An introduction to our animal and plant experts here at Butterfly Pavilion.
By Mary Ann Colley, VP of Science & Conservation
Butterfly Pavilion has accomplished a lot in 2018 thanks in no small part to the individuals that care for and manage our animals, plants and conservation projects. Ever wondered who takes care of our Rosie behind-the-scenes, keeps the diverse plants in our exhibits healthy or travels across the world to conduct our innovative research projects? Let me introduce you to our incredible Science & Conservation team.
Mario Padilla, Butterfly Pavilion Entomologist and Beekeeper, (pictured below) manages over 40 beehives on our site and in the Denver Metro Area and also cares for the diverse collection of land invertebrates you see in our exhibits. He’s currently working on some exciting research like Chilean Rose Hair tarantula (the species of our Rosie!) breeding in our lab and bee fencing to decrease human-elephant conflict in Nepal. You’ll also find him teaching our Beekeeping Bootcamp Series, which teaches beginners how to establish and maintain thriving beehives. Mario’s favorite part of his job is collaborating with local zoos and international conservation organizations to ensure a future for invertebrate animals.
Sara Stevens, Butterfly Pavilion’s Aquarist, (pictured below) takes care of all of the underwater animals at our zoo – this includes 1,500 gallons of exhibits! However, along with making sure everything from our powerful mantis shrimp to our dynamic octopus are happy and healthy, she also conducts essential research in the field, including a current study assessing the health of invertebrates out in California’s coastal sand dunes for the Bureau of Land Management. Sara loves that her job gives her the opportunity to work with animals that many people don’t know exist.
Sarah Triplett, Butterfly Pavilion’s Lead Zookeeper, oversees the care of all of the animals you see in our exhibits, ensuring that all of our incredible critters are accounted for and doing well. A big part of this role is managing about 20 interns per year and providing essential animal training for staff and volunteers, including everything from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) containment guidelines to Rosie handling. This past year, she has also managed the relationships between Butterfly Pavilion and our butterfly suppliers from around the world. Sarah’s favorite part of her role is running the internship program, helping students gain real-world experience to jump start their careers.
Heather Genuchi and Selena Mayer, Butterfly Pavilion Zookeepers, focus on animal breeding and all other aspects of their care in our exhibits. Heather’s favorite part of the job is spider breeding and care – she just loves hanging out with arachnids! Serena loves that she gets to witness the many interesting behaviors of our animals up close.
Plants & Grounds
Amy Yarger, Butterfly Pavilion’s Director of Horticulture, oversees and directs all plant operations at our zoo, like the Wings of the Tropics conservatory and satellite sites like Good Samaritan Hospital and Clark Creek Valley Park. She’s an expert on building thriving invertebrate habitats and manages exciting initiatives like the Urban Prairies Project, which has harnessed the power of volunteers to restore over 50 acres of suburban and urban open space land in Colorado. Amy’s favorite part of her job is being out in the field doing hands-on restoration.
Alyssa O’Brien, Butterfly Pavilion’s Horticulture Manager, oversees the stunning tropical plants that live in our Wings of the Tropics conservatory, along with our outdoor gardens and nature trails that feature seven acres of pollinator habitat and open space. One of Alyssa’s most exciting projects is the opening of our Butterflies at Chatfield exhibit every year, a collaboration with Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms that showcases native Colorado plants and butterflies. Day-to-day, Alyssa greatly enjoys pruning our trees here at Butterfly Pavilion.
Joe Barry and Ashley White, Gardeners at Butterfly Pavilion, play critical roles in ensuring our indoor and outdoor plant collections are thriving. No two weeks are the same for Joe and Ashley – there are always new and exciting plant projects for them to tackle throughout the year. Joe’s favorite part of his job is working outside and keeping things beautiful, while Ashley loves working with volunteers and using creativity to help guests engage with our gardens.
Research & Conservation
Rich Reading, Ph.D., is Director of Research and Conservation at Butterfly Pavilion. Along with his involvement in the animal and plant conservation programs already mentioned here, Rich is managing other exciting research. He’s currently advising the Saudi Arabian government on creating a royal nature reserve, assessing the health of Parnassius butterfly populations in Mongolia, and working on butterfly farming and bee fencing projects that build businesses and livelihoods for local communities, while conserving the environment. Rich loves being in the field collecting data and then analyzing it!
And last but not least, there’s me, Mary Ann Colley, Vice President of Science and Conservation at Butterfly Pavilion (pictured below). I have the distinct privilege of leading these departments and supporting my team members in their roles, while also leading initiatives of my own. I oversee all zoo operations, ensuring that we are meeting the standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and are upholding the conditions and regulations set by the USDA. I’m particularly excited about one initiative I formed and currently chair called the Colorado Pollinator Network, which brings together individuals and organizations across our great state to develop solutions for pollinator conservation. I’m also excited to be working to support the implementation of the I-76 Pollinator Highway.
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about the passionate Science & Conservation experts at Butterfly Pavilion, I invite you to stay tuned every month for more stories in our Newsletter highlighting our latest and greatest work. And, of course, I encourage you to visit us and see all of the beautiful plants and animals that we curate up close! Click here to plan your visit.