Oakland Zoo Directors

Dr. Joel Parrott

President and CEO

Dr. Joel Parrott received his BS and DVM degrees from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. Born in the Adirondack region of New York State, Dr. Parrott spent his high school years in Miami, Florida before moving to Colorado to attend college. Upon graduation from veterinary school, he completed an internship at the Denver Zoo and later went into private practice in Castro Valley, California.

With a specialty in exotic animals, he served as consulting veterinarian for Oakland Zoo until 1984, when he became the Staff Veterinarian and Assistant Director. A year later, he became the Executive Director of Oakland Zoo and has held the title of President & CEO for many years.

Under his direction and management for over three decades, Dr. Parrott is responsible for the grand transformation of Oakland Zoo to what is today. His improvements include an over-arching conservation focus for the Zoo, naturalistic and enlarged animal exhibits, increasing the size of the Zoo from 25 to 100 acres, the creation of the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo, a new state-of-the-art Leed-certified veterinary hospital, and the development and reality of the California Trail expansion.

As an avid conservationist and naturalist, he views the role of zoos as instrumental to environmental education and conservation of animals in the wild.


Nik Dehejia

CFO and VP of Business Affairs

As Chief Financial Officer, Nik directs institution-wide financial functions and is responsible for evaluating, directing, implementing and communicating approved organizational plans. As the Vice President of Business Affairs, Nik oversees various operating business units including food, retail, admissions, and rides.

He is also responsible for government affairs, guest service, and provides guidance to other operating functions throughout the Zoo as needed. In his previous position at Oakland Zoo, Nik served as Director of Strategic Initiatives where he led planning of the Zoo’s transformational California Trail, a three-stage, multi-million dollar project that includes a new Veterinary Hospital (opened in 2012), a Biodiversity Center (opened in 2013), and the opening of the Gondola and Kaiser Permanente Visitor Center (opened in 2017).

Nik began his career in the public and non-profit sectors, working in international public policy at the World Resources Institute, World Bank and corporate responsibility at Business for Social Responsibility. He moved to the commercial world at Levi Strauss & Co., working in the Dockers brand across Marketing, Licensing, and Merchandising functions.

Nik holds an MBA from U.C. Berkeley and an undergraduate from Vassar College. A 20-year resident in the Bay Area and a father of two, Nik lives in Alameda.

Colleen Kinzley

Director, Animal Care, Conservation, and Research

Colleen Kinzley directs the Zoo's animal care, wildlife conservation, and research programs. In this position she sets the standards of animal care and well-being, aims and actions for conservation, professional growth for the department of close to 50 staff. She defines the zoo's position with regard to animal welfare and other wildlife issues. Colleen started her career at the Phoenix Zoo in 1983 working with elephants among other animals. In 1990 she came to Oakland Zoo as the manager of the Zoo's elephant program, transitioning it into a protected contact system where keepers only use positive reinforcement with elephants and are always protected by a barrier. In her over 25 years at the zoo, Colleen has expanded the animal care department to nearly 50 employees and over 40 exhibits.She has overseen the development of the African Savanna and African Village, Children's Zoo, expansion of the elephant exhibit, California Trail, as well as construction or remodeling of many other exhibits. Under her guidance, the Oakland Zoo is known for its spacious exhibits and behavior management programs which provide animals with the freedom of choice and control over their environment. While earning her Master's degree from Cal State East Bay, she participated in research both at the Zoo and in Namibia studying elephant communication and social behavior.

Amy Gotliffe

Conservation Director

Amy Gotliffe has a mission to connect all human beings to nature, envisioning a planet where all species live in peaceful co-existence. She holds a bachelor's degree in communications, several teaching credentials and a Master's Degree in Ecological Education. She also holds certifications in humane education, nature-based leadership, conservation psychology, human-wildlife conflict resolution, nature interpretation and influencing conservation behavior change. She has worked at various Bay Area educational and environmental institutions, creating campaigns, planting pollinator gardens, teaching all ages, producing earth day events and generally influencing positive change in wildlife conservation and green living. As Conservation Director at Oakland Zoo, she coordinates international, national and local conservation efforts, creates positive partnerships and alliances, produces a Conservation Speaker Series, leads international conservation expeditions, produces awareness events, coordinates the Zoo's on-site sustainability efforts and leads massive and enthusiastic, inter-departmental efforts to conserve biodiversity around the globe and in our own backyards.

