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Our Team

This certainly isn’t a job for the faint of heart. The dedication needed to care for (sometimes) over 300 animals at a time, doesn’t end at 4pm and often occurs even on our days off. Round the clock care is required for many animals forcing us to bring them (infant wildlife) into our homes at night, to be fed anywhere from every 2-4 hours. It’s our love for them and the desire to promote public awareness of our furry, feathered and scaly friends that keeps our team going everyday -Staff of BTN

Debbie Helsel

Debbie Helsel

Executive Director

Debbie, an Orlando native, grew up playing in the woods across the street from her home. She always knew she wanted to work with wildlife, but wasn’t sure how to make it happen. In early 1990, she took a job working for Orange County Animal Services. During her orientation at the shelter, she was told that she might have the opportunity to work directly with Carmen Shaw (Founder of Back to Nature). She knew of Carmen’s name and her work with the wildlife. Debbie spent the next nine years volunteering most evenings after work and almost every weekend at Back to Nature. It was then in 1999, that a rare opportunity presented itself for Debbie to become a paid staff member at BTN. She left her position with the county and followed her heart to the refuge. “I have practically grown up with the animals at the refuge and they are my family, as well as the volunteers, Carmen and her family. Carmen took me under her wing all those years ago and has entrusted me with her life’s work. What a privilege and a blessing it has been! I am looking very forward to the next chapter in our book for the refuge, and it is going to be an even more amazing journey than it has already been!”

Kelly Verduin

Kelly Verduin

Manager of Administration/Intern & Volunteer Coordinator

Kelly is a UCF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She began as a volunteer at Back to Nature back in October 2002. Always having a love for animals and a desire to work in the wildlife field, Kelly found Back to Nature to be a great place to gain experience. By putting her degree to some use, she began researching ways to expand the wildlife enrichment program for the permanent residents of the refuge. In January 2006, Kelly gladly accepted an open position at the refuge, (formerly known as Assistant Curator). “Once I got to know these animals and understand their cause, I felt as if I would be turning my back on them (if I took a position elsewhere). Now, I get to be with them and help every day. I’m happy to call this place my home and my career.”

Trenna Engelmann

Trenna Engelmann

Animal Care Specialist/Education Coordinator

Trenna graduated from UCF in 2011, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. She began volunteering at Back to Nature in March 2012, to gain experience working with exotic animals. Growing up, Trenna always had a love of animals and a desire to work with them, as a career. She had pets growing up, and for many years, also worked with horses. When Trenna was offered the Animal Care Specialist position at Back to Nature, she gladly accepted. “It was a dream come true! Since I have started this job, I have loved every minute of it. It is so rewarding seeing the results of all the hard work that goes into Back to Nature. Seeing all the animals that get released is inspiring and makes me want to work that much harder. I am so happy to be a part of this amazing family.”

Kristen Allman

Animal Care Technician

Kristen started as an Advanced Level Intern in Spring 2O14. She was apart of BTN during the relocation of the refuge from East Orlando to Lake Nona. Kristen remained a dedicated volunteer following her internship completion until January 2O16 when she was offered the position of Animal Care Technician.