Western Canada Chapter Board of Directors 2016-2017

jennifer-barkerJennifer Barker, MSc, PBiol (Chair, Director since 2013) Calgary, AB

Jennifer is an Environmental Advisor for TransCanada, who supports a collaborative and integrated approach to landscape planning, restoration and reclamation. She collaborates with environmental planners, regulators, engineers and stakeholders, and throughout her career has contributed to a wide range of projects. These include local/regional environmental management plans, reclamation plans for oil sands/pipelines, and site specific landscape restoration/planting plans. As a member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists, she enjoys being a mentor for Biologists in Training. She joined the SER as a Director in November 2013 and her current focus is the expansion of the Western Canada membership.


Darcy Henderson (Vice-Chair, Director since 2014) Saskatoon, SK

Darcy has 25 years of experience in the environmental field.  He is Head of Protected Areas and Stewardship (Prairies) with the Canadian Wildlife Service, and Adjunct Professor with the University of Saskatchewan where he teaches PLSC 398.3 Environmental Restoration.  His work with ecological restoration involves research, management and practical experience in prescribed burning, native seed collection, re-seeding disturbed sites, modifying grazing practices, controlling invasive alien plants, as well as survey design, monitoring, and assessment of species at risk populations, plant community diversity, soil salinity and organic matter, and health of wetlands, rangelands, and boreal forests.  He has PhD and MSc degrees from the University of Alberta, a BSc from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Diploma in Resource Management from Saskatchewan Polytechnic.


david polster bioDave Polster (Treasurer since 2000) Duncan, BC

Dave is a plant ecologist with over 35 years of experience in vegetation studies, reclamation and invasive species management. He graduated from the University of Victoria with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in 1975 and a Master of Science degree in 1977. He has developed a wide variety of reclamation techniques for steep/unstable slopes as well as techniques for the re-establishment of riparian and aquatic habitats. He is the past-president of the Canadian Land Reclamation Association in and is a founding member of and is the treasurer for the Western Canada Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration and is the NW Regional Representative on the SER international board. He serves on the board of the Invasive Species Council of BC.


AarZwiebelBioPictureLLORESon Zwiebel (Secretary, Director since 2013) Prince George, BC

Hailing from the deserts of Utah, Aaron Zwiebel is a lover of many ecosystems and the youngest member of the SER board. In 2014 he graduated from the Natural Resource Conservation B.Sc. program at UBC. He is an agrologist in training and looks forward to a rewarding career on the human-environment interface.

His brief but diverse work background includes environmental education, paleontology, forestry, mycorrhizal ecology and more. He also has skills with video creation and other multimedia, is fluent in Spanish, and is a passable bike mechanic. Currently Aaron lives in Prince George, BC and works as a field technician with DWB Consulting Services.

In the near term Aaron plans to pursue graduate studies in mycorestoration, advancing the field and his own career. In the long term he desires work that benefits degraded ecosystems by altering belowground processes.


Michael Keefer (Former Chair, Board of Directors since 2005) Cranbrook, BC

Michael is a senior results based environmental leader and visionary with extensive experience in a variety of areas including: ecological restoration and reclamation, environmental assessments, hydroelectric reservoir and transmission line restoration and assessments, First Nations traditional knowledge studies, managing large and complex environmental projects and other related works. Michael is able to work effectively in a wide variety of cultural settings that range from remote First Nations communities to that of formal urban environments. He is well known for his vast knowledge of the uses of native plants for ecological restoration and ethnoecology in western Canada.  Along with his skills as a scientist he is also a talented entrepreneur with ambitious goals for environmentally, socially and economically sound businesses.  Michael has been a director of SERBC since 2005 and in his role as President in 2014 helped lead the expansion of our organisation to SER Western Canada.


June Pretzer (Director) Victoria, BC


Robert Seaton (Director since 2000) Gabriola Island, BC

Robert has been involved in forestry, ecological restoration, and ecosystem based global warming mitigation for almost 40 years, starting as a 17 year old treeplanter.  Currently an independent consultant working from Gabriola Island, BC, Robert is focused on working with integrated teams to develop projects at locations around the world which conserve, enhance and restore ecosystems while removing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, providing renewable bio-energy sources, and enhancing local livelihoods and sustainability.  Robert has had a close association with Brinkman & Associates Reforestation Ltd. for more than 25 years, and many of his projects are undertaken in collaboration with Brinkman.

