Meet The Staff
Kim Sturla is our Executive Director and co-founded Animal Place in 1989. She has been a central figure in the animal rights movement for more than 35 years and wrote two precedent-setting state laws: one protecting pre-university students unwilling to participate in animal dissections, another requiring shelters to sterilize adoptable animals. Before co-founding Animal Place, she served as director of the Peninsula Humane Society. Kim is our resident Pig Whisperer, able to communicate beautifully with even the wiliest of pigs! She shares her home and life with dogs Ralph, Marty, and Poppyseed.
Estelle Barber is our take-no-prisoners full-time donor steward who oversees the processing of donations, bookkeeping, and other vital administrative tasks. Estelle has been doing non-profit bookkeeping for over 20 years. She enjoys the gratifying work at Animal Place, especially going on hen rescues. She shares five sons, one grandson, and two well-trained goldfish with her partner, Mark.
Marji Beach is our Education Director and has been with Animal Place since 2004. She earned her BS in Animal Science from the University of California, Davis. She oversees the education, social media, Rescue Ranch, and onsite programs at the sanctuary. She is editor of the quarterly magazine and website, and puts to good use her writing skills. You can see her photography of the animals here. She loves the cows and chickens! Marji is owned by 8yr-old blue-eyed Mexi-mutt named Celeste and 2-yr-old Mexi-mut mop-dog Tobi.
Jan Galeazzi is Manager of our Rescue & Adoption Center in Vacaville, overseeing the operations and animal care of our 60-acre rescue and adoption center in Vacaville. Rescue Ranch specializes in the rescue of hens from the egg industry, as well as the rescue of roosters, goats, sheep, and other farmed animals in need. Jan joined the Animal Place family in Grass Valley in 2012, pursuing a life-long desire to become more active in animal rights. Between rescues, you can find her camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, and enjoying the great outdoors with her best friend and fiancé, Rocky. Jan and Rocky live on site at Rescue Ranch with seven companion chickens and kitty-cats Velcro and Breezy.
Hannah Beins is our Animal Care Director, responsible for overseeing the care of hundreds of farmed animals in residence at our Grass Valley sanctuary. She joined our staff after completing animal care internships with both an east coast sanctuary and Animal Place. Hannah is a die-hard fan of the British alt rock band Placebo and has twice followed them on European tour. She shares her home with 2 dogs, Squishy and Princess, and two cats, Brian and Mila.
Kelcie Leach is our Adoption Coordinator for the Rescue & Adoption Center in Vacaville. She coordinates adoption events throughout California and interviews adopters to ensure that adoptable animals find the best possible homes. Kelcie previously worked as a Veterinary Assistant and loves to help animals in any way that she can. For fun, she likes spending time with family, eating delicious vegan food, and going on hikes with her handsome dog, Whiley.
Patti Nyman is our Intern, Volunteer, and Campaigns Manager. She holds a Master’s degree in Social and Political Thought from York University in Toronto, and has taught undergraduate courses in the social sciences. A former Animal Place intern herself, Patti oversees our internship and volunteer programs, as well as Animal Place’s Food for Thought campaign, which works with nonprofits to help them adopt animal-friendly menu policies for their events. She also enjoys playing guitar, eating carbs and spending time with rabbit companion, Binksopolis.
Lauren Heitke is a full-time residential animal caregiver in Grass Valley. She was drawn to Animal Place by her newly found vegan lifestyle and years of experience working with animals. In her spare time she loves to attend music festivals and local shows, as well as take road trips all over California – mostly to try amazing new vegan restaurants! She aspires to one day open her own vegan cafe & coffee shop.
Caryn DeFrees is a full-time animal caregiver in Grass Valley. She graduated from Humboldt State with a B.A. in International studies and currently lives with her boyfriend and pet snake. For fun, Caryn plays roller derby for Sacred City Roller Girls and enjoys downhill mountain biking.
Rebecca Thompson is our Guest House Innkeeper and Adoption Assistant, helping to manage the Guest House property and assisting with all aspects of placing the chickens rescued through our Rescue Ranch program into their forever-homes. Before joining the Animal Place team, Rebecca was living nomadically and travelling around Oregon and California, spending time in spiritual communities to deepen her yoga and meditation practice. In her free time Rebecca enjoys hiking, spending time at the Yuba river, cooking, getting educated on various social justice issues that affect non-humans, humans, and the environment, and smashing the patriarchy.
