Staff


Sabrina Garvin, President and Co-Founder

Sabrina began getting involved with wildlife rehabilitation as an apprentice over twenty years ago, originally only doing a handful squirrels a year, but a strong passion for wildlife grew and grew over time as she reached out to experts across the country for their knowledge and experience, always in the search of finding better techniques and tips for the wild animals that would come into her care. As Roanoke grew and the community needed a place to bring injured, orphaned, and sick wildlife, her part-time hobby grew into a full time commitment and became what is now known as Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke.


Chester Leonard, Executive Director

Chester graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. with a strong focus on pathogenic bacteriology, a minor in Spanish, and completed some graduate work focused on epidemiology. He first started volunteering with wildlife when he was 10 years old and has been an avid supporter of animals ever since. He volunteered periodically with the Center since its inception in 2002, before joining as a staff member in 2018. Currently, his main role is focused on administration, fundraising, and communications on the importance of protecting wildlife. His passions are his family, traveling the world, and golf.


Haley Olsen-Hodges, Director of Operations

Haley has been rehabilitating wildlife for nine years, gaining experience at various large wildlife rehabilitation centers across the country before coming to this one. Haley is a certified Virginia Master Naturalist, has been invited to lecture at wildlife rehabilitation conferences, and is passionate about quantifying and collecting data in wildlife rehab. Haley specializes in bird rehabilitation, particularly of songbirds and unusual species not often admitted to the Center. She is a jack of all trades (and likes to think she is adequate at most of them) helping with social media, outreach, writing and updating protocol, and more. She is a graduate from Virginia Tech, with a degree in wildlife conservation with a minor in entomology. Check out her personal webpage HERE.


Dr. Karen Thomason, Staff Veterinarian

Dr. Thomason graduated from the University of California, Davis with a major in mathematics and a minor in biology. She was then accepted at the veterinary school there, which is widely considered to be the best in the world, and graduated in 1986. She then worked in a mixed animal practice in California after doing an internship in food animal medicine and surgery at Kansas State University. After a few years in California she moved to Floyd, VA where she opened a mixed animal practice, which morphed into small animal, where she practiced for 28 years before joining our staff. Dr. Thomason said, “I’ve always been fascinated by wildlife and now have the opportunity to satisfy the urge to work with them”.


Dr. Ernesto Dominguez, Staff Veterinarian

Dr. Dominguez grew up in Mexico City. where he studied medicine for two years, but left to pursue his real passion: veterinary medicine. He graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. After getting his degree, he completed multiple postgraduate training programs in wildlife centers and zoos around the world, including the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic, Arcas Wildlife Center in Guatemala, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, African Safari Zoo in Mexico, The Wildlife Center of Virginia, and the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa. In 2016, he completed an internship in Raptor Medicine and Surgery at the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. From 2016-2020 he was the Hospital Director at The Wildlife Center of Virginia. Dr. Dominguez has more than 10 scientific publications and book chapters in his curriculum. He currently splits his time between an exotic pet practice and our Center. He is passionate about wildlife, their welfare, and strives for the gold standard of their care.


Dr. Lucky Garvin, Co-Founder

Dr. Garvin is a retired ER doctor who has supported the Center’s work and mission from humble beginnings over twenty years ago — and is in a way responsible for the Center’s existence by suggesting that Sabrina start a new hobby, which ended up being wildlife rehabilitation! Dr. Garvin is always there to help whenever the going gets tough, especially with late night squirrel feeds during the spring and fall.


Judy Loope, Director of Education

Judy is a native of Salem, VA and a retired public school teacher of 33 years! Judy began learning about wildlife issues from watching live streams of various wildlife. Her desire to help was so strong that she started taking wildlife rehabilitation classes and earned a Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources class 4 rehabilitation permit. She began volunteering with the Center in 2012 where she fed wild babies, prepared diets, and handled wild patients. In 2015, she became our Director of Education, and since then she has presented programs to over 20,000 people.


Kaitlyn Rankin,  Senior Staff-Floor Supervisor

Kaitlyn graduated from Virginia Tech in 2020 with a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. One of her passions is teaching people about our native wildlife and proper rehabbing techniques. Rehabilitation is close to her heart because each animal is important to our ecosystem’s health. Her favorite animals to work with are raptors and reptiles! When she’s not at work she enjoys outdoor activities with her dogs and mountain biking!


