Jessi Knudsen Castañeda grew up just outside of Missoula, MT. She began rescuing animals at a very early age and always wanted to help the ones no one else wanted. When she was 12 years old she knew she wanted to work with animals, so she began volunteering at a local veterinary clinic and animal sitting for friends.
At 17 she moved to California to find her path in life. She had decided she didn't want to be a vet, but was interested in making wildlife documentaries (imagining The African Wild specials on TV) and attended Chapman University for a degree in film production. After 2 years in the world of film she decided that Hollywood wasn't her style and transferred to Moorpark College to attended the EATM (Exotic Animal Training and Management) program at America's Teaching Zoo.
During the EATM program Jessi gained knowledge and experience with many different species of exotic animals including vervet monkeys, capuchins, baboons, ringtail cat, raccoon, harris' hawk, parrots, African serval, and many more. Jessi received three degrees: Exotic Animal Training & Management, Animal Behavior, and Wildlife Education.
After graduation she was hired to train and cared for the animals at a theme park She gave educational presentations about the animals as well as locally grown farm produce to school groups and the general public. It was here she learned how to entertain while educating. Celery and beets can only hold the attention for so long...
In May 2008, she and husband Augusto Castañeda began the process of creating Animal Wonders Inc. She realized her passion was rescuing animals in need and teaching about the boundless wonders of animals and nature.
In 2012 Jessi was invited onto the set of the YouTube channel Scishow to guest host and present animals for the Talk Show segment. From there she has become a regular guest and in May 2014 she began hosting her own YouTube channel, Animal Wonders Montana. Since the launch of Animal Wonders Montana, Jessi now hosts a children's science show, SciShow Kids.
Jessi Continues to rescue displaced exotic animals. The animals receive a life-long home at Animal Wonders and become ambassadors for their species by giving live presentations in western Montana as well as being featured on the educational YouTube channel Animal Wonders Montana.