In his spare time Robert provides finance and marketing consulting services to arts non-profits, works as a dancer, artist and writer, runs a backyard sawmill, builds structures and boats, and sits on a number of corporate and non-profit boards, including SER-WC.


Doug Ransome (Director since 2012) Burnaby, BC

Douglas B. Ransome, Ph.D., RPBio.  is the Program Head of the degree program in Ecological Restoration at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (since 2012).  He also teaches courses in Research Design & Implementation and Restoring Wildlife Populations within the ER program.  He also teaches Wildlife Ecology & Management in BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife, and Recreation Program (since 2003).  He completed his Ph.D. on northern flying squirrels and Douglas squirrels in managed forests in 2001 and his M.Sc. degree in 1994, both from University of British Columbia.  His undergraduate degrees include one from University of Guelph in Wildlife Management and University of Windsor in General Biology.  Dr. Ransome is a research associate with Applied Mammal Research Institute.  His research interests include examining the effects of forest practices on various wildlife populations (small mammals, hares, mountain beavers, ungulates), particularly arboreal mammals and small mammals; and wildlife damage and techniques to reduce damage in forestry and agricultural operations.  Dr. Ransome had joined SER-WC in 2012 as a director.


Karenn Bailey_salish creek survey_0018Karenn Bailey (Director since 2013) North Vancouver, BC

Karenn Bailey is an Environmental Technician, Steward and Educator.

Karenn is a British Columbia Institute of Technology grad with a Bachelor of Technology in Ecological Restoration (2013) and a Technical Diploma from the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program (2010).  Within a year of graduation she applied for and received two grants, parlayed her academic studies into three paid work assignments and applied these projects to accreditation as a Registered Biology Technologist with the BC College of Applied Biology.

Environmental work has given Karenn experience in coastal freshwater ecosystems conducting assessments and monitoring with a focus on urban water issues, as well it taught her a thing or two about invasive plants and plant communities native to the BC coast and islands.  Her restoration experience includes wetland construction, stream and riparian habitat enhancement, estuarine reclamation, and varied work supporting recovery of coastal sand ecosystems and coastal associated wetlands in both BC and Hawaii.

Prior to environmental field work Karenn was in Regional and Provincial Park maintenance and also worked as a nature educator, park interpreter and hike and canoe guide.  She’s particularly fond of freshwater fishes, frogs and bears and is enthusiastic when people of all ages show and interest in learning about nature.


Brian Eaton (Director since 2014) Vegreville, AB

Brian a Senior Research Scientist at Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures.  He is an ecologist with research experience in both terrestrial and aquatic systems, examining pure and applied questions across a wide array of taxa. He has over 20 years of experience in applied ecological research, including studies in forestry and agricultural systems. Brian recently contributed to the Guidelines for Wetlands Establishment on Reclaimed Oil Sands Leases (3rd edition), and is currently collaborating on a framework for wildlife habitat reclamation for the mineable oil sands region.  Brian is interested in citizen-science and stewardship initiatives, and all manner of wildlife and outdoor experiences.  He is currently pursuing a diploma in the Restoration of Natural Systems at the University of Victoria.


Virgil Hawkes (Director) Victoria, BC

Virgil is a Vice-president and Senior Wildlife Biologist at LGL Limited environmental research associates and has been studying wildlife and their habitat relationships in western Canada and the Pacific Northwest for the past 20 years. Much of his career has focused on the conservation of rare and endangered species and the interactions between those species and human-caused disturbances to their habitats. Virgil is currently leading several long-term projects evaluating the impacts of hydroelectric operating regimes on the flora and fauna occupying drawdown zones with an emphasis on birds, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and insects. The objectives of several of these projects include an evaluation of the efficacy of created or enhanced habitats to improve the suitability of wildlife habitat by promoting the establishment and development of naturally occurring plant communities.


