CCC Staff & Consultants | Carolinian Canada

CCC Staff & Consultants

CCC Biographies

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Michelle Kanter - Executive Director

Michelle Kanter has held the position of Executive Director of the Carolinian Canada Coalition since 2003 and has been involved with the Coalition since its inception in 1984. With 30 years of experience in wildlife research and land stewardship, she has worked with a broad range of stakeholders around the world on innovative conservation partnerships to save, steward and seed important habitat and rare species. Since she started at the Coalition, programs have grown five-fold, thanks to a strong team of individuals and groups that focus on ecosystem recovery in southwestern Ontario. With a home base in Dorchester Swamp, she enjoys exploring nature’s role in healthy communities, photography, hiking and writing. She currently sits on the Ontario Species at Risk Public Advisory Committee.

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Koral Wysocki - Program Manager

Koral Wysocki is a strategic leader passionate about addressing diverse challenges through an environmental lens. As Program Manager, she supports teams at Carolinian Canada and World Wildlife Fund to accelerate a cultural shift toward values of connectedness to nature, responsible stewardship and energized community. Koral completed her Masters of Science in Conservation and Community Development, specializing in the systematic evaluation of conservation programs with integrated social justice goals.

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Kathryn McLeod - Marketing & Communications Strategy Specialist

Kathryn is a forest wanderer, activator, innovator, traveler, and awkward dancer. She has a professional background in the private and not-for-profit sectors and is a pioneering business marketer specializing in Social Enterprise.

Her life and professional experiences have led her down a different path than most. A few years ago, she had an insane dream that would require her to leave her job, sell all of her possessions, buy a one-way ticket to Africa and risk everything. In 2012, she made that dream a reality by co-founding a web-based initiative geared towards raising the awareness of Global Citizenship. Was she scared? You bet! Confident that traveling around the world would broaden her mind? Absolutely!

After hundreds of days spent living the digital nomadic life, she is committed to sustainable community development through social innovation and meaningful change. Now, she's super stoked to join the CCC team and support the Go Wild Grow Wild Expo!

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Tristan Bentley - IT Systems Coordinator, Webmaster

Tristan Bentley is a visual artist, web designer, and teacher. The Internet is synonymous with communication in today's society. As the webmaster and eco-news editor for the Carolinian Canada Coalition since October 2010, Tristan brings his diverse educational background to bare in helping the Coalition move forward technologically. Camping, hiking, and canoeing since childhood, Tristan also feels very at home in the natural settings of the Carolinian Zone, and feels that CCC is the right place to be in order to help protect all of the things in nature that he loves.

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Ben Porchuk - Carolinian Zone Ecologist

Ben Porchuk has over two decades of experience in wildlife biology and ecology, non-profit management, environmental consulting, and sustainable living. Working with rural threatened ecosystems in southern Ontario and in densely population urban centres, Ben has become both a highly experienced practitioner on ecological systems recovery and an strong agent for restoring urban ecology to greater resiliency. Now living in a densely populated area of a London, Ontario, Ben's property consists of over 150 species of native plants, including a wetland, all visited by many rare species of wildlife, seldom observed in the downtown of a city.

Follow Ben's Blog at

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Lisa Boyce - Administrative Assistant

Lisa Boyce has lived in London, Ontario since the age of eight when her family moved from Hastings, England. After attending Fanshawe College in London for Accounting, Management and Business, Lisa opened her own business, Boyce Business Services, to use her skills and aid other small businesses with their management, bookkeeping and administration needs. Lisa and her husband Warren continue to raise their children Matthew and Alexandria in London and enjoy hiking, camping and bicycling so they can teach their children to enjoy and take care of this fabulous country we live in.

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Melissa Taylor-Gates (she/her)

​Melissa Taylor-Gates believes foremost in empathy and compassion for those in the world around us. Her work centralizes around power inequality and authentic communication, often working with teams to improve processes and deepen community connections. She strive to foster safe spaces where people can learn from and care for each other in a holistic way. She has a Masters degree in Library and Information Science and a Certificate in Project Management from Western University.

Outside her work, she is a storyteller, archer, tea-lover, feminist, writer, and gamer.

