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 rehabilitated wildlife for over a decade and previously gained experience at several large rehabilitation facilities across the country before coming to our Center. Beginning as a volunteer in 2016, Haley quickly shot up the ranks due to her prior rehabilitation experience, extensive knowledge of natural history, and willingness to go the extra mile for both wildlife and people in need. Haley holds a B.S. in wildlife conservation (concentration in human dimensions) with a minor in entomology from Virginia Tech. While at Virginia Tech, Haley was selected to receive the Dave Smith Award from the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, an award which recognizes a student who embodies leadership, service, scholarship, and professionalism. She is also a graduate of the College of Natural Resources and Environment Leadership Institute, a year-long program aiming to create the next generation of leaders in environmental conservation. Additionally, Haley is a certified Virginia Master Naturalist.
Haley is driven to discover how wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife science, and citizen science can work together to create win-win opportunities for humans and wildlife. Under her initiative Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke became the first known wildlife rehabilitation organization in the world to contribute data to a breeding bird atlas study. In addition to wildlife rehab, Haley has a plethora of field and lab experiences that give her a holistic view of all aspects of wildlife conservation. In her prior work, Haley has created a database to monitor fish hatchery disease outbreaks for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, monitored American Oystercatchers chicks on remote barrier islands, banded hundreds of birds, surveyed for threatened species, taken blood and parasite samples from wildlife to survey for disease, prepared specimens for local natural history museum collections, and much more. Haley is also a published scientific author on bird window-strike collisions.
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
After a childhood spent indiscriminately picking up snakes, birds, and bunnies, Allyson officially became involved with wildlife rehabilitation in 1990 and has since obtained her Virginia Category IIA and Federal Wildlife Rehabilitator permits. After graduating with a B.A. in Studio Arts from Roanoke College in 1993, began working in small animal medicine in 1998, and obtained her veterinary technician license in 2003; all the while providing care to wildlife as a home-based rehabilitator. While she works with and appreciates all wildlife, reptiles are her specialty. Allyson has worked overseas providing medical care for various turtles species after multiple disasters and confiscations. She combined her love of veterinary medicine and her passion for wildlife rehabilitation by joining the Center in 2020. In addition to her work with animals, Allyson also works as a search and rescue volunteer with her HRD dog, Annie. She takes every opportunity to enjoy wildlife in their natural habitat while hiking, paddle boarding, and creating photography.
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!”
Casey Pruess, Full-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.
Christina Honse, Full-time Staff
Christina graduated from Penn State with a degree in Animal Science. For two years in college, she gained experience working at the Penn State Deer Research Center where she fell in love with ungulates and working hands-on with wildlife. After graduating with her bachelor’s in 2017, she decided to further pursue her love for husbandry and spent 3 years working at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium as an animal care specialist/ educator. There, she had the pleasure of working with a large range of animals including Siamang, American Alligators, and Masai giraffe. In 2021, she moved down to Roanoke, VA and has since worked at Natural Bridge Safari Park and as a vet assistant. She spends her free time hiking with her husband and dog, sewing, and baking.
5985 Coleman Road, Roanoke, VA 24018