Donna M. Fernandes, Ph.D.
Interested in animals her whole life, Donna M. Fernandes grew up in Norton, Mass., where she spent a great deal of time exploring acres of undeveloped forest that surrounded her parents’ home. She knew at a young age that she wanted to pursue an animal-related career, and while taking an animal behavior course her junior year of high school, she set a high goal by deciding to pursue a doctorate in the same field. After graduating from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. in 1977, she attended Brown University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in 1981. She continued on with her education at Princeton, where she received a master’s degree in biology in 1984 and a doctorate in ecology, evolution and behavior in 1988. After a year of postdoctoral study at the University of Liverpool, Donna returned to the United States, where she entered the zoo world as Curator of Research at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. A short time later, she was promoted to oversee the education and volunteer programs. In 1996, she was recruited by the Wildlife Conservation Society to serve as the Curator of Animals at the Prospect Park Wildlife Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one year later, she was promoted to oversee both the Animal and Education departments. As part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, better known as the Bronx Zoo system, Donna also led two teacher safaris to Africa and served as National Public Radio’s resident animal expert. Donna left Prospect Park in 1999 to attend the Simmons School of Management in Boston, where she received her master’s degree in business administration in 2000. Later that year, Donna came to the Buffalo Zoo, where she accepted her first job as President/CEO. Since her arrival in Buffalo, Dr. Fernandes has completed an exciting new master plan, raised $36 million in capital funds and opened several new exhibits including Vanishing Animals, EcoStation, Otter Creek, Sea Lion Cove, M&T Bank Rainforest Falls Delta Sonic Heritage Farm and a new Entry Plaza. In addition to her duties at the Buffalo Zoo, Donna is an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Buffalo and is a part-time instructor at Canisius College. She also teaches in the Harvard Business School Club of Buffalo’s management and nonprofit management programs. She is in great demand as a speaker for many local organizations. Donna currently resides in Buffalo with her husband, Robert Savage, and her dog, Darcey.