Allyson Lee, Veterinary Technician


Levi Stiverson, Full-time Staff

Levi was born and raised in Northern Virginia. For as long as she can remember, she has loved and wanted to care for animals. She grew up horseback riding and wanting to be a dolphin trainer. Since then she has volunteered at the National Aquarium in Baltimore for two years, working with their puffins, rainforest birds, and dolphins. She also has done several educational programs at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, learning about and even training dolphins hands-on. She found the Center through our internship program, was hired as staff in April 2021, and is “having the time of her life!” *Hair color subject to change.


Katie Harlow, Full-time Staff

Katie Harlow is a Virginia Tech graduate from the College of Natural Resources and Environment, with a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation. While at Virginia Tech, she was a member of the VT Environmental Coalition, the VT Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and a founding member of the conservation fraternity Lambda Iota Mu. She started her work at the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center as an intern during the summer of 2021, and became a staff member at the start of 2022. She has dreamed of protecting wildlife since she was a child, and is extremely passionate about African Elephants; she hopes to someday help further efforts in elephant conservation.


Kristen Oakes, Veterinary Technician

Kristen moved here from Pennsylvania 27 years ago working as a horse trainer, coach, and rescuer for 25 years. For the past 5 years she has worked as a Vet Tech assistant. One of her many passions and interests is native Virginia wildlife and helping all animals. She’s especially fond of working with mammals at the center, but her true love is horses.


Lark Kellogg, Full-time Staff

Lark joined the Center staff in January of 2022, but has been a wildlife rehab volunteer since 2019. They spent their formative years roaming the woods of West Virginia (and Northern Virginia) and gained a deep love for all wild creatures along the way. Inspired by their father’s affinity for Turkey Vultures, they are passionate about advocating for animals that are essential to the environment but commonly regarded as pests –  such as opossums, snakes, vultures, and raccoons. Lark’s goal is to become a career wildlife rehabilitator, and wants to take volunteer trips to different wildlife rescues around the world. Outside of work, he likes to read, hike, and relax at home with his cat.


Kathryn Huntress, Part-time Staff

Kathryn joined the Center in 2017 as an intern. She then volunteered and became staff in 2019. Here for the long run, she thinks of the center like family and focuses on wildlife education and conservation.
“My favorite thing about working with wildlife is not just the opportunity to help save them but also to help educate the public. A well informed public is the best defense we have to conservation and helping save our planet! I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities the center has allotted me and I have made a wildlife family here!”


Nick Nosker, Full-time Staff

Nick was born in the mountain town of Flagstaff, AZ. and spent much of his childhood in the Midwest; where he always loved being outdoors. He recently completed active duty service with the US ARMY that included a deployment to the Middle East. After his service he relocated to Roanoke, VA where he continues to serve in the National Guard and is enjoying working with and rehabilitating animals here at the Center. In his free time he enjoys hiking and getting out in nature. One day, he hopes to become a Conservation Police Officer in Virginia for the Department of Wildlife Resources.


Laurel Moore, Full-time Staff

Laurel started at the Center as an intern in May of 2021 and has found joy in the unique challenges of the job. She has attended wildlife conferences and has previous experience working as a veterinary assistant in a small animal practice. Laurel has her B.S. in Biology from Roanoke College and will be starting veterinary school at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall of 2022. She has a passion for triage and is excited to continue to serve her community.


Casey Pruess, Part-time Staff

Casey graduated from James Madison University with a major in political science and a minor in biology. His first experiences in helping with wildlife can be dated back to his early childhood where he would tag along with his wildlife volunteer mother and help with tasks such as finding pill bugs for the birds to eat. Since then, Casey has gained more experience in working with animals by volunteering to catch and tag sharks and rays in Clearwater, Florida as well as working at the Center. In his free time, Casey enjoys doing anything outdoors such as hiking, fishing, and kayaking. He hopes to one day pursue his true passion of being able to work more closely with marine life, particularly sharks.

 

 

 

 

5985 Coleman Road, Roanoke, VA 24018

1-540-798-9836

swvawildlifecenter@gmail.com