Russell Ploutz, Principal
As Zoo Design Inc. Principal, Russell is a talented, skilled, and passionate zoological design professional. His expertise is designing animal habitats and planning for visitors’ experience on a range of projects from large international zoos to single exhibits and in the context of zoos, theme parks and conservation centers. Having worked with both design firms PGAV, PJA, and Zoo Design Inc. he also has worked directly for conservation institutions such as The Wildlife Conservation Society. Russell brings a valuable dual perspective to projects, and an understanding of the nuanced staff and animal needs critical to an exhibit’s success. His professional passions include designing for conservation, seeking innovative solutions through the application of science to zoos.
In his free time he enjoys seeking out wildlife through birdwatching and wildlife photography. He also spends time thinking about how to bring conservation to a wider audience. Currently his focus is in the creation and design of a conservation oriented boardgame.
Megan Nielsen Hegstad, AIA, NCARB, WA R.A. Associate Principal
In her role as Associate Principal with Zoo Design Inc. Megan brings passion, professional experience, and personal connection to each project, with national and international experience designing and managing natural and cultural projects ranging in construction cost from under $1 million to over $150 million. Megan’s zoological design and management perspective is informed by diverse experience in architecture, art, anthropology, environmental and museum education, and exhibit planning and installation. Megan is committed to ensuring exhibits become experiences by holistically considering both built and natural elements.
Megan's cats are known to make inquisitive cameo appearances during videoconferences. She enjoys supporting her son's love of animals with their home collection of aquatic, invertebrate, reptile, and amphibian species. On her own time, you'll find Megan surrounded by nature in all types of weather on a forested trail, beach walk, or paddling out on the water.
Laura Tietz, Junior Industrial Designer
Laura studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is an avid plant enthusiast and horticulturalist and she values the interaction between plants and animals that keep an ecosystem thriving. She worked as an exhibit interpreter at the Butterfly Pavilion outside of Denver, CO where she developed a keen understanding of assisting exhibit flow and interactive engagement for K-12 children. Laura also has a vibrant passion for design and studied Industrial Design at the Art Institute of Seattle where she expanded her knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes to best be utilized in exhibits. When Laura is not working with Zoo Design Inc, she is creating home goods in the school workshop, tending to her collection of over 45 species of plants, sewing, or dreaming about her next road trip.
Julia founded Zoo Design Inc in 2012 to create a zoological design company with animal welfare at is heart. Over the years she grew the company with projects around the globe providing exciting visitor experiences and excellent animal care facilities. In 2020 she left Zoo Design Inc to become the Director of Zoo Bratislava in Slovakia, where she continues to advance the zoo community and conservation. Although Julia is no longer with ZDI, we carry on her legacy.
Join Our Team
Zoo Design Inc is always interested in hearing from people passionate and interested in zoo design. Inquires can be sent to