Executive Team

The Chicago Zoological Society is uniquely positioned to expand our leadership role in conservation on a local, regional, national, and international level. Our approach to applied science and education has led to a history of significant programs that have directly benefited the conservation of wildlife and the natural world.

To maximize and sustain conservation impact, programs must integrate and apply scientific knowledge toward human action while leveraging cultural shifts through training, community engagement, strategic collaborations, and public policy involvement. The management team—along with the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society—is accountable for leading CZS toward desired strategic outcomes that advance the institution.

Based on rigorous review and evaluation of the best available data and alternatives, our leadership team functions collaboratively in a trusting and respectful environment, passionately committed to the mission of inspiring conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature.
 

Dr. Michael Adkesson, President & CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, Director of Brookfield Zoo
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Dr. Mike Adkesson is a renowned leader in the care of zoo animals and conservation of wildlife.  He is a passionate advocate for the importance of modern zoos and aquariums as a means of inspiring societal compassion and concern for wildlife and nature.  With board-certification from the American College of Zoological Medicine and the European College of Zoological Medicine, Dr. Adkesson is one of only a small group of specialists in the veterinary care of zoo animals and wildlife.  

Prior to being appointed President & CEO, Dr. Adkesson worked as a clinical veterinarian and later Vice President of Clinical Medicine at Brookfield Zoo.  During his tenure, the veterinary department set new standards for the medical care of zoo animals, pushing the boundaries and standards of care for zoo patients.  The department launched new initiatives in zoo-focused veterinary radiology, advanced imaging, anesthesia, and conservation medicine.  Over the past decade, the zoo’s veterinary education program also became one of the most sought after and premier programs globally.

Since 2007, Mike also led the zoo’s conservation programs in coastal Peru focusing on endangered Humboldt penguins, Peruvian fur seals, South American sea lions, and other marine species in coastal Peru.  This passion has resulted in field research, capacity building, and community education programs that are making a positive conservation impact in Peru.  As an associate researcher for Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru, he has also mentored numerous students who have gone on to their own careers in conservation.

Dr. Adkesson is a past-president of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians and a professional fellow of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as being actively involved in many other professional organizations.  He is an adjunct faculty member with the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and has trained numerous veterinary and graduate students.  As an accomplished researcher and clinician, Dr. Adkesson is also the author of over a hundred peer-reviewed publications and conference proceedings.

Dr. Adkesson received his doctor of veterinary medicine degree with honors from the University of Illinois.  Following a clinical internship year in companion animal medicine and surgery, Dr. Adkesson completed three years of residency training in zoological medicine at the University of Missouri and Saint Louis Zoo.  In addition to being a board-certified veterinarian, Mike holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Illinois Gies College of Business.  

David Burns, Chief Financial & Administrative Officer
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David Burns has over 25 years of finance and accounting experience in both the private and public sectors, most recently serving as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Chicago Housing Authority. There, he was responsible for a team of 45 employees and a $1 billion operating budget.

David is a Certified Public Accountant and possesses a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Monmouth College. He has deep experience in finance and accounting, including budgeting, debt management, financial analysis and forecasting, implementation of systems and controls, working with auditors, legal counsel, external organizations, collective bargaining, strategic planning, capital construction, and much more.

Kate Brueggemann, Senior Vice President of Development
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Kate leads the Society’s Development program, philanthropic efforts, and membership programs. She oversees the efforts to raise mission, capital, and annual funds through individual, foundation, and corporate philanthropy, as well as grants, government contributions, and special events.

Kate is a Certified Fundraising Executive and holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri. She brings deep experience in fundraising for non-for-profit organizations and cultural institutions having served in fundraising leadership roles at the Adler Planetarium, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Missouri History Museum.

Jennifer Baader, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

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Jennifer Baader is an experienced and effective advocate for environmental issues at the local, state and federal levels.

Jennifer received her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Illinois and earned her Juris Doctorate at Chicago-Kent College of Law with a Certificate in Environmental and Energy Law. She has held prior positions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 office, the Chicago Park District, Openlands and the Illinois Pollution Control Board. A passion for environmental law led Jennifer to the Illinois House of Representatives as Assistant Counsel. In that position, she addressed emerging public policy issues as the lead counsel to the environment, energy, public utilities, mass transit and local government committees. Most recently, Jennifer also guided a global corporation’s international partnerships, as well as their advocacy efforts before Congress in Washington D.C. and locally.

