Chief Executive Officer
Roberta English is the Executive Director of Wildlife Prairie Park. She joined the Park in 2019 with a focus on developing and strengthening relationships throughout the community and improving the Park’s multiple revenue streams. Roberta has a passion for creating workplaces with positive culture, diversity of thought, and entrepreneurial spirit. Roberta has a passion for building a stronger community in Peoria. A proud Rotarian, she serves on the boards of directors for the Peoria Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Business Political Action Committee of Central Illinois, and the Greater Peoria Illinois Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Roberta’s favorite animal is the “Wildcat,” because she is one. She holds B.S and M.S degrees from Northwestern University.
Chief Financial Officer
Jennifer has worked in the accounting and auditing profession for over 20 years, primarily with PricewaterhouseCoopers and CliftonLarsonAllen. Most recently, she has provided accounting services to a local restaurant. She has formerly served as the treasurer for the St. Francis Community Clinic for many years and is currently the audit committee chair for the W.D. Boyce Council, Boy Scouts of America. Jennifer’s favorite memory of the park are the field trips she took there with her daughters’ second grade classes. She has a love of animals and her favorite animal at the Park are the wolves. Jennifer holds a B.A. degree in accounting from Illinois Wesleyan University.
Eric Peterson serves as the Park Administrator and oversees daily park operations at Wildlife Prairie Park. Eric has over fifteen years of comprehensive operations and human resources experience. Eric relocated back to his hometown of Galesburg after serving as a Park Administrator at Gulf State Park for four years. Eric uses his broad skill set in multiple areas at the park and continues to lead our human resources department as well.
Eric’s favorite animal at the park is Earnest the Bull Elk.
John Patroff is the Finance Director overseeing the Accounting Department, Ticket Gate, and Adventure Store. He has an MBA from University of Illinois and comes from management/leadership positions in local healthcare facilities. He is a past Treasurer of Foster Pet Outreach and current Treasurer at Big Hollow Sportsman Club. He has great memories spending time at the park with his family. He is a big fan of our Longhorns as it reminds him of helping his dad raise cattle.
Calli Dicks is the Marketing Director at Wildlife Prairie Park. As a Peoria native who grew up working and caring for animals at local vet clinics, she is excited to share her passion for wildlife and conservation, especially for native species, in hopes to bring awareness of the living world all around you.
She studied abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia and has a BS in Biological Sciences from University of Missouri, where she immersed herself in learning about animal conservation and behavior. Over the last 10 years, she has been a Naturalist, Programming Specialist, Lead Animal Keeper, and now the Marketing Director at the Park. She has experience with animal husbandry, enrichment and training, environmental education, event planning, and marketing.
If you see a pun, especially an animal pun, anywhere at the Park, you can be assured, it is highly likely Calli did it. Some of her hobbies include soccer, scuba diving, managing the neighborhood lake, and going exploring with her husband and two Siberian Huskies, Loki and Lugh.
Betsy leads the park’s efforts to maintaining and improving existing recreational venues, and the development and implementation of new opportunities for fun outdoors, like our new kayaking and laser tag programs.
After Betsy graduated from Kansas State University, she immediately embarked on a 12-year world tour employed as a professional “Active Travel Guide” by the luxury travel company, Backroads. Already an avid outdoor girl with a knack for running & cycling, her adventures with Backroads exposed her to mountain biking, kayaking, river rafting, backpacking, scuba diving and much more all while tending to her guests needs and ensuring they experienced a vacation of a lifetime.
In 2009, by request of Wildlife Prairie Park, she and other volunteers began developing mountain biking trails on the park’s property west of Taylor Road. After building 14 miles of trails and many years as the Wildlife Trail Crew Lead, Betsy came on staff in 2018 with a mission to revamp the new 18-hole disc golf course on that same property. This course now regularly hosts the country’s largest disc golf tournaments.
Dr. Dave Knaak
Wildlife Committee Chair
David is a retired veterinarian at Limestone Companion Animal Hospital. He serves on the board at Wildlife Prairie Park to improve the welfare of all Wildlife Prairie Park animals! David’s favorite memory at the park is the roundup of the bison and elk herds. His favorite animal is the Alligator snapping turtle. David serves on the board at the Tri-County Animal Emergency Clinic and Mason County Pheasants Forever. David is married to Mary.
