Meet the Team

Did you know? Grizzly & brown bears have long, thick claws which helps them to dig holes in the ground

Shayleen Richert

Shayleen Richert is the Education Coordinator for Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. She started out as one of TCWR’s  Wildlife Interpreter’s in January of 2021 after graduating from Arkansas Tech University and majoring in Recreation and Parks Administration with an emphasis in Natural Resources. She has come from an interpretation background, previously working at Roaring River State Park in Cassville, MO. Ever since taking Interpretation classes at Tech and becoming a certified Interpretive Guide through Tech and the National Association of Interpretation, she knew that educating the public about wildlife and nature was something she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Shayleen has always had a love for big cats deep down since she was little and loves being able to teach people about the hardships they have to face on a daily basis through other facilities.

“I love being able to see that A-HA moment when talking to the public and seeing that what you just said has clicked with them, especially when it is as important as educating people on what these animals have gone through.”


Erin Durphy

Erin Durphy became a Wildlife Interpreter at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in May 2022. She graduated with a bachelor of science in Wildlife Conservation and Natural Resources from Missouri State in Springfield, MO. Erin has been certified with the National Association of Interpretation. Since childhood, Erin has had a love of nature and wildlife and hoped one day in future she will be able to achieve that love. Since being at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, she has achieved that love, being outside communicating with the public about wildlife and hardships they face in the wild.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” -Walt Disney

Sara Edwards

Sara Edwards started working as a wildlife interpreter with Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in June of 2023. She received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Arkansas Tech University, with a majority of her time there spent focusing on Social Studies Education. She has had a longtime interest in the interdisciplinary relationship between biological and social sciences. Conservation, humanities, and education all hold a special place in her heart, so she is very excited to use those resources in order to help visitors learn about our special mission here at Turpentine.


“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”   -Jane Goodall

Karagan LaJoie

Karagan Ross became a Wildlife Interpreter at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in February 2023. She received a Master of Professional Science in Environmental Science from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and a Bachelor of Science in Zoo and Conservation Science from Otterbein University in Westerville, OH. Karagan is also certified as an Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation. Karagan realized her passion for education after working at the Ohio Wildlife Center as a camp counselor, where she taught children about how to protect native Ohio wildlife. She is excited to help visitors create a lifelong connection to big cats, and shine a light on the hardships they’re facing.

“I am still learning.”- Michelangelo