Oakland Zoo Executive Team

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
Executive Vice President

As Executive Vice President, Nik oversees a range of institution-wide functions including Accounting/Finance, Development, Education, Marketing, and Operations. Operating business units include admission, food/retail, maintenance, public safety, and rides. Nik also represents the organization in government affairs and community engagement and is responsible for directing, implementing and communicating approved organizational plans. Nik has served in various positions at the Zoo including Chief Financial Officer and Vice-President of Business Affairs, and Director of Strategic Initiatives where he helped guide planning and approvals 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 California Trail (opened in 2017/2018).

Prior to the Oakland Zoo, Nik has worked in both the public and non-profit sectors, including international public policy at the World Resources Institute and World Bank, corporate responsibility at Business for Social Responsibility, and at the commercial world at Levi Strauss & Co.

Nik holds an MBA from U.C. Berkeley and an undergraduate from Vassar College. A 23-year resident in the Bay Area and a father of two, Nik lives in Alameda.

Colleen Kinzley
Vice President 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.

Randy Kyle
Vice President of People & Culture

Randy is responsible for all Human Resources, Employee Relations, Legal Compliance, and Leadership Development for the Conservation Society of California — Oakland Zoo. He brings over 20 years of Human Resources Leadership and Consulting Experience, including several years of nonprofit work 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. Randy’s strategic consulting experience consisted of working for diverse 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). He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Human Resources Committee for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

Randy is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA). Educationally, Randy holds a 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 Graduate School/Seminary. He is currently in a Doctorate program at Fuller, focusing on Leadership Theory and Organizational Structure in Effective Organizations. Randy holds the highest HR credentials: Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist (CHRS) and is Hay Compensation System Certified. Randy has three rescue dogs and fosters dogs for local rescue groups.

Erin Dogan Harrison
Vice President of Marketing and Communications

Erin is responsible for directing all aspects of marketing for the Conservation Society of California — Oakland Zoo. From branding initiatives, public relations, corporate communications and advertising, she loves the creative and conceptualization processes for building and executing campaigns that support the Zoo’s goals in driving attendance and highlighting the organization’s foundation of animal care and conservation. She also oversees all Corporate / Alliance Partnerships that help generate additional revenue for animal care programs.

Prior to her current position at the Zoo, Erin served as Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications where she managed the Zoo PR, website(s), social media platforms, and various marketing campaigns. She also filmed and edited short-form videos, developed the Zoo’s new App and oversaw the website redesign. Previous to the Zoo, Erin worked in various Marketing/PR positions for Pixar Animation Studios, InVism, Inc., WildAid and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She also founded, operated and eventually sold Country Baking Company, an all-natural cookie dough company sold in high-end grocery retailers throughout California. Erin has a bachelors degree in English Literature from UCLA and also a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Saint Mary’s College.

Kristin Heller
Vice President of Development

Kristin is responsible for engaging with philanthropists and members to fuel the Conservation Society of California’s mission to lead an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally.

Previously, Kristin was the Associate Director for the Exploratorium's Capital Campaign, raising funds for programmatic initiatives and endowment. Formerly Kristin was a Senior Consulting Director and Marketing Director for Olive Grove Consulting, a nonprofit capacity-building firm. There she focused on strategic planning, fundraising and governance with organizations including Friends for the Alameda Animal Shelter and Bay Area Open Space Council. Kristin served on the University of San Francisco's 2019 Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Symposium Host Committee. Prior to that she served on the board of Pets Are Wonderful Support and The Shanti Project (now a single organization), and on the board of the Richmond District YMCA.

Kristin earned her Masters in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco, and Bachelors degrees in Art History and Anthropology from University of California, San Diego. She loves to cook with friends and family, garden, sing and dance while cleaning, hike with her husband and dog, and snuggle with her cat. If you would like to learn about supporting the Conservation Society of California – Oakland Zoo, contact Kristin at (510) 632-9525 ext 188 or kheller@oaklandzoo.org.

Caterina Meyers, PhD
Vice President of Education

Caterina is responsible for educational offerings focused on the mission of creating awareness, fostering a sense of responsibility, and taking action to preserve wildlife and habitats. With a dynamic team of talented educators, she oversees school classes, assemblies, Zoo Mobiles, and Zoo to Community programs. The department also conducts a wide range of exciting family and public programs as well as an on-site volunteer initiative that trains and sustains a tremendous group of Docents, Teen Wild Guides, a Creek Restoration Team and more.

Caterina is a native of Spain and has lived in the Bay Area for over 25 years; graduating from U.C. Berkeley with a B.S. degree in Conservation Biology and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Her passion is empowering educators and learners of all ages to continually ask and pursue questions that further understanding.

Before joining the C.S.C., her work as an educator and teacher-leader in public and independent schools, a naturalist and interpreter with East Bay Regional Parks, and a curriculum development and teacher trainer ignited her commitment to joy inducing educational experiences.

Amy Gotliffe
Vice President of Conservation

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.

Bob Westfall
Vice President of Park Services

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.