Dr. Kourtney Grimm
Dr. Kourtney Grimm was born and raised in central Illinois and returned home after graduating with a DVM from University of Illinois in 2012. Like many veterinarians, she has always loved animals, but developed an interest in exotic and wildlife medicine after studying sea turtles in Costa Rica for a year before starting veterinary school. Despite being land locked in Illinois, sea turtles remain her favorite animal. She spent 4 years working with her vet school’s wildlife clinic and was able to do several wildlife internships. She even participated in Wildlife Prairie Park’s Round Up twice as a student. She actively pursues additional continuing education in exotic animal medicine to provide high quality care to many different species of animals. She has a specific interest in community outreach and enjoys doing talks to adults and children about exotic and wildlife animal care and medicine. She is proud to provide care to the animals of Wildlife Prairie Park as they hold a special place in the hearts of many in Central Illinois and beyond.
Dr. Nicole Johnson
Dr. Nikki is a 2003 graduate of the University of Illinois. She is a Pekin native and returned to the central Illinois area to join Pekin Animal Hospital in August of 2008.
She is a very active member and past president of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians. She is also a member of the Association for Avian Veterinarians and the Association for Exotic Mammal Veterinarians. She is currently the President Elect for the Mississippi Valley Veterinary Medical Association. She is also the Region IV board member for the ISVMA.
In addition to treating dogs and cats, Dr. Nikki has a strong background in exotic and zoo animal medicine and surgery. She shares her life with her significant other, Aaron, her teenage son, their Akitas Holly, and Spartan, their cats Autumn, Bruno, Sophie and Sid and a house full of reptiles including their continuously growing African Spurred Tortoise, Blue, who enjoys spending her winters, and entertaining the staff at PAH.
Iliff Veterinary and Consulting LLC
Iliff Veterinary and Consulting is a large animal veterinary clinic specializing in beef production and consulting service. Team Iliff has a long history with the park taking care of our bison and elk herds. The Illiff’s lead our twice yearly roundups where we do health checks and administer immunizations.
Anna Lynn went to Southern Illinois University and has a Bachelors Degree in Zoology. She started as a Naturalist Intern in the Education Department at WPP, then became an Animal Keeper shortly after. Anna is now Animal Curator and has been at the park for about 8 years. She loves photography and often takes pictures of the Park’s animal residents.
Nick serves as the Retail Supervisor at the park, and brings almost 20 years of Management experience with him. He has managed several teams with multiple companies, and has overseen national projects. He is from Central Illinois, and spent 4 years in Los Angeles, California with family before coming back to the area. He currently lives in Hanna City with his girlfriend Jenn. His favorite thing to do is spend time with family- playing sports, going on walks, playing at parks, and visiting Wildlife Prairie Park. He has three daughters, Jayden, Addison, and Evie, and one son, Cameron. His favorite animals at the park are the otters because they are father and
Team of Champions
Leigh Ann Perryman
Ticket Gate Lead
Leigh Ann has been an estimable employee at the park for over thirty-two years. She began working at Wildlife Prairie Park in 1991 after graduating from Elmwood High School. She first started working in the Animal Department caring for the animals in the nursery and now works at the Ticket gate as a part of the Operations Department. She enjoys meeting and greeting visitors and has made many friendships. Her favorite park animals are the bobcats, wolves, and cougars, but she enjoys all of them. When Leigh Ann is not at the park, she enjoys NASCAR races, reading, and spending time with her family including her two housecats, R.J. and Blackie. During her time at the park, she has made lots of good memories with all the people she has worked with and with many of the visitors and guests.
Executive Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator
Diana Pavley- Rock is the Executive Assistant to the CEO and serves as Wildlife Prairie Park’s Volunteer Coordinator. Diana previously held the position of City Clerk/Human Resource Manager for the City of Canton IL and served as the Human Resource Director for the City of Pekin IL. Diana holds a Master Municipal Clerk Certification from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and is a certified professional with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Diana believes in “service above self” and has served as past President, Youth Exchange Coordinator, Youth Exchange Office of the foreign exchange program with the Canton Rotary Club.
Diana is passionate about bringing people together, creating teams and promoting a positive working environment.
During Diana’s free time she enjoys loading up her bicycle and looking for new adventures with friends and family. While on the bicycle adventures, it’s not uncommon for her to make plans for kayaking, hiking, playing tennis and visiting parks so she can enjoy wildlife and to spend time with family and friends.
Diana recalls going to Wildlife Prairie Park as a child and enjoyed every aspect of the park. While working with the City of Canton, Diana coordinated and participated in a company retreat at Wildlife Prairie Park for the leadership team. The event was such a huge success, she still receives compliments from staff members.
Melody began working at the park during the summer of 2021 as a Ticket Gate employee and was later promoted to Membership Specialist as well. She thoroughly enjoys helping guests and making sure they have a fun and memorable experience while visiting. She appreciates supporting recreation and conservation efforts at the park and in her community.