Andy Owens (Director) Vancouver, BC

Living in Vancouver, Andy Owens is a Project Manager and Restoration Practitioner for the Urban Restoration division of Brinkman & Associates, based in New Westminster, BC. With over 8 years of experience conducting and managing both terrestrial and aquatic restoration projects throughout British Columbia and Alberta, he is interested in novel ecosystems, biomimetic design, successional processes on disturbed sites, and ameliorating soil health through mycorestoration and microbial inoculations. After completing his undergraduate degree through the University of Victoria in 2006, he’s continued with UVIC to pursue the Restoration of Natural Systems diploma and a Professional Specialization certificate in ecological restoration. He enjoys life. A lot.


Katherine Stewart (Director)K. Stewart (Director)

Dr. Katherine Stewart is an Assistant Professor in the Soil Science Department at the University of Saskatchewan.  As an expert in northern plant ecology and soil science she works primarily in northern Boreal and Arctic ecosystems.

Dr. Stewart conducts research investigating the restoration of plant communities and nutrient cycling processes in northern ecosystems to identify means of restoring sustainable pathways that promote long-term ecosystem health. She works with several industrial partners in northern Canada to develop soil amendments and identify local native plant-soil materials that can restore the fertility of impacted northern ecosystems and facilitate plant community development of desired seral stages.


Douglas Hallet (Director)D. Hallett (Director)

Douglas is a specialist in fire, climate change, and disturbance ecology. He has published several long-term fire histories using sedimentary charcoal records to reconstruct ancient forest fire activity. This research has a regional to global scope and analyzed deposits of charcoal embedded in lake sediments, peats, and soils using chronological control by way of radiocarbon dating, volcanic tephra layers, and tree rings. As a restoration ecologist, I strive to develop a deep time look at landscapes and ecological processes to provide a richer knowledge of natural history that may help us to understand important lessons for moving forward.

Through his research, Douglas has developed a keen interest in natural hazards and extreme events linked to climate change and atmospheric processes. Natural hazards, such as forest fires, debris flows and floods, across western Canada will require long-term consideration as we continue to plan and build sustainable communities.

As a vegetation and wetland scientist he is interested in advancing ecological restoration of wetlands, developing monitoring programs, and bioengineering solutions for disturbed ecosystems. His professional activities and university teaching experiences have allowed him to study the science of landscape-level conservation, ecological restoration, and issues related to wildlife populations across the Cordillera.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2013-14 reports clearly demonstrate that adaptation to a changing climate system is our biggest societal concern moving forward into the new millennium. Our conservation and restoration efforts must recognize potential large-scale shifts in biological systems while being sensitive to landscape context, human activities and disturbance legacies.

Connect with Dr. Hallett on Research Gate


eric-higgsEric Higgs (Director since 2003)

Eric Higgs is a Professor in, and past Director of, the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. From 2001 to 2003 Eric served as chair of the Society for Ecological Restoration International. His restoration research and practice is concerned mostly with historical ecology of mountain landscapes <mountainlegacy.ca> and the emergence of novel ecosystems. He is the author of Nature By Design: People, Natural Process and Ecological Restoration (2013), and co-editor of Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order (2013).


tracey-etwellTracy Etwell (Director)

Tracey Etwell has been working as a professional ecologist for many years both in Ontario and Alberta. This background has allowed her to develop many skills and learn about the ecology of many habitat types. She has a love of botany, fire, restoration and wildlife.  She completed her Masters on Fire Ecology in Oak savannas, in Ontario.  Tracey is also a registered professional biologist in Alberta.  She has been working for the City of Calgary, Urban Conservation Department helping to manage natural environment parks for the City.


Erin Roberts (New Director)erin-roberts

Erin is a problem-solving ecologist passionate about wetlands, botany, and disturbance histories. Hailing originally from Ontario, Erin’s roots were formed at the University of Waterloo in an interdisciplinary environmental BES program. She has since worked for four years in consulting and local governments Calgary and Vancouver. Her work so far has focused on: biophysical field inventories, impact assessments, compensation programs, erosion/sediment control and invasive species management. She has a soft spot for environmental policy.

In 2015, Erin returned to academia to pursue a MSc. in Ecological Restoration SFU and BCIT. She LOVES this program as it combines the on-the-ground skills with rigorous scientific design and community engagement. For her applied research project, she’s investigating monitoring metrics in intertidal restoration, and is fascinated with the role of resilience and succession in the abiotic/biotic estuary interactions. She’s excited about restoration because she believes it can help people better understand and appreciate the complexities of nature. She’s also a sport climber, skier and reasonably proficient pickler.