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Kristen Bernard

Kristen graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2006, Environment and Resources Studies and from Niagara College’s Ecosystem Restoration program in 2007. Kristen started her career in southern Saskatchewan working for Parks Canada in Grasslands National Park as a species at risk technician and later on as the Project Coordinator for the Frenchman Wood River Weed Management Area and Education Coordinator for the Prairie Conservation Action Plan. Kristen moved back to Ontario in 2009 to join the Norfolk Alternative Land Use Service project where she worked with farmers and private landowners to implement on farm stewardship projects in Norfolk County. Kristen began working for NCC May 2011 as an Administrative Officer, Executive Assistant and Relationship Manager and began her current role with NCC as a Program Manager for Southwestern Ontario in 2014.

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Stefan Weber, MSc- Ecologist and PhD Candidate

Stefan is a plant ecologist and horticulturalist with a keen interest in rare native plants, seed conservation and ecosystem restoration. In addition to his role with CCC, Stefan is the director and co-founder of the Ontario Plant Restoration Alliance, a small not-for profit organization that helps create ex-situ 'Seed Conservation Orchards' to support the restoration of uncommon and threatened plants. Stefan is in the final writing stages of a PhD in Ecology at McMaster University, where he studies grassland restoration, invasion biology, and climate adaptation in wildflowers. He has also worked as a Botanist for the Toronto Botanical Garden, the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, and the St. Williams Ecology Centre. Stefan has propagated over 200 species of native plants from seed and curates several garden collections of these species in Norfolk County and Niagara region.

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Brandon Doxtator - Indigenous Leadership Coordinator

Brandon Doxtator is a 25 year old bear clan member from the Oneida Nation of the Thames. Brandon currently sits on the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) Youth Council, as well as working for the Oneida Nation as the Environment and Consultation Coordinator. In 2016, Brandon served a two year term as an Elected Councillor for the Oneida Nation of the Thames, and ever since has been passionate about working with youth, and protecting and enhancing critical habitat within Southwestern Ontario. Through his school, professional and life experiences, Brandon is always interested in talking about Anthropology, History, Indigenous issues, Treaty and Inherent rights and Consultation practices and protocols.

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Active Board Members

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Dawn Bazely

Dawn Bazely is a Professor in the Department of Biology, in the Faculty of Science and has served as the Director at York’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability since 2006. She will be stepping down in June 2014 after 4 terms totaling 7 years. Professor Bazely studies plant-animal interactions, from temperate to arctic regions, along with associated research areas, including invasive species, climate change impacts, forest dynamics, and fungal endophytes of grasses. She has done fieldwork in Scotland, England, Scandinavia, Newfoundland, on Hudson Bay, and throughout Ontario. Her publications number over 80 journal articles, chapters, and books and according to Google Scholar, her work has been cited more than 1660 times. Dawn has taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses in plant ecology, biological science, population biology, ecology and evolution, and ecosystem health. Her background is as varied as her interests: B.Sc. in Biogeography and Environmental Studies, M.Sc. in Botany and Ph.D. in Zoology. Her research on the effects of deer grazing and browsing in Carolinian forests in southern Ontario has engaged with students, landowners, government and NGOs including Ontario Parks, Parks Canada, Conservation Authorities, Carolinian Canada and First Nations communities. Her book with UBC Professor Emerita, Judith Myers: Ecology and Control of Introduced Plants: Evaluating and responding to invasive plants (2003) was recognized by the American Library Association as a Notable Title.

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Mari Veliz
Vice Chair

Mari Veliz is the Healthy Watershed Supervisor at the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA), where she has worked since 2000. The ABCA is a watershed management agency with a 2400 km2 area of jurisdiction along the south-east shore of Lake Huron. Ms. Veliz has supervised the water quality and bio-monitoring program since 2002. She also develops and implements community-based watershed plans. Currently, she is working with local, provincial and federal partners to evaluate agricultural best management practices. Ms. Veliz has a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo and a Masters of Science from the University of Alberta.

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Owen Williams

Owen Williams retired in 2009 after 35 years with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources as a biologist and program coordinator. Popular stewardship programs were designed and led by Owen that enabled over 600,000 people to complete over 21,000 projects. He helped organize four national stewardship conferences and wrote Canada’s Stewardship Agenda (2002). He was a founding member of the Ontario Invasive Plant Council in 2007 and became Chair of the Board. He is now Past President and retired from that Board in 2019. He also was involved in the forming of Carolinian Canada up to the time of it becoming incorporated and then returned to the Board a few years later and is now in his 3rd three-year term as a Director. His experience enabled him to become an entertaining speaker. Owen enjoys photography and canoeing, camping, hiking and traveling with his wife, 3 children and 7 grandchildren.

