Steve Martin, CPBT-KA Email-green
President/Chief Executive Officer

An internationally-known animal trainer, Steve Martin has pioneered the art of training a variety of birds and animals through positive reinforcement. He is has been a master falconer for over 40 years and a parrot trainer for more than 45.

Steve’s training experience includes hundreds of species of birds and mammals. He is a Trustee with the World Parrot Trust, served for 12 years as a Core Team Member of The California Condor Recovery Team, and has served as a behavior consultant for the Hawaiian Crow and Hawaiian Hawk conservation projects. Steve serves on Association of Zoos and Aquariums’s Animal Welfare Committee and teaches AZA animal training workshops. He is an organizational team member and instructor for the RECON: Reconnecting with Elephants in Protected Contact Workshop. He is also the founder of IAATE (International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators) and has served as its President multiple times. Steve spends approximately 200 days a year traveling to zoological facilities around the world serving as a behavior and visitor experience consultant, or producing educational animal programs. He has now worked at over 120 zoological facilities in more than 20 different countries. Steve has been certified as a professional bird trainer (CPBT-KA) by the International Avian Trainers Certification Board and is a Certified Avian Behavior Consultant.

Steve is known for his commitment to conservation and education. He founded the Natural Encounters Conservation Fund (NECF) which to date has raised more $1 300 000 in support of conservation projects. Each show he produces has a strong conservation education message, and Earth Day is an official holiday at his company.

rob-and-koala-1Rob Bules, CPBT-KA Email-green
Executive Vice President

Rob came to Natural Encounters from Waterford, Pennsylvania in December of 1997. An avid outdoorsman, Rob has practiced the sport of falconry since 1994 and has shared this time with a number of different birds of prey. He has also worked with numerous psittacine species since 1983.

Rob is a member of such supporting organizations as NAFA (North American Falconers Association), FHF (Florida Hawking Fraternity), PFHT (Pennsylvania Falconry and Hawk Trust), IAATE (International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators), AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association), and ABMA (Animal Behavior Managers Alliance). Rob shares his home with a Blue and Gold Macaw, and two Golden Retrievers. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time outdoors and practicing falconry. Rob has been certified as a professional bird trainer (CPBT-KA) by the International Avian Trainers Certification Board.

DonnaSue Evans, CPBT-KA Email-green
Vice President

DonnaSue has been with NEI for 8 years. After earning a degree in marketing at the State University of New York, she spent several years in retail management. She began presenting birds in Hawaii at the Honolulu Zoo in 1988 for a company based out of San Diego, California.

Her life took a detour to Washington State where she became involved as a volunteer with the Sardis Raptor Center. Gaining medical experience rehabilitating local bald eagle populations she moved to Florida to join the NEI team. DonnaSue is a member of The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators, American Zoological Association, and Association of Avian Veterinarians. DonnaSue has been certified as a professional bird trainer (CPBT-KA) by the International Avian Trainers Certification Board.

Chris Jenkins, CPBT-KA Email-green
Chief Operating Officer

Chris’ work with animals began with a summer job at SeaWorld in his hometown of San Diego, California. With the encouragement of the trainers he met there, he attended the University of California, Davis, where he obtained a degree in Psychology to learn more about the ins and outs of animal behavior. After graduation, Chris volunteered as a keeper aide at the Sacramento Zoo until he decided to pursue a career with animals full time.

In May of 2002, Chris was accepted into the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College outside Los Angeles. Upon graduation, he began working for The Animal Guys, a wildlife education company specializing in the use of wild and exotic animals as live visual aids for biology lessons, where he gave hundreds of presentations to students at inner city schools across the greater L.A. area.

Chris came to work for Natural Encounters Inc. in May of 2005. Chris is a member of ABMA (Animal Behavior Management Alliance), AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and member of the Professional Development Committee of IAATE (International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators). Chris has been certified as a professional bird trainer (CPBT-KA) by the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. Despite working outdoors with animals for a living, Chris is an indoor kid at heart, counting movies, reading, and writing among his favorite hobbies. Chris and his wife Bethany share their home with four cats and their wonderful dog Sukie.

Cassie Malina, CPBT-KA Email-green
Director of Staff Development

cassiepogoOriginally from New City, New York, Cassie attended Pennsylvania State University and earned a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. There, she participated in field research on amphibians, neotropical migrant songbirds, catbirds, and fox squirrels. Cassie also worked as a zookeeper, rehabilitator, and park ranger at New York’s Bear Mountain Zoo for two years. She joined the NEI team in April 1998.

