maryland. Her dissertation research was in collaboration with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, studying spermatogonial stem cells and their applications in wildlife conservation as an alternative source for genetic preservation of rare and endangered felids. Lindsey joined CREW in the fall of 2014 as a post-doctoral scientist. Her research focuses on two main areas: (1) applying assisted reproductive technologies for the conservation and propagation of wild felids, and (2) improving the health and welfare of free-roaming and sheltered cats. During Lindsey’s tenure at CREW, she produced the first sand cat kittens and jaguar cub ever born from artificial insemination. Lindsey was promoted to her current position of Theriogenologist in 2018, and she continues to work on the Imperiled Cat Signature Project.
“The hardest part about working with endangered species is knowing that every individual we encounter could be one of the last of its kind. The weight of this understanding adds urgency and stress to every project undertaken. It is my goal to utilize my expertise in the fields of wildlife physiology and conservation to design and implement research initiatives to enhance animal health and welfare, to promote species survival, and to foster a passion for conservation among colleagues and community members. Thereby hopefully increasing the chance that struggling species can once again thrive.”
Dr. Wojtusik earned a B.S. degree in animal science from Cornell University in 2008. She stayed at Cornell to pursue a M.S. in Animal Science with a concentration in conservation biology. Her research focused on factors that influence follicle growth and development in the domestic hen. In 2015, she graduated from George Mason University with her Ph.D. Her doctoral research was completed at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and focused on sperm physiology and reproductive endocrinology in endangered antelope.
Dr. Wojtusik joined CREW as the Rhino Signature Project Post-Doctoral Fellow in January 2016. Over the next three years her research focused on investigating potential methods for diagnosing iron overload disorder and developing new semen cryopreservation techniques for rhinos. In February 2019, she joined CREW’s Polar Bear Signature Project as a Post-Doctoral Scientist. Her research focuses on identifying factors that may act as markers of reproductive status and/or failure and optimizing polar bear semen cryopreservation. Dr. Wojtusik transitioned into the role of CREW Wildlife Physiologist in April 2021. Her research will focus on identifying causes and timing of reproductive failure and designing techniques to increase reproductive success in endangered species.
Molecular Reproductive Physiologist
Dr. Rispoli is a post-doctoral scientist in CREW’s Animal Division. She obtained an appreciation for molecular biology and research while studying at University of California Davis for her B.S. in Animal Science. Afterwards she pursued her doctorate in Reproductive Physiology at the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory located at Colorado State University. During her time in Colorado, Dr. Rispoli investigated different aspects of neuroendocrinology in sheep. Subsequently, Dr. Rispoli joined the Department of Animal Science at University of Tennessee, first as a post-doctoral fellow and then as a research assistant professor. She focused on researching molecular mechanisms fundamental to fertility, particularly related to cattle gamete biology.
She joined the Cincinnati Zoo in November 2019 to specifically work with CREW’s Rhino Signature Conservation Project. Dr. Rispoli brings a unique skillset to rhino research and is interested in applying molecular approaches to advance our knowledge of reproduction and physiology in rhinos.
Megan earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Cincinnati in 2011. In 2013, she joined the graduate program at the University of Cincinnati (UC), working with Dr. Theresa Culley at UC and Dr. Valerie Pence at CREW on an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded grant investigating the long-term survival of plant species stored in CREW’s CryoBioBank. Megan’s doctoral research focused on the population genetics of rare and endangered species, and the genetic effects of long-term liquid nitrogen storage. She defended her Ph.D. in 2018 and joined the Plant Research Division at CREW as a postdoc that same year. Her research currently focuses on developing cryopreservation protocols for rare and endangered Hawaiian plant species in cooperation with the Lyon Arboretum, supported by IMLS. She continues to work on population genetics in rare species as well.
Julie Barnes is currently a post-doctoral scientist in CREW’s Animal Division. Julie is originally from Tennessee, where she earned her B.S. degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2013. She then worked for a year as a conservation biodiversity intern at the Memphis zoo, working mainly with near-infrared spectrometry (NIRS) to investigate bamboo nutrition. At the Memphis Zoo, she was exposed to the world of reproduction in a variety of species that piqued her interest and motivated her to attend University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville. During vet school, Julie spent two summers participating in veterinary research training programs at UC Davis and Cornell University. She completed her DVM in 2018 and then entered private practice as an associate veterinarian with a specialized interest in reproduction in Memphis. She practiced preventative and diagnostic medicine, in addition to working closely with canine breeders to determine breeding windows and address infertility problems. She also started a transcervical insemination program for canines at the clinic. Dr. Barnes joined CREW in August of 2019 to begin her research on improving the health and welfare of free-roaming and sheltered domestic cats along with assisting in the Imperiled Cat Signature Conservation Project. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree through the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Biological Sciences.
CREW Research Associate
“It has always been my dream to work with cats in a scientific and veterinary capacity. As I was figuring out what I wanted my career to look like, I concluded that reproduction in endangered felids was my main goal. Since I have been at CREW, I have seen those dreams and my hard work realized”
Amy Miller is a Research Associate in CREW’s Animal Division who primarily works on the Imperiled Cat Signature Conservation Project. Amy joined CREW in February 2017. Much of Amy’s time is spent analyzing cat samples to diagnose pregnancy, characterize reproductive activity and/or monitor responses to various studies. Amy also assists with all aspects of assisted reproduction procedures both in domestic cats at CREW and non-domestic cats at collaborating zoos across the nation. She serves as the primary support staff for senior scientists, post-docs and visiting scientists studying cat reproduction at CREW.
Amy received her B.S. in biology from Loyola University Chicago in 2012. She worked as a vet tech in a spay and neuter clinic in Chicago (PAWS Chicago) and one in New Orleans (Southern Animal Foundation). She also worked as a head zookeeper at a small zoo in Wisconsin after completing her B.S. where she gained experience with medical and husbandry care of many species. In 2014, Amy returned to college and received a M.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2017 studying the reproductive endocrinology of the 13-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus).
“I really love helping to facilitate all the great science and research that goes on at CREW as well as pursuing my own projects. I have the strong belief that what we are doing will help change the course of imperiled wildlife through the knowledge gained by our research.”
Elizabeth Donelan is a Research Associate in CREW’s Animal Division. In this position, she manages the day-to-day laboratory operations and supports ongoing research in CREW’s three signature projects. Additionally, Elizabeth conducts independent research projects on animals at the Cincinnati Zoo that can benefit from CREW’s expertise, and she also handles some of the service work CREW is asked to perform (reproductive monitoring and pregnancy diagnosis) by our collaborating zoo partners.
Elizabeth is a Cincinnati native who started her wildlife education at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden early in life. This experience developed into a lifelong passion for wildlife and conservation. She received her B.S. in Zoology from Michigan State University in 2006, and her M.S. in Environmental Science/Wildlife Biology from the University of Rhode Island in 2009. Her graduate research involved a biodiversity assessment of small mammals on a coffee farm. After graduate school, Elizabeth spent several years working in labs focused on human diseases associated with obesity that led to several co-authored scientific papers. Elizabeth joined CREW in December 2015, and has already completed studies of kea and aye-aye while performing her daily responsibilities that keep the labs running smoothly and the CREW volunteers busy.
Cat Colony Manager
Signature Project Involvement: Imperiled Cat Program
Being the Cat Colony Manager at CREW is incredible. Every day I wake up excited to come to work! I love that I’m able to combine my background in animal husbandry with my experience in animal research and degrees in zoology to support important conservation initiatives. The scientists at CREW are inspiring and I am lucky to be a part of such an amazing team