Melanie Croce (USA)
After studying Environmental Science at Virginia Tech University, Melanie went on to do environmental consulting work on the BP Oil Spill Response on the Gulf Coast, before becoming an Animal Care and Education Intern for SRI back when it was known as ‘Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary’ in 2013. From there, she went on to gain further wildlife nonprofit experience as Research Associate for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, followed by a long term post doing sea turtle and endangered primate conservation and ecotourism work on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. With this new diversity of international skills, she was invited back to Ireland as SRI’s Operations Manager in April 2017, later to become Executive Director, a role she has held since. Her passion for wildlife and environmental conservation and tireless commitment to SRI has been fundamental to the organisation’s growth.
Sam Brittain (Ireland)
Animal Care & Research Manager
Our resident seal guru, Sam received a BSc in Zoology from University College Cork, followed by a Master’s in Zoo Conservation Biology at Plymouth University. He came to SRI in January 2016 as Animal Care and Education Intern, and through wholehearted commitment, worked his way all the way up to Animal Care Manager in July 2017. Since then he’s provided consistent training and oversight of the animal care programme, and contributed to the rescue, rehab and release of over 600 native seals who likely would not have otherwise survived. Sam has trained hundreds of interns and developed SRI’s research programme through collaborations with universities across Ireland and the world to contribute to the global understanding and conservation of seals.
Ellen De Vos (Belgium)
After studying Communication Management at Erasmushogeschool Brussels, Ellen first came to SRI in April of 2018 with the intent of being a short term Marketing Intern. She was almost immediately recognised for her amazing capabilities and invited to stay longer as Gift Shop Manager, later to be promoted to the key role of Operations Manager. Incredibly dynamic and hard working, Ellen wears many hats and is cherished by our interns, volunteers, and management team with her bubbly personality and brilliant work ethic. She provides consistent leadership and has made incredible improvements to the organisation’s systems and management that will enable SRI to grow leaps and bounds into the future.
Kim Townsend Smyth (Ireland)
Community Engagement Manager
Kim is a graduate of Zoology (BSc) and Wildlife and Conservation Management (MSc) from University College Dublin (UCD), and has worked in the management of sea turtle conservation projects in Greece since 2012. She has worked on both NGO projects and EU Life projects. She has gained extensive experience in field monitoring, volunteer management and public awareness activities while working at two of the biggest nesting sites for Loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean. Kim is passionate about environmental education believing that informing and engaging people is the strongest tool we have to achieve conservation goals. She joined SRI as Community Engagement Manager in March 2019 and quickly made herself a vital asset to our long term team.
Jeshua Taucher (New Zealand)
Outreach & Development Manager
With a background in Psychology from University of Otago, Jesh has traveled the world doing NGO and volunteering projects including fundraising in the UK, ecotourism in South Africa, and spearheading environmental and children’s health programmes in Nepal. After returning briefly to New Zealand to work for Department of Conservation, Jesh joined the SRI team in May 2018 to develop our education programme and contribute to much needed structural improvements. Since then, Jesh’s versatility and passion has flourished into the role of Outreach and Development Manager where he commits his skills to everything from grant writing and website development to progressing SRI’s proactive conservation mission through our climate action and biodiversity projects.
Sydney Stone (USA)
Assistant Animal Care Manager & Volunteer Coordinator
After growing up immersed in the world of vet medicine, Sydney studied Marine Biology at University of North Carolina, Wilmington, to then gain hands on experience working with marine animals at a variety of institutions including Clearwater Marine Aquarium, New York Aquarium, New England Aquarium and Hogle Zoo. After her first stint at SRI in Autumn 2017 as Animal Care and Education Intern, Sydney was invited back and promoted to Assistant Animal Care Manager with the dual responsibility of Volunteer Management in September 2018. Since then, she has grown with our team to become an asset at SRI, demonstrating invaluable skills through the development of media content, volunteer experiences and the animal enrichment programme.
