Alejandro Grajal, PhD
President and CEO

Alejandro became the eighth leader of Woodland Park Zoo in its 117 year history, assuming the helm in May, 2016. He is internationally known for his vision to define a new relationship between humans and nature by helping to restore the deep, affective bond between people and animals. He advocates for zoos as the best community institutions to create a social movement for conservation, to foster science learning beyond the classroom, and to ensure that all people have access to nature, regardless of socioeconomic background.

Reporting to the zoo’s Board of Directors and overseeing more than 350 full-time and seasonal staff, Alejandro is responsible for leading all zoo operations, programs, and exhibits as well as facilities, fundraising and partnership development to increase WPZ’s positive impact in the community and world.

Before joining the zoo, Alejandro served as senior vice president for conservation, education and training at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, where he headed the Center for Conservation Leadership, oversaw field conservation and research programs for the Center for the Science of Animal Welfare, and supervised education programs. Previously, he had served as executive director of international programs for the National Audubon Society and director of Latin American programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.

A noted author, Alejandro’s publications include 45 peer-reviewed books, chapters, and scientific and popular articles covering topics which span the psychology of conservation, measuring the impact of environmental education, the sustainable use of natural resources and ornithology, among others. He leads the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network (CliZEN), a coalition of zoological institutions, universities and NGOs. He has also participated in protected-area planning and conservation policy with the United States Agency for International Development, the Global Environment Fund, the World Bank and the European Union.  In 2016, Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society awarded him the prestigious George B. Raab Medal for Conservation Leadership, recognizing his lifelong contributions to environmental and species protection, and inspiring future generations of scientists and leaders to tackle big questions about living harmoniously with all beings on the planet.  In his spare time, he is an accomplished wildlife artist whose work has been exhibited in galleries in major cities.

Alejandro earned his undergraduate degree in ecology from Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, Venezuela and his PhD in zoology from the University of Florida.

Bruce W. Bohmke
Chief Operations Officer

Bruce has worked in the zoo and aquarium field for more than 30 years, beginning his career as an animal keeper at the Oakland Zoo.

Subsequently, Bruce was employed as the general curator at the Phoenix Zoo and as the curator of birds at the Saint Louis Zoo. In 1999, he came to Woodland Park Zoo as the general curator, becoming deputy director and subsequently chief operations officer.

Bruce is a professional fellow with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, having served on the Professional Development Committee, Governing Board, Ethics Committee, and Wildlife Conservation Management Committee. He remains active in the organization and currently serves on the Accreditation Commission. In the course of his career, Bruce has developed specialties in avian and elephant management.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of California at Davis.

Michele Smith
Chief Financial Officer

Michele joined Woodland Park Zoo in September 2017. She brings more than 20 years of experience driving new and existing business development revenue streams for corporations and building relationships in the corporate and luxury markets across the globe. Most recently at Vistatec, she led a team to achieve new business targets and created a strategic partnership to drive the best of breed in technology for the organization. Before that, she was the business development director for the Travel and Hospitality Practice at Lionbridge and has worked in various travel and hospitality companies, including Living Social, Generali Global Assistance, Royal Caribbean and United Airlines.

As the Chief Financial Officer at Woodland Park Zoo, Michele is responsible for providing strategic direction and leadership for all new and ongoing business and earned revenue opportunities. She leads the departments of Finance and Budget Management, Human Resources, Information Services, Guest Services including admissions, retail sales, merchandising and events.

Michele is committed to fostering advancement and inclusion for people worldwide. She is also dedicated to educating the travel and hospitality industry on Woodland Park Zoo’s mission of opening eyes and educating people through conservation leadership and engaging experiences. In 2009, Smith served as an executive board member for the Pacific Asia Travel Association whose members are catalysts for the responsible development of the Asia Pacific travel and tourism industry.

Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors and chairs the global expansion committee for Women in Localization, a leading professional organization aimed at fostering a global community for the advancement of women in the localization industry with chapters throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Americas. Michele is also on the Board of Directors of Mary’s Place, providing a welcoming and safe environment where women, children, and families experiencing homelessness can build community and find the resources to move into stable housing, and an advisory member of the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s Business Group.

Lauri Hennessey
Vice President of Engagement

Lauri joined the zoo in December 2016 where she oversees government relations, public relations, digital communications and advocacy. To her role, she brings more than 25 years of experience in the news media, on Capitol Hill, and as a senior government public affairs manager, nonprofit executive director and fundraiser. Most recently she served as vice president of Public Affairs at Edelman Public Relations in Seattle.

Beginning her career at Seattle’s KIRO Radio, she went on to serve as congressional press secretary for U.S. Rep. John Miller (Seattle) and others; as regional head of public affairs for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; and as the congressional liaison for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle. She transitioned to the nonprofit sector and led several nonprofits, including the Municipal League of King County. Running her own company for a decade, she helped area nonprofits with public affairs, media, public relations and crisis communications, including the YMCA of Greater Seattle, Camp Fire, Treehouse, and Lifelong AIDS Alliance. During that time, she wrote an award-winning newspaper column on parenting.

