Donor Stories


Denise Joines

Wilburforce Foundation


“Dr. Long is a nationally and internationally renowned carnivore scientist who specializes in survey techniques for wide-ranging carnivores like wolves and black bears — basically anything big and hairy.”

The Wilburforce Foundation is funding the future of wildlife science conservation through their incredible support for Dr. Robert Long, Woodland Park Zoo’s senior conservation scientist and director of the Living Northwest Program. The foundation has supported Dr. Long’s innovative work at the zoo since 2014.

“We love supporting Robert and his work at the zoo,” says Denise Joines, the foundation’s senior program officer for the Northwest/Southwest Program Areas. The Wilburforce Foundation exists, says Denise, to make sure that there are places where wildlife can thrive in western North America, and Dr. Long’s work dovetails with their mission perfectly.

“Dr. Long is a nationally and internationally renowned carnivore scientist who specializes in survey techniques for wide-ranging carnivores like wolves and black bears — basically anything big and hairy,” Denise said. “He has worked with technology companies to invent mechanisms that greatly expand the ability of scientists and state agencies to detect and monitor wildlife in the wild without trapping, collaring or harming them.”

She says these completely non-invasive techniques have given humans a window into the wild they would not have had otherwise.

Asked to describe one of Dr. Long’s most impressive projects, Denise talked about his work to build a better battery and chip for use in camera traps in the Cascades. During the extreme snows that come with winter in the high mountains, scientists can’t access some of the cameras they use to track carnivore activity. Too often, batteries would die before the cameras could be retrieved, leading to the loss of valuable data.

“For example, to lure wolverines to a camera, it needs to deliver a horrible-smelling scent,” Denise says. “In the freezing months during which the Cascade range is inaccessible, a battery doesn’t last very long. Robert worked with Microsoft to design a new chip that can last an entire winter season on a single battery, so the camera continues to spit out the scent lure. This is a game-changer for the collection of critical data.”

Denise says that Dr. Long has also done impressive work around road ecology — keeping roadways safe for animals by providing safe-passage corridors. And she is excited to see how his work with non-invasive survey techniques is being applied.

“Thanks to Robert’s work, rather than having to trap or collar an animal to track it, we are now using dogs trained to detect scat from specific species — for example, wolverine, but not river otter or deer. Scientists can send scat to a lab to analyze the animal’s sex and health and whether it has been identified in other places,” Denise said. “This helps scientists understand the abundance of a species, how it’s moving and what its habitat needs are. That information informs conservation work. The animal gets to live its own life, and scientists gain the benefit of the data.”

She shares her excitement over one recent discovery: a camera located near the south fork of the Stillaguamish River detected a wolverine in the middle of winter.

“A wolverine presence means a place is wild and functioning, and we know that this wolverine was only 50 miles away from Seattle. It makes me feel so good to know that wild animals continue to thrive so close to our city’s borders,” Denise said. “This type of information will be valuable to the ongoing work of the zoo’s Living Northwest Program.”

Denise says the Wilburforce Foundation is honored to support Robert’s work.

“I won the job lottery,” Denise said. “Working with people like Robert make it so fun.

It’s important for people to know that the zoo sees this work as part of its mission. Our hope is that the empathy people feel for the animals in the zoo is the entry point for learning to appreciate and advocate for animals in the wild as well.”

Jeff Shiu & Emily Liu


“The more you learn about the zoo and its critical conservation work, the more you care, and the more you want to give back.”

Visiting zoos around the globe is a favorite pastime for Jeff Shiu, Emily Liu, and their two children, until recently residents of Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is a very densely populated city; they don’t have space for many zoos, so we loved to fly to Singapore and Malaysia and visit their zoos,” Jeff said. “We love to travel to zoos as a family; the kids always enjoy it.”

In July 2020, the family relocated to Seattle, when Jeff's role as senior managing director at Macqaurie Group required a West Coast presence. Now they’re just 15 minutes away from Woodland Park Zoo’s very diverse animal residents.

Emily and Jeff loved Woodland Park Zoo right off the bat. “We signed up to be members right away. We bring our kids there a lot; being able to do something outside with them is very important,” Jeff said. “We feel the zoo prioritizes the safety and well-being of guests, and we felt safe, especially during COVID-19.”

“We were extremely impressed with the thought that has gone into the enclosures — it feels as natural as it can get,” Emily said.

Jeff says that it feels like a really nice place for kids to go and learn and have fun.