Dr. Karen A. Emanuelson

Director of Veterinary Services

Karen A. Emanuelson, DVM, earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physiology in 1982 from the University of California Davis; and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (DVM) from the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1986. She completed a zoological medicine internship at Whipsnade Zoo, Zoological Society of London, England. She also was co-owner of Cottage Veterinary Hospital, a mixed exotic and wildlife practice in California, for 7 years. She has served as a faculty clinician at the UC Davis Zoological Medicine Service while working concurrently with Oakland Zoo. Dr. Emanuelson is a member of several organizations, including the American Association of Zoological Veterinarians, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Wildlife Disease Association, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She is a representative to the Giant Panda Species Survival Program of the AZA. Dr. Emanuelson has been associated with Oakland Zoo since 1987; she joined the zoo full-time in 2000. Currently she is the Director of Veterinary Services and Research at Oakland Zoo.

Sara Becker

Director of Development

Sara Becker comes to Oakland Zoo with over two decades of experience in nonprofit development and management. As the Zoo prepares to open the California Trail in mid-2018, she focuses on completing the capital campaign and strengthening the Zoo's donor relationships and support. Her favorite part of the work is spending time with the Zoo's generous supporters who make it all happen at the Zoo. She's been heard to boast that hers is a “zoo family” with close relatives working in AZA-accredited facilities.

Erin Dogan Harrison

Director of Marketing & Communications

Erin is responsible for all aspects of public relations and advertising, including conceiving of and building campaigns, composing press releases, coordinating media coverage, media planning, production of commercial spots and online advertising. Prior to her current position at the Zoo, Erin served as Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications where she managed the Zoo website(s), social media platforms, and various marketing campaings. She also filmed and edited short-form videos, developed the Zoo’s new App for smartphones and tablets and helped build up the Zoo’ multimedia library. Previous to the Zoo, Erin worked in various Marketing/PR positions for Pixar Animation Studios, InVism, Inc., WildAid and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Her favorite part of her job has been conceiving of and producing the Animal Art Show at Oakland Zoo in 2014 and 2015. Erin has a bachelors degree in English Literature from UCLA and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Saint Mary’s College.

Bob Westfall

Director of Park Services/Chief, Public Safety Dept.

Bob Westfall is responsible for overseeing the Public Safety/Security, Maintenance, Grounds, and Janitorial Departments. Bob has served the Zoo in several capacities and has witnessed countless improvements during his 25 year affiliation. The key to his motivation is the ongoing renovation and potential expansion. He has an extensive background in Park Safety, Law Enforcement, Loss Prevention, Contract Security, and Operations Management. His former employers include both the Oakland Office of Parks and Recreation and the Police Department. He was also priviliged to serve as an Animal Keeper and Amusement Rides Operator at Children's Fairyland on Lake Merritt while obtaining a degree in Administration of Justice. Bob is committed to the development of employee professionalism and service excellence, as well as maintaining the Zoo's reputation as a safe environment for its guests and their families.

Randy Kyle

Director of People

Randy has 20 years of Human Resources Management and Consulting Experience. His nonprofit experience is as the Director of Human Resources for Golden Gate Graduate School/Seminary and as the Senior Director of Human Resources for Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco for several years. Randy’s consulting experience consisted of working for organizations such as Teach for America (for the Kansas City School District), ThinkHR (knowledge based consultancy), and ADP TotalSource (over 70 companies with 4,000 employees). Randy holds the highest HR credentials - Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and SHRM-SCP. He is a Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist (CHRS)and is Hay Compensation System Certified. Randy is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA). Educationally, Randy holds Bachelor of Science in Counseling Psychology. In addition to his graduate study in a Master of Science in Administration (Human Resources emphasis) from Central Michigan University, he has a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership (MAEL), a Master of Divinity (MDIV), and a Master of Theology (THM) from Golden Gate Seminary and Graduate School. He is currently in a Doctorate program at Fuller focusing on Leadership Theory and Organizational Structure in Effective Organizations. Randy has two rescue dogs and fosters dogs for local rescue groups. He loves to road trips and chasing waterfalls!

P.O. Box 5238

9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, CA 94605