Derek Small – Owner / Director & Educator    [email protected]

Meaghan Dow – Educator & Curator       [email protected]

Jennifer Gibbs – Educator & Community Outreach Program Office Manager     [email protected]

(vacant)  – Marketing & Business Development   [email protected]

Environmental Educators:

Krista Butts – Jean Cumings  –  Rick Gibbs

Jessica Chisholm  –   Kat Barnes  – Drew Stazesky

Ambassador Care:  Drew Stazesky

(Scroll Down for individual profiles of our amazing team members!)

APRIL 2017 – (VIDEO)  Feature Profile on WMUR NH Chronicle

Customer Downloads & Promotional ResourcesAnimal Pictures can be sourced from the Animals Page
  • 2019 Form W-9 PDF
  • 2018/19 USDA License for Facility Inspections and Compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.    HERE
  • 2018/19 Proof of Liability, Auto or Workman’s Comp Insurance – Emailed with all contracts or available upon request.
*Requests for customers, hosting entities or venues to be added as “Additional Insured” Parties, may be done at no charge, but requests must be submitted in writing/email – with the exact entity name(s) and address(es) as they are required to appear on the binder, NO LESS THEN 2 WEEKS IN ADVANCE of the required administrative deadline or service delivery date.


  1. Wildlife Encounters® Logo with tagline, for community outreach program advertising   (check back for update)
  2. Wildlife Encounters Ecology Center & Farm School – official corporate logo        (check back for update)

What is the Wildlife Encounters Ecology Center & Farm School?

Originally founded in 2004, our organization early-on focused mostly on community education (especially in-school curriculum enrichment) based around live-animal presentations: our Wildlife Encounters® shows! Programs and classes delivered by highly skilled& passionate educators and presenters (see profiles below) feature a wide variety of non-releasable wildlife that live with us because they were:
  • Injured in the wild and not able to survive independently
  • exploited by the illegal trade in wildlife and placed with us by authorities
  • abandoned, abused, neglected or otherwise surrendered former pets
  • captive-bred in a US-based protected environment to participate in public education & species/biodiversity conservation efforts.
The Wildlife Encounters Ecology Center & Farm School is a family & employee-run, community-focused educational organization that is legally operating as a tax-paying limited liability corporation.  Facilities in Rochester, NH are not generally open to the public but may be during certain seasons by appointment.  That location is licensed, permitted and regularly visited and/or inspected by: the City of Rochester, Rochester PD/Animal Control, NH Fish & Game, NH Department of Agriculture, USDA and US Fisheries & Wildlife.
Please note: The Wildlife Encounters Ecology Center is not a zoo or production breeding facility. The owner and some staff are however professional members of various zoological, wildlife and conservation entities and many have degrees in biology, ecology, sustainable agriculture, conservation and more! With regard to reproduction, propagation & breeding.   The most fundamental biological mandate of all living things is to reproduce and pass on it’s genetic traits.  It is the root of all biological desires and behaviors, and the most natural “right” of all things to pursue in the attempt to ensure the survival of it’s species. Though we do not currently participate in any of the conservation efforts (AMP/SSP) for captive propagation of endangered species or domesticated farm animals, we do support and advocate for them so long as they are conducted ethically and as naturally as possible. Furthermore, we fundamentally disagree with and strongly oppose the efforts by small ideologically-driven segments of society to deprive domestic and wild animals and plants of their reproductive rights – and further oppose their long term agenda of domestic animal extinction and exclusion of animals from human society.
We support and/or are members of a number of “zoological and conservation industry” entities such as: the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA), the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF), the Green Alliance (GA), the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and many more!

Serving NH, ME, VT, MA, CT, RI & NY

We believe that public education, and a resulting change in human and societal behaviors and practices, are key to the objective of living environmentally and personally responsible lives that will help conserve and protect global biodiversity. Our philosophy, morality, conduct and messages focus on communicating the interdependent relationship between our three core mission components: Animals, People and Earth. Our current Rochester, NH facilites of 14 years… featuring indoor and outdoor habitats and approx 3000 square feet under roof – continues to support our Ambassador Animals and outreach educational services.
  • Licensed and inspected by USDA, US Fisheries & Wildlife, and NH Fish & Game
However, in the summer of 2017 we secured the preservation of the historic 77 acre Swain family farmstead formerly known as “Highland Farm” in Barrington, NH.  This is referred to as the “Ecology Center & Farm School”, which we envision developing into a unique science and nature-based community education center here in the NH Seacoast region! Surveying, architectural design and fundraising are underway for a new, bigger and better accredited & USDA licensed facility for the ambassador animals and for on-site environmental education programming!!