Sandi Dornhecker, Senior Vice President of Human Resources


Sandi Dornhecker is an experienced Human Resources leader with over 25 years’ of HR experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. She has a passion for animals and conservation, which led her to her dream job at Brookfield Zoo.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from National Louis University and has completed graduate work towards an M.B.A. degree in Human Resources. Sandi directs the human resources function for the Chicago Zoological Society for a workforce of roughly 345 full-time and several hundred seasonal and part-time employees. She is responsible for strategic HR planning; recruitment, placement, and orientation; compensation and benefits; employee and labor relations; policy development and interpretation; Human Resource Information Systems; staff training and development; legal compliance; organizational development and change management.

Prior to her work at Brookfield Zoo, she worked as the Director of Human Resources for the Illinois Cancer Center, a non-profit cancer research consortium of university medical centers, teaching schools, and hospitals in Illinois. She has also held various other management and administrative positions in the corporate sector earlier in her career.

She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Society for Young American Professionals, and she has been listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who since 1998. She received the Kelly Award of Excellence, among other awards. In 2000, she co-founded the Chicago Metropolitan HR Cultural Group, a professional group of top HR officers and professionals representing major Chicagoland cultural and non-profit organizations. She has consulted for a variety of organizations and served as a presenter and trainer for colleges and community and professional groups.

Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai, Senior Vice President of Animal Health and Welfare

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Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai leads the Animal Health and Welfare group, which includes veterinary services and clinical operations, the conservation medicine program, the welfare and conservation science program, and nutrition services. This multi-departmental group oversees the healthcare and nutrition of all the animals at Brookfield Zoo and is a nationally-recognized leader in welfare, conservation, and veterinary research.

Dr. Chinnadurai obtained his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Missouri, where he also completed a Master’s degree in wildlife sciences. He is a board-certified specialist in both zoological medicine and veterinary anesthesiology, following the completion of successive residency training programs in both fields at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2018, Dr. Chinnadurai completed the requirements to also become a board-certified diplomate of the American College of Animal Welfare. He is an associate editor for the anesthesia section of the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine and is a prolific scientific author. For the past several years Dr. Chinnadurai has also served as a member of the Morris Animal Foundation Wildlife Scientific Advisory Board and the Animal Welfare Committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association, as well as representing the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians on the AVMA House Advisory Panel. He is a prolific researcher, writer, educator, and mentor.

Tim Snyder, Vice President of Animal Care

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Tim Snyder was named vice president of animal care for the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo. In his new position, Tim supervises several animal departments—bird, mammal, and herp/aquatic—as well as focusing his attention on husbandry/care, breeding programs, and conservation efforts. He has been at Brookfield Zoo since 2008, and until recently has been the curator of birds.
 
He currently manages the AZA Blue-grey Tanager and Red-capped Cardinal Species Survival Plans and serves as the Chair of the Passeriformes, Apodiformes, Capimulgiformes, Coliiformes, and Trogoniformes (PACCT) Taxon Advisory Group.

Rita Stacey, Vice President of Animal Programs
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Rita Stacey began her life-long career at Brookfield Zoo more than 30 years ago. Prior to her new position as vice president of animal programs, she was marine mammal curator since 2009. Rita continues to oversee marine mammals in addition to several other animal areas and programs, including animal ambassadors, behavioral husbandry, and enrichment. Her focus is to lead the Chicago Zoological Society’s impact in connecting people with wildlife and nature by expanding the animal experience with Brookfield Zoo’s guests and the Chicago-area communities.
 
Rita serves the zoological community by leading AZA’s Grey Seal SSP as the coordinator and studbook keeper, steering committee member of AZA’s Marine Mammal TAG, and was the past secretary for the Marine Mammal TAG. Other service roles included past board member and treasurer for the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA).

Membership

Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Read about our innovative practices in animal welfare to ensure the ultimate care of our individual animals.

Classes and Camps

Center for Conservation Leadership

We place a high priority on developing and supporting conservation leaders of all ages and backgrounds.

Membership

Visit Brookfield Zoo

Create extraordinary connections with animals and nature!