Melody received her associate in art from Illinois Central College in 2022 where she studied Environmental Science. She is currently working towards her bachelor’s studying Parks and Recreation Management at Illinois State University and will be interning under the Recreation Manager for the summer 2023 season. Her favorite park animals are the Black Bears, T.R., and Molly because they look too cute to cuddle. In her free time, she enjoys being with friends and family as well as spending time outdoors. She likes to hunt, fish, go four-wheeling, and play with her dog Ozark.
Greg Pickering is the Finance Assistant completing daily tasks with Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable. He assists the Ticket Gate, Adventure Store, and Snack Shack with our point-of-sale software. He is also a great resource for any minor IT issues in the park. He has 30 years of healthcare experience in billing, accounts receivable, and IT support. He started his healthcare career in the U.S. Navy and finished at a private practice. He enjoys putting his remodeling and repair skills to use for family and friends. Other hobbies include 4-wheeling and fishing. Being able to walk the animal trails and see the park’s animals is a great benefit of working at Wildlife Prairie Park.
Private Events Coordinator
Emma Clark of Rockton, IL joins Wildlife Prairie Park as a Private Event Coordinator. Emma gained experience in the events industry through her work for the KDB Group as an Event Coordinator. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music and Entertainment Industry from Bradley University.
Emma gained her passion for the outdoors through her upbringing, where she grew up on 5 acres in a historic 1845 farmhouse. She fondly recalls accompanying her father on many occasions to check the bluebird boxes at the bluebird trail he oversaw at Nygren Wetland Preserve near her childhood home in Rockton. Emma discovered Wildlife Prairie Park when she first visited the area in 2018, and after moving to Peoria in 2020 she visited the park regularly.
Her personal life is filled with making music, cuddles with her two cats, and sharing a love of nature with her young step-son.
Lead Animal Keeper
Brielle Haile was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois. She started as an animal keeper at Wildlife Prairie Park in July of 2021. Her favorite part of the job has been being able to share her love for animals with the community. Brielle graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 2016, where she got her B.S. in Marine Biology. While in school, she also attended classes at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory through University of Southern Mississippi. She loves anything and everything that relates to the ocean. After graduation, she worked as animal keeping intern at Summerfield Farm and Zoo for 6 months where she got experience with a wide array of native and exotic species. Brielle’s all-time favorite animal is any type of turtle, but at home she loves taking care of her leopard gecko named Yogurt!
Bryant is Wildlife Prairie Park’s lead naturalist and the primary animal keeper for the reptiles and amphibians in our animal collection. Bryant manages Wildlife Prairie Parks inaturalist project documenting the park’s biodiversity (link)
Bryant attended Georgia Southern University where he completed his B.S. in Biology in 2017. During this time, he worked as a part-time animal keeper for the Georgia Southern Center for Wildlife Education as well as contributing to projects in several biology research labs (aquatic invertebrates and widow spiders). After his undergraduate coursework was completed he went on to attend graduate school at John Carroll University and earned his M.A. in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology in 2019.
Aside from Bryant’s professional keeping experience, he is an avid lover of many animals and has quite a collection of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates at home who provide entertainment for his cat, Mortimer
MacKenzie “Kenzie” Sturm began her journey at Wildlife Prairie Park in March of 2021. Ever since she can remember, animals have been her passion and Steve Irwin has been her idol. Kenzie has wanted to be an Animal Keeper since the “what do you want to be when you grow up” days. Kenzie received her Associates degree in Biology at Illinois Central College, then her Bachelors degree in Zoology at Western Illinois University. During school, she volunteered many hours at Peoria Zoo and Keepers of the Wild in Valentine, Arizona. Her goal is to one day work with big cats, such as Tigers and Snow Leopards. After graduation she started her animal adventure at Mt. Hawley Animal Clinic as a Kennel Attendant, then she moved up to a Veterinary Technician at Prospect Animal Clinic where she spent 3.5 years taking care of Cats and Dogs. Now, she is very excited to learn from some of the most knowledgeable people in the area, and is happy to be a part of the wonderful Wildlife Prairie Park team!
Education Lead & Animal Keeper
Winter became a part of the park’s animal keeping and education team in July of 2022, and is excited to explore the Midwest after spending most of her life in her home state of Florida. A recent graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation and a minor in Wildlife Ecology, she will be working with the park to develop exciting education programs that connect youth and adults in the Central Illinois area with their native wildlife, as well as what we can all do to help protect these important animals. And though she loves all our fun and exciting animals here at the park, her favorite animal is still her Shar Pei mix, Kimmie Sue.
