Welcome Jillian!

Flying in all the way from Ohio, USA, we’re excited to introduce you to the newest member of our Bird Team! Jillian Varner joined us this spring, excited to bring her experience in animal care and conservation to the Trust, and has previously worked as a keeper, educator and animal trainer. We caught up with Jillian to get to know her a bit more…

“Thank you so much for welcoming me onto the Hawk Conservancy Trust team! I am so excited to begin my next adventure with such a wonderful group of people (and birds!).

I graduated from Ohio University in 2014 with a BA in Integrated Language Arts with the intent of teaching English Literature. However, I was drawn back to my first true passion – animals. I began volunteering at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, eventually taking on a few different positions within their Education Department. This is where I discovered how rewarding it is to teach about the importance of wildlife and conservation (even when a class decides to name a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach after you!).

I then went on to work in the “Surfin’ Safari” display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Here I was fortunate to work directly with a variety of species, both as a keeper and trainer. While featuring species such as kangaroos, toucans, and binturongs, the display had another educational aspect as well – the adoption of domestic cats and dogs. To showcase that they are wonderful, capable animals deserving of homes, we would care for these cats and dogs from local shelters, and work with them to learn complex behaviours. Sadly, the show closed due to COVID-19, but we were happily able to place our 25 dogs and 40 cats with loving homes to live out their retirement!

Having recently relocated from the United States to here in England, I am so thankful that I am able to continue working so closely with animals. I am excited to begin working with the birds of prey here at the Hawk Conservancy Trust, and getting to learn about a whole new range of native species! I hope my experience working with other animals will be beneficial for the birds here, and I look forward to learning all I can from the fantastic Bird Team members.

A top priority in each of my previous roles has been inspiring others to protect our wildlife. The focus on conservation and helping people to better appreciate birds like vultures is such an important mission, and the Trust is truly excelling in this area. In the few weeks that I have been here I have already seen such amazing teamwork from the staff and volunteers, and I’m so glad to be a part of this unique and great organisation!”

Be sure to say hello to Jillian if you see her on your next visit to the Trust!

©2024 Hawk Conservancy Trust