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Chris Turner

Chris Turner is an experienced financial leader with a broad range of skills and abilities. He has functioned at the CFO level in the Healthcare sector prior to his appointment as the Director of Finance and Administration at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students' Union. His accomplishments vary from improving organizational financial stability to leading organizational change initiatives. Chris's education includes a CMA designation, an MBA from McMaster University, and an Honours degree in Biology from the University of Waterloo. Chris lives in Baden Ontario.

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Don Pearson

Don Pearson recently retired as General Manager of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, after more than forty years working in Conservation Authorities throughout Ontario. From 1981 until 2003, Don served as General Manager of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, where under his leadership the Authority earned a reputation for excellence and innovation. With the support of both Conservation Authorities, and the unanimous support of their member municipalities, the Thames was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in 2000.

Following graduation in 1975, Don joined the Ministry of Natural Resources as a Resources Manager in Training at the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, followed by stints at the MNR Central Regional Office in Richmond Hill, Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, and the Ausable-Bayfield Conservation Authority. His career also included seven and a half years as General Manager of Conservation Ontario, during which time the Clean Water Act was proclaimed and the substantial work of preparing Source Protection Plans for nineteen regions was completed. He is a past Chair of the Boards of the Canadian Water Network, and Carolinian Canada; and also served on the Board of Ontario Heritage Trust; the Ontario Biodiversity Council; and Trees Ontario, now Forests Ontario.

Don earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Western Ontario in 1998, and holds an Honours Science Degree from the University of Waterloo (1975).

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Daniel Fuentes, Mennonite Economic Development Associates

Daniel Fuentes is Senior Manager for Business Development with the Mennonite Economic Development Associates, an impact investment pioneering organization. Daniel is a former collaborator of Pillar Nonprofit's social enterprise and social finance team where he managed and implemented social impact partnerships for Ontario's Southwestern region, co-designed social enterprise competency development provincial programs, and led VERGE Capital's partnership efforts to launch Canada's first conservation impact bond prototype through a multi-partner collaboration with public and private sector stakeholders. Daniel holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at El Paso and an MBA from Ivey Business School.

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Stephanie Chamberlin, Forestry Program Manager, Forests Ontario

Stephanie Chamberlin is currently the Forestry Program Manager at Forests Ontario and has been with the organization since 2014. Her main role involves overseeing the 50 Million Tree Program and Forest Recovery Canada Program delivery while managing partner and capacity development. Stephanie also oversees the development of Forests Ontario’s Annual Conference and Forests Ontario’s Community Forest Managers and Tree By-Law officers group. Stephanie graduated Sir Sandford Fleming College as a Forestry Technician in 2011 and completed the Urban Forestry certificate program in 2012. She is also a licensed landscape exterminator, chainsaw operator and member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry.

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Dr. Michael John

Michael John retired in May 2018 from his positions as Division Head, Medical Microbiology at London Health Sciences Centre and Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Western University. Michael has worked as a Health professional on numerous local, Provincial and Federal Committees. Growing up in South Africa, Michael developed a love of nature. He has been a member of the Dorchester Millpond Committee since 1997 and has worked on habitat restoration, tree planting and turtle rescue for many years, learning from partnerships with UTRCA and Carolinian Canada members. He is also a member of The Nature Conservancy, Thames Talbot Land trust and World Wildlife Fund. Michael's interests include:
Nature Macro-Photography, Hiking, Kayaking, bird-watching, adventure travel with his wife and retirement time with his 2-year old granddaughter.

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Kristyn Richardson

Kristyn Richardson has worked at Long Point Basin Land Trust (LPBLT) since 2015 as the Program Manager and is responsible for overseeing the delivery of conservation projects such as acquisition of ecologically significant properties, habitat restoration on LPBLT's nature reserves, and engaging individuals in environmental stewardship. LPBLT's mission is to protect and restore restore functioning ecosystems in the Long Point Basin, an area located in the central Carolinian region. Prior to joining LPBLT, she worked as a Stewardship Biologist with Bird Studies Canada where she was involved in conservation and research projects targeted at aerial insectivores. Kristyn holds a Master of Natural Resources Management from the University of Manitoba and a Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto.