Internship Program

The Wildlife Encounters Ecology Center is constantly looking to help develop our community’s future leaders, educators and conservationists – but getting to work with our team and animals directly is an opportunity provided to few!  In the last 12 years, we have only approved and accepted 10 internship applicants!
So unlike other larger facilities, we do not process dozens of interns each season.  Our standards, and expectations are high.
Successful interns that embrace the opportunities and thrive in the role become critical members of our Education and/or Husbandry Team.
Due to the fact that we are small, privately-owned educational firm specializing in public outreach opportunities (not a zoo, Audubon, etc)… our resources are limited by comparison and the nature of our Internship Program offering is as follows:
  • This is to be a structured Internship Program for Academic credit.
  • There should be a minimum number of hours required for completion, task or academic requirements, and a professor or advisory as a contact at the Intern‘s educational institution.
  • There will be an assigned Internship Supervisor from Wildlife Encounters that will communicate with the school contact as necessary, and will oversee and sign-off that Internship requirements are met.
  • This is not a paid internship.  However, any tasks required to be done that involve materials, etc. shall be provided… or the intern student shall be reimbursed costs* (pre-approval required)
  • Internship candidates must own or have access to an insured vehicle, must have a valid driver’s license, a clean driving record, submit to CORI/SORI check and fully comply with our security policies to protect our animals and organization from “terrorist activists with hostile intent”.
  • The Wildlife Encounters may soon have the ability to provide housing options for Internship candidates.

Staff / Educator work opportunities

Wildlife Encounters is constantly looking for individuals that have the desire, flexibility and that “special something” that could enable them to join our Educator / Presenter team as employed staff!       Think you are, or know somebody that could be a fit?       Send us an email, Facebook message or give a call – we’re always open to meeting like-minded educators 🙂

The Team

Derek Small – Director & Environmental Eductor

Derek was raised on a family farm in Maine, and attained a B.S. of Education in Physiology and Nutrition from Plymouth State College. Once the Fitness Director of the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club and then later a successful Personal Trainer in Manhattan… Derek’s life and career took a turn toward environmental conservation & public education through working with live animals in 2002. For more than a decade since, through formal and informal schooling, Derek has diversified his knowledge and his message strongly into areas that span not only wildlife, ecology and biological sciences… but land stewardship, energy & food production and more! In 2010 he was introduced to the concepts of “ancestral health” and bio-mimicry which have since blended with his existing foundation into a philosophy that guides Wildlife Encounters on a path (and a goal) to effect major change for the benefit of Animals, People & Earth! Derek been delivering live-animal educational programming in New England for 12 years. Well known for his presentations in the educational community as well as the more “for fun” venues, he is also well regarded in the professional environmental education community. Professional Member: Zoological Association of America (ZAA) Member of the ZAA Education Committee Past Board Secretary & Legislative Chair: Association of Professional Wildlife Educators (APWE) Certified Member: Feline Conservation Federation (FCF) Member of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) Consultant to Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

Meaghan Dow – Curator & Environmental Educator

Resident of Newmarket, NH Meaghan is one of our most popular and in demand presenters who is available on weekends and during school breaks as she is also working hard and paying her own way through the 4-year Veterinary Nurse Program at UMASS Amherst (formerly Mount Ida College) in Newton, MA.  A Graduate of Dover High School (NH) where she completed the Animal Science program, she has been an important part of the Wildlife Encounters team since 2013! In addition, her experience and depth of credentials includes:
  • Intern at Kittery Animal Hospital
  • Runs a successful Pet Sitting Service Business
  • 4 Years of Dog Grooming
  • Volunteered in Theraputic Riding @ Sea Star Stable in Brentwood, NH
  • Former FFA Officer
  • Junior Volunteer and Volunteer @ NHSPCA in Stratham, NH
  • Camp Counselor at NHSPCA in Stratham, NH
  • Volunteered at Live & Let Live Horse Rescue in Chichester, NH
  • Volunteered at Wildlife Encounters until brought on to the education team.
  • Volunteered at Ledgewood Farm in Lee, NH

Jennifer Gibbs – Outreach Programs Office Manager & Environmental Educator

Resident of Rochester, NH Jennifer has always had a love for animals since childhood when she would spend her weekends with her Papa at Benson’s Animal Farm. For the past 28 years, Jennifer was employed as a Patient Care Coordinator in the medical field. Upon buying a home next door to Wildlife Encounters with her husband and two children in 2012, it wasn’t long before she started volunteering to clean animal enclosures and accompanying Derek to presentations and educational exhibits. After several years of self-study, in house training and working with our Ambassadors… Jennifer progressed from volunteer, to Wildlife Educator and currently to one of 2 full-time staff, working also as Outreach Programming Manager! Although she is passionate about all of the animals we call her the “bird Mom”. Overcoming her fear of birds wasn’t easy but after doing a lot of research on bird behavior and seeking the advice of some parrot specialists in Florida her confidence in working with them and understanding them has truly grown. Jennifer has made a particular bond with “Big Bird”, a 10-year old cockatoo that Wildlife Encounters took in after a particularly difficult first years in an abuse and neglect situation and has nursed him into a beautiful and more confident bird.

