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 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 2-yr-old Mexi-mutt mop-dog Tobi.
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. She shares her home with two dogs, Squishy and Kody, three cats, Brian, Mila, and Blue, and eleven tiny chickens.
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.
Michelle Miller is the Animal Care Supervisor and a residential caregiver at our Grass Valley sanctuary. She shares her life with Levi-her husband of 13 years, their 11 year old son- Cash, 2 dogs (Howdy and Freya), 2 cats (Wednesday & Ygritte), 4 hens and 1 rooster. Prior to Animal Place, Michelle worked with companion animals in various capacities. She is passionate about advocating for pitbulls and other dog breeds targeted by negative legislation and breed specific bans.
Blake Caraska is a barn cleaner at our Grass Valley sanctuary, providing care to the 300 animals at the sanctuary. He first joined Animal Place as an ambitious volunteer before accepting a staff position at our Vacaville Rescue Ranch facility. His hobbies include hiking, cycling, and cracking open a good book. Blake and his girlfriend share their lives with four cats.
Teresa Lopes is a full-time residential Animal Caregiver at our Grass Valley sanctuary. She holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. She has a long history of working with exotic animals at several wildlife parks and zoos. She worked for a west coast famed animal sanctuary for 2 years prior to joining the Animal Place team. She shares her home with 3 furry felines, Caruso aka Roo, Beijing and Bristow.
Brittani Peterson is our Outreach Coordinator, she coordinates our events, promotes the sanctuary to the community, and oversees tour schedules. She is currently studying Public Relations at Sacramento State University and will graduate Spring 2019! In her free time she enjoys Yuba river hikes, working out, game nights, and doing flips. As an official board game champion she humbly shares her home with her two cat dogs Floyd and Atlas.
Claire Couron is our Social Media and Digital Fundraising Coordinator. She creates content for Animal Place’s social media and works with other staff to develop fundraising campaigns. Claire first joined the Animal Place team as an Education Intern, quickly fell in love with the mission, and became a staff member. Claire spent a year in China, and hopes to continue exploring and trying vegan food all over the world.
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!
Grace Amico is our Northern California Brave the Cage Outreach Tour Coordinator. When she’s not touring colleges and educating students about the lives of hens used by the egg industry, Grace can be found outdoors hiking, gardening, or people-watching. She also enjoys reading science fiction novels and experimenting with new vegan recipes. Grace currently lives with her many house plants and mischievous but very cute cockatiel, Cherry.
Brenda Rynders is our Volunteer Coordinator and joined the team after becoming a regular volunteer at our rescue and adoption center and main sanctuary. She holds a double Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English and is currently pursuing a double Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and Anthrozoology. In her spare time, Brenda enjoys spending her days with her three feisty felines and adorably obnoxious German shepherd. She also loves watching scary movies, indulging on delicious vegan cuisine, and listening to her favorite band, Ghost.
Carlo Dela Cruz is the 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 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
Allie Gunter is our West Coast Coordinator for the Food for Thought Campaign. She grew up in Ohio before attending college in Florida, where she majored in International Studies with a minor in Anthropology. In college, she worked for the school’s foundation and fell in love with working for the nonprofit sector. After graduating, she moved to the deserts of Arizona where she began working in the adoptions department at the local Humane Society. She later made the move to beautiful San Diego where, after having been a vegetarian since she was 14, she went vegan. Going plant-based made her life’s work clear: animal rights. She currently lives with her partner Matt, two dogs, and two black cats. She can be found taking walks down to the beach, writing about vegan lifestyle for her blog, or eating at Southern California’s many delicious veg-friendly restaurants.
Jessica Miller is our Major Gifts Officer. She has spent more than 14 years at the top of the fashion world, modeling in high-profile campaigns for major designers and brands. No stranger to the spotlight, Jessica has now started using her voice for another worldwide campaign: animal rights. It was when she adopted her four kittens that Jessica went from catwalk to cat mom and her lifelong compassion for animals went to another level. She found herself going vegetarian and volunteering at a local cat shelter. But then, after further investigating what animals endure in the dairy and egg industries, she made the switch to vegan, recognizing that all animals deserve the same compassion and respect as her own four.
Dr. Ned Buyukmihci, VMD