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Alistair MacKenzie

Alistair MacKenzie is a Wildlife Biologist and Naturalist with an honours Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife biology from the University of Guelph and a Master of Science degree in spatial ecology from the University of Toronto. He frequently contributes to Species at Risk recovery through participation in national recovery teams and active stewardship activities on the ground. Alistair is currently the Natural Heritage Education and Resource Management Supervisor at Pinery Provincial Park. Working with park visitors and external partners he protects and restores provincially significant ecosystems and the organisms they sustain, educates stakeholders and park managers about biodiversity and inventories and monitors many significant species. Alistair is involved in a liaison capacity with numerous academic researchers who use Pinery Park as their outdoor laboratories. He is a self-taught amateur graphic designer.

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Maria Ramirez

Since 2016, Maria has been a Programs Analyst with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). The OSCIA is a grassroots farming organization that delivers a number of education and cost-share programs to the farming community. Maria coordinates the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP) and supports the delivery of many environmental programs including the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) and the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI). She previously worked for the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and assisted the Environmental Programs Specialist in soil health and water quality best management practices (BMP) research. Maria is also a volunteer with the Thames Talbot Land Trust and ReForest London contributing to their stewardship and conservation efforts in and around the City of London. Maria has an honors Bachelor degree in Environmental Science from the University of Guelph and has lived in Carolinian Canada since she arrived from Colombia in 2005.

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Nicole Baldwin

Nicole Baldwin started as Forest Ontario’s Restoration Programs Coordinator in September, 2019 and began her current role as Forestry Programs Manager in May, 2020. She grew up in rural Saskatchewan, moved to Toronto in July, and completed her MSc. in Environmental Toxicology from the University of Saskatchewan in October. Nicole has always been passionate about the environment, having grown up surrounded by nature. Additionally, coming from a farming community, she has also always had an appreciation for effective resource management.
In her spare time you will find Nicole cycling, hiking, canoeing, and sailing. She has been a member of the Royal Canadian Navy for 8 years and has deployed both domestically and internationally as a Naval Combat Information Operator.

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Vanessa Alsop

Vanessa Alsop has a Masters in Environmental Studies (York University), Post Graduate Certificate in Education (Surrey University, UK) and Bachelor of Science (Joint Hons) (University of London, UK). She began her work in conservation as a forester in Ecuador in 1987, working on the Rio Mazan Project - an Anglo-Ecuadorian project for forests and the people of the Andes. She has subsequently worked in marketing and communications (agency side) and also spent time as a biology teacher teaching in inner city schools in London, UK. In Canada she has worked in marketing (Faculty of Education, York University), provided professional development for teachers on sustainability, has been actively working with ENGOs such as, ACER (on the Board), EcoSource and Earthroots. Vanessa works as a Course Director at both OISE and YorkU Faculty of Education and in addition, has taught science and run the school sustainability program at the Dragon Academy for ten years and is now the school's Guidance Counsellor.

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Chris Hummel

Chris is an environmental lawyer at the law firm, Gowling WLG LLP. He represents municipalities, businesses, Indigenous and community organizations on a wide range of matters in the areas of environmental, land-use planning, energy, Indigenous and northern law. Chris graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science (B Sc) in Biology and Anthropology and a Bachelor of Education (B Ed). He taught high school in Toronto and Cambridge Bay, Nunavut before attending Osgoode Hall Law School and graduating with a joint degree in law (JD) and Environmental Studies (MES). As a law student, he worked at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in Iqaluit, Nunavut. He is learning French and Inuktitut.

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Heather Gingerich

Heather has worked with both Indigenous and Settler communities throughout North America, Africa, Australia and Asia and was one of the first Children's Lands (a United Nations-endorsed methodology for environmental restoration and conservation in collaboration with children and elders) facilitators to be trained in English. She is a member of the AAAS Science & Human Rights Coalition, serving on the Information & Education Resources, Communication & Outreach and Welfare of Scientists committees, and has published widely in community news media, trade publications, UNESCO and Pearson Peacekeeping Centre on the topic of medical geology and free, prior and informed decision-making.

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