Meet our Professionals


Janet Gardner

Founder/Executive Director/ Volunteer of The Children's Nature Center/Grand Valley Zoological Quest: Gardner graduated from both Midland College and The University of Texas Permian Basin with honors. Her senior year she was selected by the faculty as the outstanding Graduate in Psychology and was President of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society for psychology students. Gardner held the prestigious position of Graduate Assistant to the psychology professors while taking classes towards a Master’s in Behavioral Science. Gardner holds a BA in psychology, a minor in biology, master’s work in behavioral science, and numerous certifications in psittacine and avian program management including certificates from: AZA Advance Avian Program Management, American Federation of Aviculture, Steve Martin’s Natural Encounters, Dr. Susan Friedman’s LLP just to name a few.

Gardner spent nine months in Jakarta, Indonesia, studying the Komodo dragons, both in the wild and in the zoological setting.  She was on site during the exchange of two Komodo dragons for two white tigers between the Ragunan Zoo and the Cincinnati, Ohio Zoo. Janet spent a great deal of time with the Curator of Reptiles, Johnny Arnett from the Cincinnati Ohio Zoo, working with the Komodo dragons and helping to sex water monitors. Gardner has experience with numerous species including: Sumatran rhinos, orangutans, chimpanzees, as well as with several reptiles including: snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises. Since 2014, She has excelled with aquarium systems. Janet is a professional member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and a member on the AZA National Committee for Research & Technology.  She is the mother of two sons, both in college, who share her love for animals and nature. 

Saray Lira


Staff Biologist

Saray Lira was born and raised in San Diego, CA. In 2008, she moved to Colorado for a change of scenery and to attend Colorado Mesa University. In 2010 Saray moved to Grand Junction to finish her degree at CMU. Inspired by nature, conservation, and wildlife.  In 2013 she graduated with a BS in biology. Saray has also had the privilege to travel to Costa Rica to assist with sea turtle conservation. She is a first time mother to a baby boy, wife and zookeeper at the Children's Nature Center.

Jessica King


Staff Biologist

I have always  loved animals.  Growing up our farm included: horses, goats, chickens, dogs, and a whole slew of cats!  

I graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor's degree in biology. After marrying, my husband and I settled for a goldfish named Fry in our small apartment.

Since then, our family has grown adding two children, a few in laws, dogs, and a hamster. We are living the good life, and I am working my dream job at the Children's Nature Center.

Sandman, Kenyan Sand boa, at the Children's Nature Center has a special place in my heart because he reminds me of my friends in Kenya.

Janet Gordon Palm, D.V.M.

Veteranarian, Owner Animobility/Volunteer

Hello! I am Dr. Janet J Gordon Palm ( “Dr. J” ).

Growing up in Kansas, I was fortunate to have had access to my grandparents farm. I credit that background for instilling a strong work ethic, as well as a passion for animals and particularly horses.

Since graduating from Kansas State University in 1981, I have been in private practice with a special interest in small animal and avian medicine and surgery. More recently performing Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation and Low Level Laser Therapy on horses as well.
I am involved in Parelli Natural Horsemanship with my Arabian gelding “High Voltaj”. I find that the concepts of communication through respect and body language, transcends the species.

I became interested in complementary therapies while managing my aging canine partner “Kahlua”, with multimodal pain therapies. I was simultaneously watching as my dirt-bike racing husband Ron, was also struggling with pain management. The integration of these complementary therapies with traditional medicine has made a difference in our life quality as it can for you and yours.

I have been practicing veterinary medicine and surgery at New Hope Animal Hospital for over 25 years. I have a passion for learning, and have become enthusiastically relentless about sharing the exciting responses I am seeing since incorporating complementary medicine. I am on the national lecture circuit presenting on Low Level Laser Therapy; and Enhancing the Veterinary Exam using Natural Horsemanship Principles.

Following a shared passion for outdoor activities such as mountain biking and hiking, my husband Ron and I recently relocated to western Colorado. We are currently residing in the small but vibrant town of Fruita, just outside of Grand Junction. This area is globally known as the “Adventure Capitol of the World”. There is a large population of horses, cattle, and a pet owner population that are eager to seek out what is best for their furry and feathered family members. Integrating complementary modalities with conventional medicine is truly offering the best of both worlds.

I am looking forward to meeting you and your special friend. I would love to have the opportunity to enhance their life quality.

My mission is to provide an outstanding quality of life for animals and people, and that people are encouraged to express their passions in living life outrageously!  Dr. Janet donates all her time at the Children's Nature Center.


Paul Bingham, D.V.M.


Veterinarian / Volunteer


Dr. Paul Bingham earned his degree from Colorado State University. He has extensive veterinary experience in small animal and exotic and avian species. In addition, he also does pro bono work on wildlife. He has pursued continuing education in exotic species care and ultrasound to help provide the best possible care to his patients. While there are many interesting and exciting aspects of veterinary care, Dr. Bingham’s favorite parts about being a veterinarian are the challenge and variety of patients he treats. He wanted to work with animals since he was 12 years old, so his career is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Dr. Bingham has been with PSSWF since 2004. He has an extensive background with wildlife as a veterinarian. He is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and donates all of his services to the Foundation as well as to the Children’s Nature Center.


Josey King


Staff/Biology Student


Josey was born and raised in Craig, Colorado. She grew up loving the outdoors. She was raised in a fishing family, her feet were always wet, and her hands always dirty. This provided a foundation for her love of nature and conservation. She is currently finishing a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with an emphasis in ecology at Colorado Mesa University. During her time at CMU, she has been investigating plant-herbivore relationships and analyzing Ecuadorian caterpillar development at different altitudes to further evaluate and predict the effect of climate change on herbivory in ecosystems. As a member of the top ten percent of the university, she loves to learn and use that knowledge to educate future generations on how awesome science and nature is. She plans to continue her academic career in graduate school, while never forgetting to share her passion with enthusiastic children, once like her.

Elizabeth Hendrikson, M.A.

Board President/Middle School Science Educator


Elizabeth Hendrikson: Board President, M.A curriculum and instruction, Middle School Science Teacher, co-writer the middle school science curriculum, co-advisor to MESA (Math, Engineering, Science and Achievement). Teacher liaison to the Space Foundation. One of 200 teachers worldwide.  Liz has been a member of the Children's Nature Center Board since opening on January 4, 2014.