Stephanie Bain is our National Coordinator for Animal Place’s Brave the Cage campaign, supervising tour coordinators who visit universities and hold special events educating the public on what life is like for 95% of hens in the egg industry–by letting them experience confinement inside a human-sized battery cage. She is also the California and Southwest Regional Coordinator for our Food for Thought campaign. Stephanie loves making vegan tacos, practicing yoga, and spending time at the beach with her husband Ryan and her dog, Ihi.
Crystal Kozlak is our Southern California Brave the Cage Outreach Tour Coordinator. As a recent university graduate in Mathematics and Philosophy, Crystal now dedicates her life to vegan activism. With her logical background, she applies strong arguments for veganism to educate students about what life is like for 95% of the hens in the egg industry. In addition to her work at Animal Place, Crystal expands her activism through her own personal blog based on the interconnection of spiritualism and veganism. She also loves cooking vegan junk food with her husband, Clark, and running half marathons!
Roxy Kushner is the Northern California Brave the Cage coordinator. Before getting hired, Roxy had done an animal care internship for Animal Place, which jump-started her life as an activist. Working with the animals every day for her internship inspired her to be more active as a student at UC Santa Cruz, where she helped strengthen the presence of the campus animal rights group. Now with Animal Place, she tours universities and special events to educate people about what life is like for 95% of hens on egg farms by inviting them to stand inside a human-sized battery cage. In her free time, Roxy enjoys salsa dancing and hiking.
Blake Caraska is an animal caregiver at our Vacaville Rescue Ranch, providing direct care to the thousands of animals that find temporary sanctuary at Rescue Ranch each year. He first joined Animal Place as an ambitious volunteer before accepting a staff position. His hobbies include hiking, cycling, and cracking open a good book. Blake and his girlfriend share their lives with four cats.
Darren Roth is an animal caregiver at our Vacaville Rescue Ranch. When he is not nurturing our rescued animals back to health, he makes time to leaflet with vegan groups to help educate the public on the plight of farmed animals. Beyond his efforts in animal protection, Darren enjoys practicing Buddhism and learning Swedish.
Samantha Starkey is an animal caregiver at our Vacaville Rescue Ranch. Her passion for animal rights led her to start volunteering and eventually she became a staff member. When she isn’t helping prepare the animals for adoption, she enjoys eating at vegan restaurants, going to the beach, swimming in lakes, and hiking with her boyfriend Tyler and their three rescue dogs Petunia, Zoey, and Ellie.
Carlo Dela Cruz is the Assistant Manager at our vegan store in Berkeley, Animal Place’s Vegan Republic. Carlo joined the team after volunteering during his spare time at the store and teaching a donation-based fundraiser yoga class at the vegan gym in Oakland, NewEthic Strength and Conditioning, from which all the proceeds went to Animal Place. He also manages the vegan day spa in North Berkeley, Spa Organica, and teaches yoga in the East Bay. When he finds time away from his busy schedule, he is outdoors climbing, hiking, and camping.
Deva Holub is our Northeast Regional Coordinator for the Food for Thought Campaign. Vegetarian since the age of seven, Deva made the change to a vegan lifestyle in 2009 after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.” She currently resides in Glen Arm, Maryland with her husband, Matthew, and two cats, Alphie and Sophie. She is also the proud co-owner, manager, and full-time baker of Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery, a small-batch organic, vegan bakery she founded with her husband.
Barbara Troyer is our Wildlife, Environmental, and Northwest Regional Coordinator for the Food for Thought Campaign. She also passionately advocates for animals, people, and the earth as the producer and co-host of All Things Vegan Radio; as Co-Executive Director of VegNet Bend; and through her work with a nonprofit that teaches nonviolent communication skills. Barb holds a M.A. in Humane Education and is always seeking more ways to use her degree and her talent for writing, design, and IT in service to nonhuman animals. She has shared her home with many rescued cats and dogs and is currently ruled by four cats and an unruly Sheepdog/Muppet mix.
Liz Walch is our Great Lakes Regional Coordinator for the Food for Thought Campaign. Liz grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but has lived in Chicago for the past ten years, where she received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and started volunteering at an animal shelter. With her passion for animal advocacy and education, Liz went on to earn a certificate in Animal Studies from Humane Society University and her M.A. in Humane Education from Valparaiso University. During graduate school, Liz began a humane education internship in the Chicago Public School system with HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers). After her internship, Liz continued on as a humane educator for HEART in Chicago and also combines her love of working with both kids and farmed animals by working as a summer camp counselor at Heartland Farm Sanctuary in Wisconsin.
Dr. Ned Buyukmihci
Nedim Buyukmihci, VMD