“Everyone is super friendly, from zookeepers to other staff, and everyone’s kids have a good time. We applaud the leadership and staff, like Erin Bailey-Sun, who are so proactive and engaging,” Jeff said. “It doesn’t feel like a business; you’re going there to experience and learn.”

Jeff and Emily wrote to the zoo in the hopes of understanding more about the zoo’s needs and how they could help.

“We considered ways we could help beyond just cutting a check. We wanted to know how we could support conservation efforts and the reintroduction of animals to the wild,” Jeff said.

An outstanding opportunity soon arose: The family could support the upgrade of the orangutan enclosure. They have a particular affinity for the large orange primates, which they encountered throughout their travel in Asia.

“Our kids were delighted watching them flying and swinging around, so when the zoo wanted to expand its enclosure, we knew that was the perfect fit for us,” Jeff said. “Supporting a specific program that we feel a connection to as a family is quite inspiring and a unique opportunity.” Emily adds that supporting the zoo, in general, is rewarding — “[Woodland Park Zoo] is very clear about where your funding goes.”

For Emily and Jeff, their involvement with the zoo is more than just a fun experience: it’s about serving as role models for their children when it comes to philanthropy and protecting nature and wildlife.

“We want to instill in our kids the importance of giving back to the community,” Jeff said.

Jeff added that his son loves the tigers and lions at the zoo, and their 7-year-old daughter loves the flamingos. The entire family gets a kick out of the big cats when they are active.

He says that he hopes the zoo continues to get the support from the community that it needs.

“That assistance allows for the expansion of key projects and critical conservation work, which will provide future generations the opportunity to also develop a love and respect for animals and our natural world,” Jeff said.

Matt Hill


“Woodland Park Zoo is a terrific organization! Don’t forget about this phenomenal 92-acre urban oasis in the heart of north Seattle. I encourage everyone to visit for a guaranteed, great experience – every time.”

Four generations of Matt Hill’s family have spent countless hours at Woodland Park Zoo. His grandparents took his mother to the zoo throughout her childhood, and years later, it remained a place she loved to visit with her young son, Matt. Today, Matt and his wife regularly take their own children to the zoo.

Those experiences cultivated a love of nature and the outdoors for Matt’s entire family. On one adventure, Matt, his wife, and their daughters traveled to Gibraltar, home to 250 Barbary macaque monkeys. Matt, whose own favorite animal is the jaguar, says it was an opportunity to educate his kids about conservation and how animals are treated in other parts of the world.

Everything the zoo offers kids is incredible, Matt says. “You witness their excitement and awe, how they run with joy from one spot to another. Kids can’t wait to experience animals up close — hopefully they take it to the next level.”

Because of his deep connection to animals and the zoo, when Matt chose to act on his passion for community service, the leap from zoo visitor to zoo volunteer came naturally. Matt joined Woodland Park Zoo’s Board of Directors in 2016, after serving as an advisor on the finance committee for three years. A fierce advocate for the zoo in every area, he helped secure critical funding from both Union Bank and Key Bank, where he currently serves as the Seattle Market President and Commercial Banking Sales Leader for Washington.

Matt believes strongly that the zoo is more than “just” a local park, and his influence and advocacy have won incredible support for the zoo’s global education and conservation work. “The zoo is different from the area’s sports arenas or museums,” he says. “I want donors to understand that their money is going toward advocating for these animals, both at the zoo and on a broader scale.”

Though Matt’s tenure on the board is up this year, his deep connection to the zoo and clear vision for its future impact remains. He’s especially passionate about the zoo’s potential to welcome diverse groups of individuals from around the region. He highlights his favorite zoo program — Wild Lanterns — as a phenomenal event that continues to attract new groups of visitors.

As his time on the board ends, Matt wants incoming members to know that they’re joining a terrific organization with incredibly strong leadership. He adds that the zoo has ambitious projects in the hopper, so fundraising is critically important.

“I feel a personal connection to the zoo,” said Matt. “I learned so much during my time on the board, and my hope is that the next generation of board members will continue to help the zoo complete its critical work to preserve and protect precious species all around the world.”

We are deeply grateful to Matt for his leadership, service and support. And to the entire Hill family — thank you for standing alongside us in our work to save species and protect biodiversity, both at home and around the world. We’re thankful that you’re part of our family

Our Mission

Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

Land Acknowledgment

Woodland Park Zoo recognizes that these are the lands of the Tribal signatories of the Treaty of Point Elliott. We acknowledge their stewardship of this place continues to this day and that it is our responsibility to join them to restore the relationship with the living world around us.

Humane Certification
Seattle Parks & Recreation
Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Donor Login

5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103   |  206.548.2500  |