Working Dogs for Conservation was founded in 2000, and all four co-founders are still central to the organization. With thoughtful growth and strong partnerships WDC has played a leading role in developing methods for using detection dogs for conservation and in expanding the field.
Aimee Hurt, Co-founder and Director of Operations
Aimee received a B.A. from University of Montana in biology, where her studies emphasized zoology, ecology, and entomology and she received a fellowship and endowment for studying the ability of dogs to differentiate the scats of two closely related species (black bears and grizzly bears). Aimee has worked with conservation dogs since 1998 and is passionate about training, field work and dog rescue. Her professional interests include understanding the potential and limitations of canine olfaction, perfecting laboratory discrimination experiments on various scents and ensuring that dog/handler teams in this field of detection remain highly trained, consistent tools. (Photo: Nancie Battaglia)
Alice Whitelaw, Co-founder and Director of Programs
Alice received a B.A. in Biology from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina and a A.A.Sc. in Veterinary Medical Technology from Central Carolina Community College. She has worked as a field biologist for universities, NGO’s and state and federal agencies since 1988 and has participated in wildlife research throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Russia. She has been involved in dog training for over 30 years and has focused on detection dog disciplines since 1998. Her professional interests include disease aspects of wildlife, carnivore behavior, particularly canids, endangered species restoration and refining the training and use of detection dogs in wildlife research and monitoring. (Photo: Pam Voth)
Ray Rasker, Headwaters Economics, Board Member
Ray is a natural resource economist, who has written widely on rural development and the role of environmental quality in economic prosperity, and is well known in policy circles in the U.S. and Canada. Originally trained as a wildlife biologist, Ray has a Ph.D. from the College of Forestry, Oregon State University, M.Ag. from Colorado State University, and B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Washington.
Deborah Woollett (formerly Smith), Co-founder and Director of Conservation
Deborah’s career as a wildlife biologist andprofessional dog trainer has spanned more than 20 years. She received her B.S. in Biology from Saint Mary’s College of California, a M.S. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Science from the University of Washington, Seattle. Her dissertation research focused on kit fox conservation, and evaluation of non-invasive monitoring methods such as detection dogs to obtain key information on endangered populations. Deborah has published extensively in the conservation realm. In 2007, she and her co-authors were awarded the George Miksch Sutton Award in Conservation Research for a paper, published in The Southwestern Naturalist, considered to have made an outstanding contribution to conservation biology in the southwest. Since 1991, Deborah has studied a diverse array of wild species ranging from grizzly bears to ground squirrels in addition to her major focus on canids (e.g. wolves, foxes, coyotes). Deborah also has a wealth of background in obedience, behavior, and detection dog training disciplines. She operated several highly successful canine development programs in the northwestern States, and began working specifically with conservation dogs in 1999. Outside of her career, Deborah enjoys relaxing on a small ranch with her husband and canine companions, WDC’s Colt, Orbee and Seamus.
Henry Happel, Board Member
Henry Happel was a founding partner of Mundt MacGregor LLP, a Seattle law firm, where he practiced corporate and commercial law from 1976 until 2001. Henry served as the CEO of DisplayLink Corp. in its early days and has been on its Board of Directors from its founding in 2003 through the present. He has also served in a management and Board capacity on several other start-up technology companies. Henry is also a member of the Board of Directors of the International Snow Leopard Trust. A Houston native, he received a BA in Economics from Yale University in 1967 and a law degree from Stanford University in 1970. Prior to the formation of Mundt MacGregor, he was an attorney in the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for International Affairs, U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Megan Parker, Co-Founder and Director of Research
Megan grew up in Montana, where she was inspired to a career in conservation. She received her B.A. from Middlebury College in Vermont and her M.S. from Boise State University in raptor ecology and her PhD from University of Montana in Wildlife Biology on the scent marking behavior and territoriality of African wild dogs in Botswana. She has worked in many states in the U.S., Canada, Central America, Asia and Africa. She helped develop the methods for detection dogs in conservation beginning in 1996 while working with wolves in Idaho. Megan has been involved in dog training since childhood in obedience and search and rescue disciplines. She is interested in the international application of working dogs in conservation to help developing countries and under funded projects acquire excellent data, reduce costs and conserve endangered species. (Photo: Louise Wilson, Wagtail UK)
Ngaio Richards, Canine Field Specialist
Ngaio grew up in a small rural village in Québec, Canada, where she developed a solid love of wild places and admiration for wily, elusive critters. A forensic ecologist and conservationist, she obtained a B.Sc. in Environmental Science from Acadia University in Nova Scotia and an M.Sc. in Natural Resource Sciences with emphasis on applied wildlife biology and ecotoxicology from McGill University in Montréal. In 2010 she received a PhD in Forensic Science from Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom. She is currently a member of the Investigative Chemistry Research Group at Anglia Ruskin University and a Director of the Foundation of Analytical Science & Technology in Africa (FASTA). Her interests lie in small-scale community-based conservation initiatives, capacity-building and facilitating the development of collaborative environmental monitoring networks. Ngaio has authored numerous papers on wildlife monitoring and conservation and recently edited ‘Carbofuran and wildlife poisoning; global perspectives and forensic approaches’. She receives comprehensive field training from Orbee, Seamus and Pepin and extensive 1 on 1 life coaching from Wicket. Ngaio is based in Missoula, Montana, where she happily hosts WDC dogs as needed at her place, aka ‘Chateau Border Collie’. A small but important part of her year is also spent in southern Spain with her husband, who coordinates the regional government’s anti-poaching initiative and one of the few poison detection dog teams in Europe. (Photo: Olivia Bartlett)
Pete Coppolillo, Executive Director
Pete has spent most of his career working on wildlife-focused strategies for conservation in large landscapes. He received a bachelor’s degree with honors in Biology and Environmental Conservation from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis. For 10 years Pete worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society, first at Global Headquarters (in New York) and then as part of the Africa (Tanzania) and North America (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming) Programs. Pete has studied Ferruginous Hawks in North America, avian community ecology in Kenya, large herbivore ecology and herding systems in Tanzania, and has helped plan and carry out conservation strategies in Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Congo, Cambodia, Tanzania, and the United States. His publications appear in Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, PLOS (Public Library of Science), Human Ecology, Landscape and Urban Planning, Landscape Ecology, Science, and he is Co-author of the book “Conservation: Linking Ecology, Economics and Culture” (2005 Princeton Univ. Press). After a year and a half on WDC’s Board, Pete couldn’t get enough of the organization, so he became Executive Director in August 2012. He lives with his wife, two kids and their python, cat and (plain old non-working) dog in Bozeman, Montana.