A frequent media trainer and public speaker, Lauri’s greatest passion is helping nonprofits develop powerful storytelling and solid crisis communications. Active in fundraising, she currently serves on the boards of Treehouse, CulturePAC (fundraising for candidates that support arts and culture) and the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, is the Advocacy Committee Chair for Treehouse and is on the development committees of Thrive Washington and Mary's Place and communications committee of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In her spare time, she enjoys singing and acting in community theater on Vashon Island.

Sarah K. Valentine, CFRE
Vice President of Development

After beginning her career in public relations and public affairs in the Seattle offices of Hill & Knowlton, managing strategic communications initiatives for a diverse cross-section of clients, Sarah transitioned to nonprofit fundraising. Over the course of her fundraising career, she has worked in a variety of national and regional/local environments honing high-level skills in all key areas that contribute to building organizational capacity. Sarah joined the development team at Woodland Park Zoo in 2012, and now serves as vice president of development, after helping WPZ complete its milestone More Wonder More Wild Campaign in 2013. Prior to the zoo, Sarah was director of stewardship and donor relations during a $200 million campaign at American University in Washington, D.C., where she built a thriving donor relations and donor communications program at one of our nation’s capital’s flagship universities while playing a key role on the leadership team of its Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

Sarah serves as a board member of the Washington Planned Giving Council and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Washington Chapter, the Association of Donor Relations Professionals, and Leave 10. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University.

Wei Ying Wong, PhD
Vice President of Learning and Innovation

Wei Ying joined Woodland Park Zoo in March 2017 from Philadelphia Zoo where, as director of conservation impact, she led the creation of an institutional theoretical framework for planning and evaluation of exhibits and programs to promote conservation behavior among zoo visitors.

As an applied social science researcher, Wei Ying has two decades of experience in interdisciplinary and multicultural conservation and education projects both nationally and internationally. She brings a focus on engaging diverse stakeholders in conservation to achieve measurable outcomes and is committed to supporting inclusive discourses and socially just environmental policies and dismantling the systems of power and privilege in the conservation, science and environmental learning arenas. Prior to joining zoos, she led a communications initiative for The Ocean Project, helping zoo and aquarium partners align market research and effective communication strategies to achieve conservation outcomes. She also taught environmental communications at Connecticut College as a visiting assistant professor.

Wei Ying has received multiple research fellowships and practitioner awards including an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Communication, a Margaret Sheridan Community Learning Award, a Toyota-Audubon Conservation Leader Fellowship and a Rhode Island Foundation Emerging Non-Profit Leader. She is on the steering committees of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation and the Zoo & Aquarium Focus Interest Group for the Visitor Studies Association. She is also a member of the North American Association for Environmental Education, American Alliance of Museums, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Wei Ying earned her MA and PhD in environmental studies from Brown University.

Peter Zahler
Vice President of Conservation Initiatives

Peter joined Woodland Park Zoo in 2018 with more than 30 years of conservation leadership experience, from Arizona and Alaska to Venezuela and Peru. Before coming to Seattle, he served as the Asia regional director for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a non-profit that works with conservation programs around the world and operates New York’s signature zoos including the Bronx Zoo. He designed and implemented three full-sized country programs in Pakistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan, which are considered cutting-edge examples of community-based conservation projects that work with local people, governments, and businesses to achieve lasting conservation impacts. Peter also helped create the WCS Arctic Beringia Program, and supervised and supported programs and projects in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Russian Far East, Central Asia, and Tibet.

Peter also served as coordinator for the WCS snow leopard program and senior advisor of conservation strategy for the health program. He was the director of training and capacity building for WCS and was responsible for managing the Graduate Scholarship Program, which provides Masters and PhD scholarships for young conservation leaders from developing nations.

Peter serves on multiple specialist groups for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Commission and the World Commission on Protected Areas. He has authored over 60 scientific publications and book chapters, and he regularly publishes about wildlife and conservation for the general public in magazines, blogs, national newspapers and other media outlets. When he’s not at Woodland Park Zoo, Peter enjoys reading, writing, running, and spending time with his family.

Serae Kim
Vice President of People and Culture

Serae joined Woodland Park Zoo in December 2018. She has spent her career helping employees achieve their full potential. With over 15 years of experience in Human Resources, including more than a decade as a senior Human Resources leader, Serae brings extensive experience in the areas of strategic planning, change management, operational excellence, culture development, leadership coaching, and many other important facets that will help Woodland Park Zoo staff and leadership create the zoo of the future.

Prior to joining Woodland Park Zoo, Serae led Human Resources globally in technology, manufacturing, and non-profit sectors. Serae is an excellent communicator and negotiator with a strong business acumen that has driven organizational change. Serae earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Human Resources Organizational Management from Ashford University.

As the Vice President of People and Culture, Serae is responsible for articulating the organization’s strategy into Human Resources initiatives and leads all areas of Human Resources and organizational effectiveness for all people-related functions. Serae is passionate about fostering creativity and growth through building a diverse, inclusive, and accepting workplace. Her experience with handling the full spectrum of Human Resources will allow Woodland Park Zoo to burnish its culture, systems, and training for leadership development, as well as empowering employees to solve problems and live the zoo’s mission.