Brittany was born and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan. She loves hunting, fishing, hiking, and anything that has to do with the outdoors. She has a Great Dane named Belle that loves to give hugs! Brittany knew she had a love for animals the day she went to her grandpa’s farm as a little girl and aspired to help animals when she grew up. In 2013 Brittany went on to live that dream at Michigan State University for Animal Science. During school she worked at the dairy farm on campus for 2 years. After school she worked at a few vet clinics and realized companion animal care was not for her. She then became a counselor at Camp Bow Wow working her way up to Back of House Manager for 2 years. In March 2022 she was excited to join the Wildlife Animal Keeper team and found her passion for caring for wildlife! She is very eager to learn and expand her knowledge in the animal field.
Nathan Treichel is a long-time member of the Peoria community. He went to Augustana College, where he wrote his senior projects on cat predation on birds and got a grant from Pfizer to examine how fish tank size effects urination rates of fish. While getting his Bachelor’s Degree at Augustana, Nathan spent a long period of time with the Peoria community small and large animal veterinary clinics. Nathan spent 2 years at Browns Animal Hospital as a veterinary assistant, and loved taking care of the dogs, cats, and exotics that came into the clinic.
Nathan started his adventure with Wildlife Prairie Park in November of 2021 and is excited to share his deep love of animals with the parks patrons. Nathan is on the autism spectrum and uses his knowledge of the animals to ensures they are as happy and healthy as possible. His favorite animals at the park are currently the owls, the horses and donkey, and the groundhog. Nathan is hopeful that one day the park will have an armadillo and connect with the animal and his birthplace of Texas.
Kaitlyn started at the Park as an intern for the animal department in October 2022. The following March she was excited to join the team as a seasonal animal keeper, and even happier to continue after as a full-time keeper. Ever since she was a kid, she has loved animals and cannot remember taking a trip without visiting at least one zoo. Before coming to the Park, she interned at the Peoria Zoo which confirmed her passion for animal care. She is currently pursuing her degree in applied science from Purdue Global to further her career. Kaitlyn’s favorite animals at the park are the wolves, especially Aurora. When she is not taking care of the animals at the Park, she is busy at home keeping her two cats, Noel and Lil’ Dude, out of trouble.
Donor Relations Coordinator
LaDonna started at the Park in February of 2024. LaDonna is a Chicago native who has enjoyed working with animals since she was a teenager. Starting as a veterinarian volunteer and zoo intern, LaDonna realized that she liked working with animals on the caretaking side. Upon graduating from Tuskegee University and Mississippi State University, she was a zookeeper for several years. While at the Detroit Zoo she facilitated the delivery of the zoo’s baby aardvark. This was the first successful aardvark birth in several years. Wanting to educate zoo visitors more, LaDonna worked as a zoo educator while pursuing her Master’s degree in Education with University of South California. Her animal caretaking journey has included being a kennel technician, animal trainer and assistant project manager for Pandrillus Foundation in Nigeria. LaDonna also works for The Peoria Zoo as their data specialist and enjoys her time as a board member with Project Animal Aid. She enjoys meditation, nature walks, gardening, snowshoeing and loom knitting.
William started at the Park as an Event Attendant/Custodian in February of 2024. Billy will be working with the event team to ensure the venues are properly cleaned and set up for various events, as well as doing custodian work in the buildings in the front of the Park. He has 2-3 years of Park maintenance and groundskeeping experience. He has worked various jobs since graduating high school, varying from maintenance to logistics, but has found that working outdoors is what he enjoys the most. He has a great love for outdoors and all things nature. He spends most of his free time with his son and they love spending the summer enjoying the various activities at Wildlife Prairie Park.
Ainsley joined Wildlife Prairie Park in February of 2024 as an event coordinator. For the last fifteen years, Ainsley has been designing and coordinating weddings and special events for individuals as well as corporate partners. She has a passion for bringing people together and leaving a stunning impression with each experience. Ainsley moved to Central Illinois from the desert of West Texas intent on connecting with nature and growing her horticulture education. She became a Certified Master Gardener with the University of Illinois Extension in 2022 and volunteers extensively in the community. Ainsley attended Midland College for Accounting and has also been a director of two dance studios. She still has a passion for dance and working with children, and also volunteers for a local non-profit ballet company. Ainsley’s spare time consists of gardening projects, nature walks with her dog and husband, and volunteering in the local community, including here at Wildlife Prairie Park!
Jerry joined Wildlife Prairie Park in May of 2018 in our maintenance department. Originally from Kentucky, Jerry worked for over a decade in the thoroughbred horse industry in Ocala Florida. His favorite thing about the Park is being able to live right beside the Bison and Elk pasture. He says his view in the mornings and evenings is exceptional.