Since joining the NEI team, she has produced and performed free-flight bird shows across the country, instructed at NEI Training Workshops, presented papers at IAATE and AAZK conferences as well as companion parrot organization meetings, consulted on bird shows internationally, presented workshops for companion parrot owners, and become active on the board of IAATE, where she is currently the CFO.

Cassie is a certified professional bird trainer (CPBT-KA) and a Parrot Consultant with the IAABC. She shares her home with a Black and Tan Coonhound (Oliver), and a cat (Jasmine). In her free time, she enjoys hiking, camping, wildlife photography and art, as well as… you guessed it… birdwatching!

Kevin O’Brien Email-green
Director of Operations

KevinBridgeKevin joined Natural Encounters, Inc. in the spring of 2003 as Operations Assistant. After working for 16 years in retail management in Maine, Kevin returned to school and earned a computer science degree at Andover College in Portland, Maine. From there, he worked for 5 years in the banking/credit card industry as a department head in the technical support department and later was instrumental in establishing the electronic data systems department. In 2000, he and his wife Trish decided to leave the cold New England climate and settle in central Florida, where they live today. Kevin and Trish are owned by two cats, Stutz and Tonks.

Arianna Bailey, CPBT-KA Email-green

AriAuroraAs a native Floridian, Arianna has always had a love an appreciation for the unique ecosystem and state she was raised in. Her career started out at a small zoo in the Orlando area where she worked mostly with reptiles. This is where she found her passion for training, enrichment and animal behavior. There she worked with crocodillians, venomous snakes and many other animals. She found a deep interest in finding new ways to enrich them. Following her desire to learn more about behavior, she sought out a job with Natural Encounters, Inc. and was hired in January of 2009.

She is a current general board member of IAATE and a member of the Enrichment Committee as well as the chair of the Professional Development Committee. She also sits on the board for IATCB which is setting the standard and raising the bar for avian trainers around the world with the new Avian Certification Test, and has been certified as a professional bird trainer (CPBT-KA) by the International Avian Trainers Certification Board as well as certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as a professional parrot behavior consultant (CPBC). Always continuing her education she has attended, presented and taught at workshops, conferences and courses on animal behavior and the science behind it throughout her career. Her love of sharing information and teaching animals and humans a like is why she says she has one of the best jobs in the world.

Jose Bello, CPBT-KA Email-green

joseluigi2Jose’s passion for wildlife has existed as long as he has. Born inBogota, Colombia, he grew up in Northern Virginia and has been a Florida native since his early teens. His formal education with Zoology started at Santa Fe College Teaching zoo in Gainesville, Florida where he earned a degree in Zoology. He then went on to work with bats at the Lubbee Bat Conservancy in Gainesville, Florida as a keeper. Afterwards he pursued a degree in Anthropology from the University of Florida where he continued his interest in animals by studying primates as well as a minor in zoology where his focus was herpetology. Upon graduation in 2008, Jose decided to come home to the Orlando area and was hired as a seasonal for Natural Encounters Inc. at their Ranch facility. In January of 2009, Jose was hired as a full-time trainer, and is currently a Supervisor in the company. He has been a part of many projects including most recently leading up the bird show at Brookfield Zoo (Summer 2015 and 2016), shows at San Diego Zoo, Dallas Zoo, and the Texas State Fair’s Birds of the World Show, among others.

Jose is a member of IAATE and is certified as a Professional Avian trainer. Interests include traveling, herpetology, exhibit design, and of course animal behavior.

Jennifer Hylton, CPBT-KA Email-green

jennlakotaJennifer is originally from Virginia which is where she began working with animals at King’s Dominion Wild Animal Safari in 1987.  While there she had the great pleasure to work with a large variety of exotic animals including over 40 big cats.  In 1993 Jennifer moved to the North Carolina Zoo where she worked with lions, chimpanzees, baboons, and African hoofstock.  One of the highlights of her time there was assisting with the hand rearing of four chimpanzees and introducing them back into the family group.

In 1998 Jennifer moved to Central Florida where she began work as an animal keeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  She was a member of the opening team that was responsible for the introduction of the animals into their new habitats.  At Disney, Jennifer worked with a variety of African and Asian animals including tigers, lions, and cheetahs.  Jennifer assisted in implementing a felid training program and operant conditioning guidelines for the big cats and authored and presented a number of papers on the subject.

Jennifer joined the NEI team in August, 2008 where she greatly enjoys working with and enriching the animals, and– most of all– free-flying birds!


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