Photo credit: Steve Krysak

shane-byrneShane Byrne (New Director)

Shane Byrne is an ecologist focusing on aquatic restoration. Hailing from Maple Ridge BC, he has called the Fraser River valley home for his entire life. Being in such close proximity to a major river system provided the foundation for studying the environment and human impacts on natural systems. Shane received his BSc in applied biology from Simon Fraser University and is now working towards his MSc in Ecological Restoration from BCIT and SFU’s joint program. Ecological restoration provides an interdisciplinary approach to difficult problems and challenges practitioners to tackle projects with a scientific approach. Restoration project management is an area Shane hopes to progress into.

Throughout university Shane worked as a commercial salmon fisherman. This work experience drove his interest in restoring salmonid habitat and contributing back to a key component of BC’s environment, economy, and culture. Currently he is completing his applied research project on the Salmon River diversion dam on Vancouver Island. He will produce a restoration plan for infrastructure removal and to reintroduce salmon migration to the upper watershed.

Upon graduation Shane aims to restore streams, estuaries, and wetlands both at home and abroad. He is excited about the impacts he can have on restoring the environment and combating climate change. Outside of school Shane enjoys being active and exploring the outdoors both on land and by water.

julie-porterJulie Porter (New Director)

Julie has a technical diploma in Fish, Recreation and Wildlife and a B. Sc in Ecological Recreation from BCIT.  She is currently an M.Sc student in Ecological Restoration through BCIT and SFU.   Julie has previous experience working in West Coast Estuarine ecosystems and monitoring commercial fishing vessels dockside, tracking quota allotments.  Julie’s current applied research project is at the Katzie Slough in Pitt Meadows, B.C, where she also lives.   She will be making restoration recommendations on the slough’s water quality and riparian areas to bring back prime rearing habitat for Coho and Cutthroat salmon.

Julie has a passion for urban restoration of the aquatic variety.  She believes restoration is achievable by working with communities, government and First Nations.   In her spare time, she is chasing after her 3 young children, playing field hockey and dreaming of fresh clean water.

eric-balkeEric Balke (New Director)

Eric is an ecologist with a diverse multidisciplinary background. Since completing his BSc in Animal Biology at UBC in 2012 he has lived on multiple continents to conduct research in aquatic ecology, marine biology, primatology, and epidemiology. Whether you need to catch a few Nooksack dace or track down an orangutan, Eric is your guy!

He is presently finishing up his MSc in Ecological Restoration at SFU and BCIT. This graduate program has given Eric a renewed appreciation for looking at ecology from a landscape perspective. For his applied research project he is investigating the receding salt marsh at Sturgeon Bank off the west coast of Lulu Island, Richmond, BC. Eric is passionate about understanding the living world and restoring wetlands, rivers, and estuaries. He is constantly looking for any excuse to put on his cruiser vest and explore the outdoors!

Matthew Tutsch (New Director)

B.Sc., MRM, RPF- Terrestrial Ecologist

Matthew works as a terrestrial ecologist for ENKON Environmental in Vancouver and is looking forward to working with others at SER who love restoration ecology.  Matthew has a Masters degree from the Resource Environmental Management program at SFU specializing in forest disturbance ecology.  He is also certified as a Registered Professional Forester.  Most recently, Matthew has specialized in terrestrial impact assessment as well as planning and undertaking riparian ecosystem restoration projects.

Western Canada Staff

Cassandra Copp (Media Coordinator since November 2015) Edmonton, AB


Cassandra graduated from Brock University in St. Catharines, ON in 2010 with an B.A in Communications, and from Niagara College in 2011 with a Post-Graduate Certificate in Event Management. She moved to Edmonton in 2011 to pursue work in the not-for-profit Sector. Since moving, she has also done independent contract work as a communications professional.

She recently completed her Master’s degree at the University of Alberta, exploring communication flows around natural resource extraction industries, specifically in relation to environmental policy and the public engagement process surrounding mine-site reclamation.

As the part time SER-WC Media Coordinator, she is actively working to make the SER-WC website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts a resource hub for everything restoration-related, and a venue for restorationists across the expansive area of Western Canada to connect, furthering restoration science and practice.

Please contact Cassandra if you have any suggestions or would like to share content for our website, social media, and e-newsletters.