Krista Butts – Environmental Educator

Krista Rheinhardt Butts graduated from Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA) in 1996 with a BS in Biology. In college, she earned a Dean’s List acknowledgement, was a member of the Biology Honor Society, Beta Beta Beta, and was listed in the “Who’s Who of College Students”. She interned at the NH Department of Agriculture in the Entomology Division, then received her MS in Management & Organization from Antioch New England Graduate School in 2003. Starting out her career working as a Naturalist at Knights Hill Nature Park in New London she then progressed to the Audubon Society in Concord, NH. Her career transitioned into a 15 year period as Project Engineer for what is now Graham Packaging and Plastics Forming Enterprises. Since having children, Krista was employed as the Business Operations Manager at PLAY!, a childrens’ indoor playspace. Krista has now, happily, made the move back into her biology roots for her career choice and has enjoyed working for Wildlife Encounters since August of 2013 as a Wildlife Educator. Krista is married with three boys. In her free time she enjoys, hiking, camping, and being outdoors with her family.

Jean Cumings – Environmental Educator

Resident of Strafford, NH Jean Cumings has spent her life studying, caring for and teaching about animals. Growing up on a dairy farm, she graduated from U Mass, Amherst with a  BS in  Natural Resource Studies.  She taught middle and high school biology and zoology for over 30 years and has spent countless hours volunteering in wildlife rehabilitation and educational facilities. She loves to travel, photograph and observe wildlife in the US and other countries  including Panama, Thailand, the Galápagos Islands, Australia and most recently Tanzania.  Just a few of her favorite experiences involved fostering a black bear cub, helping protect sea turtle nesting beaches and releasing hatchlings and swimming with whale sharks. She currently volunteers at a local wildlife rehabilitation center and hopes to continue to learn how to care for a variety of injured or orphaned animals.

Rick Gibbs – Environmental Educator

Resident of Rochester, NH Rick is Jennifer’s husband, and a key part of the “Penn & Teller-style” presentations they deliver every summer at Flat Rock Bridge Campground, and other locations. Rick enjoys participating in the more relaxed setting of our Exhibit Services where we interact with and educate the public more one-on-one. You will most likely find him a distance from our exhibit tent – following a giant tortoise!

Drew Stazesky – Environmental Educator

Resident of New Durham, NH Drew is a native New Yorker, having grown up in Brooklyn, NY. After graduating from a private high school in 2012, she went on to attend UNH where she graduated in May of 2016 with a BS in Environmental Conservation & Sustainability. While at UNH she volunteered with the UNH Therapeutic Riding program, was a leader for an after school science program known as “Science Friday’s“, and was an active member of the Native American Cultural Association. The summer after graduating UNH, Drew worked as an educator at her local zoo in Brooklyn (The Prospect Park Zoo), where she gained lots of experience with formal, classroom oriented conservation and wildlife education. Drew has always been an avid animal lover, and has been lucky enough to travel to Africa twice! The most recent time was in 2015, where she was in Botswana for 3 months studying wildlife population fluctuations. Her favorite animals include cats (she has 3) and horses (she spent the winter of 2016 as an assistant barn manager & is an avid equestrian). She appreciates all life and the role it plays in the environment around it. Drew is excited to work with Wildlife Encounters and the opportunity to teach others about the wonders of the natural world and the importance of its conservation!

Katherine (Kat) Barnes – Environmental Educator

Kat Barnes has a passion for animals, people and the earth. She grew up in Concord, NH – spending tons of time outdoors, volunteering and living with animals.  She earned a B.A. in English with a focus on education from UNH and moved to California. After several years working in a traditional classroom, she took a summer job working with an experiential, outdoor education organization, teaching through contact with rescued reptiles and amphibians, and everything clicked. Kat was with this organization for three years, where she strived to inspire critical thinking in order to save, preserve and maintain our planet’s biodiversity by introducing students to live, rescued animals. After a move back to New Hampshire in the summer of 2016, Kat is excited to bring her educational experience and passion for animals to Wildlife Encounters, where she can continue to educate and inspire!  She loves being outside with her adopted pup, Millie, and will never stop being awed by the amazing adaptations of our animal counterparts!

Jessica Chisholm – Environmental Educator

Resident of Nottingham, NH Coming Soon