Meet The Board
Founder & Chair
Michael Birt MS
Michael Birt graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. degree in wildlife and fisheries science after which he began working for the Fort Worth Zoo. He then left the zoo to pursue a M.S. degree in animal behavior and physiology. During the publishing process of his research he was hired at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas as a hoofstock animal care specialist; he quickly became the internship director, research liaison, and the first video marketing supervisor for Fossil Rim. After successfully publishing his research in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science and working at Fossil Rim for several years he moved to New Orleans to work for the Audubon Nature Institute to assist in starting up the hoofstock breeding program at the Audubon Species Survival Center.
The interest in STEM education began in 2009 after he finished a study abroad and summer marine biology/terrestrial ecology internship with James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.
During his master’s he participated in a summer internship in South Africa. This experience really sparked the idea of ResearchWild! which started as a film project highlighting the lives and jobs of conservation professionals. Since 2015, ResearchWild, Inc has sent many students to Southern Africa for amazing wildlife conservation internships, has donated and supported its international hosts in ground breaking research, and has made connections with 100s of universities, hosts, and wildlife professionals.
Amanda Lewis MS
Amanda Lewis graduated from Sonoma State University with a B.A. in Biology emphasis in zoology in 2013. She has always had a love for wildlife and nature and her education has further nurtured that love.
She started out working at numerous wildlife rehabilitation centers in California. She then got her conservation start with Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she helped run breeding programs for endangered bird species such as the Whooping Crane. This is where she met Michael Birt, ResearchWild’s founder and president, and immediately fell in love with the Researchwild mission. She loved helping individual species groups increase their populations in the wild, but she wanted to help more than just one or two conservation programs at a time.
ResearchWild made this possible! She started out as the recruitment and affiliation director for ResearchWild in 2018, where she helped develop the structure of ResearchWild’s internship program. Simultaneously she went back to school and graduated with an M.A. in Conservation Biology from Miami University’s Project Dragonfly program in 2021. It was there that she developed a deep appreciation and love for community based conservation efforts and educating the public about the importance of conservation.
She continued to stick with ResearchWild, even through its transformation and change in 2020 and was promoted to Vice President in 2021 where she has overseen the development of the new Researchwild and is extremely excited to continue to build it and push it to achieve its mission statement of advancing conservation efforts locally and globally while educating future conservationists of the world.
Brandi Liberty MS
Brandi Liberty, a member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and descendant of the United Houma Nation, is a respected tribal consultant with over 15 years of experience. As CEO of The Luak Group, she has secured over $78 million in grants for tribal communities, specializing in areas such as business development, Indian housing, grant writing, and strategic planning. A co-author of "Womanhood: Identity to Intimacy and Everything in Between," Liberty is also a keynote speaker and columnist, offering insights into tribal life in Louisiana and beyond. She is an MBDA Enterprising Woman of Color and serves on various boards, including the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center and Research Wild. Liberty holds a BA in History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree from the University of Kansas, with a specialization in Tribal Human Resources, an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard Business School, a Leadership Certificate from Arizona State University’s American Indian Policy Institute Indigenous Leadership Program.
Rodrigo S. Garcés Torres DVM
Rodrigo began his zoo career in 2012 and is currently an Associate Veterinarian at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center (FMASSC). Although the main facility is FMASSC, Rodrigo has the opportunity to cover the zoo and aquarium when needed. His responsibilities mainly involve preventative medicine and healthcare of the individuals in their collection. He also enjoys teaching a lot and always tries to give their students, interns, and residents hands on experiences during procedures. In the long-term, Rodrigo would like to be board certified in the American College of Zoological Medicine to then go on and help Latin American and foreign students and veterinarians have more access to opportunities like he has been fortunate to have in his life.
Before starting his career at FMASSC, Rodrigo has had the opportunity to work at a wide variety of places like the USDA Wildlife Services in Mexico, Chapultepec Zoo Vet Department (unpaid), Wildlife Safari as a Veterinary Externship to then an Associate Veterinarian and other locations. In 2013, Rodrigo graduated veterinary school at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and obtained a Specialty degree in Medicine and Surgery of Wildlife Exotic Pets in 2019 while working at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. While apart of UNAM’S program, he had to do a 6 month social services, which he did at Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City, where he fell in love with Zoological Medicine.
He Joined the ResearchWild Board in 2024 as an advisor to assist in the development of ResearchWild's veterinarian education program!