Gale Loescher (USA)
Assistant Animal Care Manager & Intern Coordinator
With a degree in Biological Sciences from University of New England, Gale came to SRI in March 2018 with a plethora of animal care knowledge and skills from previous experiences at Oasis Animal Sanctuary, Alaska SeaLife Center, The Marine Mammal Center and Linda Mar Vet Hospital. As an Assistant Animal Care Manager, Gale has also shown great dedication and organisational skills in overseeing SRI’s flourishing internship programme which pulls talent from all over the world to build career skills at our Seal Rescue Centre in Courtown.
Jules Robinson (England)
Gift Shop Manager & Sustainability Coordinator
Building on a Marine Biology degree from University of Southampton, Jules has gathered experience from a variety of wildlife rehabilitation settings worldwide. She spent 2018 at SANCCOB in South Africa hatching and raising African penguin chicks to bolster the endangered population then in Maldives she nursed sick and injured sea turtles, assisted on a coral propagation programme and taught tourists about protecting the marine environment. Jules came to SRI in November 2019 as an Animal Care and Education Intern and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Sustainability Coordinator and Education Manager.
Nikola Piesinger (Singapore / Austria)
Niki has a strong background in Environmental Science and Marine Biology. She obtained a BSc from Northeastern University, in 2013 and then took a nice break from school, before returning to complete her MSc in 2019, focusing on Marine Biological Resources. Niki has worked on a number of different projects focusing on both, marine and terrestrial conservation, as well as a rabies elimination. Niki has significant experience working in the education and outreach sector, and is passionate about engaging with the public about wildlife and conservation.
Our Board of Directors
Ally O’Sullivan (Australia)
Secretary, Board of Directors
After studying Captive Animal Management at Taronga Training Institute, and serving as an Animal Keeper at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Ally ventured to Co Kerry, Ireland in 2011, during the very early days of SRI when it was known as ‘Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary’. With the intent of volunteering as Resident Animal Handler for six short months, Ally fell in love with Ireland’s seals, and never left. She persevered through unimaginable challenges as Animal Care Manager alongside the charity’s founder, Ciaran, and has been the backbone to what SRI has become today. Although she now has her hands full with her own human pup, she still provides daily support and guidance to her team on the ground through her invaluable role as Trustee.
Ciaran O’Sullivan (Ireland)
Chairman, Board of Directors
Ciaran built and established the original seal rescue hospital in Dingle, Co Kerry using his own personal funds in 2010. Through sheer will power and a steep learning curve, his ‘Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary’ originally took in sick, injured and orphaned seals from the south-west counties of Ireland. When the only other seal rescue facility closed its doors in 2011, Ciaran’s newly established centre was left solely covering the entire coastline with very limited volunteers and resources. The challenges didn’t stop coming, when a terrible storm destroyed the facility in 2014, but Ciaran’s incredible dedication wouldn’t let him give up. In desperation, he relocated to a new site in Courtown, Co Wexford, and became established as ‘Seal Rescue Ireland’ CLG. Throughout the following years his perseverance paid off, now fully established with a talented team of long term staff, the charity continues to grow in strength, scope and impact.
Mel Robinson (Northern Ireland)
Treasurer, Board of Directors
Director of Animal Care
Mel from Belfast (lovingly known to us as Melfast) has been involved with SRI since 2014 when it first relocated to its current site in Courtown, Co Wexford. She’s made frequent journeys down from her home in Northern Ireland to provide support at the hospital, rescue and transport seals from near and far, and pitch in with her compassionate and unparalleled dedication in any way needed. She is now responsible for recruiting, training and coordinating SRI’s nationwide network of rescue volunteers (now over 1,000 strong!), and overseeing the adoption programme which is one of the most valuable funding streams we have. Through her role as a Trustee, her generosity with her time and knowledge, combined with her warm heart and love for the seal pups, contributes to the heart and soul of the organisation.