Meet our Staff

Patricia Thomson

Executive Director

With a BSc in Biology and a broad career in national and provincial Parks, conservation, and nonprofits including the Vancouver Aquarium, Patricia has been at the helm of SPES since 2004. A long term resident of the West End, she believes that inspiring local urban dwellers to reconnect with nature is fundamental to building constituencies for global ecological conservation. During vacations from SPES, Patricia is a river rafting guide in northern BC, Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest  Territories. She has organized expeditions for National Geographic Society, Wildlife Conservation Society, and UNESCO World Heritage. She is a member of the Explorers Club, and sits on the transboundary Steering Committee of Rivers Without Borders.

Vanessa Sadler

Conservation Projects Manager

Vanessa comes to Stanley Park Ecology Society with a background in environmental consulting, where she gained experience conducting a variety of wildlife surveys as well as habitat restoration and enhancement. She studied ecology at Simon Fraser University and is a Registered Professional Biologist with the College of Applied Biology. Vanessa grew up playing in the forests of the North Shore and developed an appreciation for our local flora and fauna at a young age. She is grateful for the opportunity to facilitate conservation efforts and is looking forward to ensuring the ecological integrity of Stanley Park.

Celina Starnes

Public Education and Outreach Manager

Celina joined SPES in the winter of 2013.  With infectious enthusiasm, she inspires people around her to connect to the natural world.  She attended the McGill School of Environment where she learned about our amazing and vital interconnections we have with the natural world.  Celina has worked as an environmental educator in numerous settings – from Ducks Unlimited’s flat, waterlogged reserves outside of Winnipeg to the mountainous Regional Parks of Metro Vancouver. But, she gets the most excited about creatively connecting people with the ecology of the west coast.

Dylan Rawlyk

School Programs Manager

Dylan joined the SPES team in the late spring of 2015. He has a BSc from UBC and a BEd from SFU and has worked as an environmental educator with many non-profits in Metro Vancouver and elsewhere, including Evergreen, Science World, Catching the Spirit, Gently Down the Seymour, and RiverWatch. Dylan is passionate about the benefits of being immersed in nature and seeks to give students around Metro Vancouver memorable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in Stanley Park. When he’s not at work, you might see Dylan biking around the city and beyond, camping in our beautiful forests, or gardening and talking about compost.

Kathleen Stormont

Fundraising & Communications Specialist

Kathleen joined SPES in early 2014 following a 25 year career in natural history interpretation, radio and television production, and, most recently, exhibit development for science centres and museums in the Middle East and United States. In her role as Fundraising and Communications Specialist, Kathleen combines her scientific curiosity with her innate ability to translate complex topics into engaging stories and experiences – ones that she hope will encourage support for SPES’ important work. Having traveled the world for work and pleasure, this native Vancouverite is thrilled to be based in one of the world’s most beautiful and natural urban parks.

Greg Hart

Urban Wildlife Programs Coordinator

Greg comes to SPES with a diverse background in education, biology and ecology. With a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and English as well as a Master’s in Education, Greg has worked as a biology teacher for a number of years in both conventional settings as well as in outdoor programs.  He has experience with a variety of ecological field work including: bird monitoring, sea turtle conservation, and most recently, as a grizzly bear guide/naturalist.  A passionate naturalist and teacher, Greg is excited to be a member of the SPES team and help Vancouverites live harmoniously with urban wildlife. Outside the office, you might find him hiking with his wife and two dogs, bird watching, or photographing nature.

Kari Pocock

Stewardship Coordinator

Kari joined SPES’s Conservation team in spring 2016, a natural fit following her time as a dedicated volunteer with SPES’s Communications department and Special Invasive Removal Team. Kari’s passion for environmental sustainability and collaborative problem-solving lead her to receive her B.A. in Environmental Geography in 2015, and now drives her to connect people with nature through mindful stewardship and creative engagement. She has diverse experience in childhood recreation, environmental non-profit research, and customer service, and is currently a member of her local municipality’s Environment and Sustainability Advisory Committee. Originally from Calgary, Kari has spent most of her life living in and exploring BC’s coastal ecosystems, and can regularly be found on local hiking trails, at her community garden, or snapping photos of everything the province has to offer.

Tobias Jones

Volunteer Coordinator

Tobias joined SPES in July 2017 following a move from the UK. He graduated from the University of Manchester with BA in Geography and an MA in Political Economy in 2010 and since then has been heavily involved in the non-profit sector. Tobias has a background in volunteer management and organizational development, having worked for the environmental and community development charity Groundwork, as well as the mental health care provider Creative Support. He has several years’ experience of designing, recruiting and delivering volunteer projects and he is passionate about community empowerment and environmental sustainability. Away from the office Tobias can be found riding mountain bikes, hiking or climbing mountains and he is very excited to be in Vancouver with so much incredible wilderness to explore.

Ariane Comeau

Conservation Technician/Environmental Educator

Ariane joined the SPES team in April 2015 following the completion of her Master’s degree at the Université de Montréal. During her studies in Biology, she took as many opportunities as possible to immerse herself in exciting projects. This included a student exchange in Reunion Island, participating in conferences, and scientific scuba diving. For her Master’s degree, she investigated the skeletal development of feather stars with her field work taking place at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island. Soon after graduating, Ariane left her hometown of Laval and her mother language of French to come to Vancouver. She loves skiing, mountain biking and playing drums. Ariane is convinced that nature can inspire anyone who gives it a chance.

Yeelen Merhi

Environmental Educator

Yeelen joined the SPES team in the early spring of 2017. He has a BEd and a BGS from SFU and has worked with children for most of his life. Yeelen returned to Vancouver in the early spring of 2017 in order to move into practicing outdoors after working in inner city schools in east London, UK. His experience with students in a concrete jungle solidified his belief that many young students are experiencing a disconnect between their education and the environment. He believes that providing students with a positive experience in nature will help to shape environmentally conscious individuals. When he’s not at work, you might find Yeelen cycling, hiking, canoeing and camping around our beautiful province.

Jeannine Johnstone

Environmental Educator

Jeannine joined the SPES team in the fall of 2017. She has a B.Env. from SFU in Global Environmental Systems, and has worked in environmental education for a number of years in North Vancouver. Jeannine grew up playing in the forest and along the coastlines of Vancouver and is passionate about adventuring in the outdoors. She loves that this job allows her to share her passions with students from all over the Lower Mainland.

In her spare time, Jeannine enjoys making paper mache masks and sculptures, photography and exploring new places with her family.

Dannie Piezas

Environmental Educator

Hailing from the Philippine tropics, Dannie brings the experience of birds and geckos in the house and camping in the rainforest. Her love for living things flourished in the move to Canada through UBC’s Natural Resource Conservation B.Sc. program, bird surveys in Ladner, fending off polar bears in the high Arctic, and all manner of invasive species wrangling in between. She found a calling to nature interpretation through summer work with A Rocha Canada, and the tireless work of connecting people with nature stuck with her since.

Dannie joined SPES mid-2016 and is thankful for the grandest workplace in the world. In her spare time, she devours books, tackles the yarn arts, studies creation care theology, and learns obscure martial arts.

Alyx Coulter

Outreach Coordinator

Alyx joined the SPES team in April 2017. While completing a Bachelor of Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, she developed an interest in the way cities and natural areas interact. She took on a variety of co-op and volunteer positions that taught her about environmental education, GIS mapping for international development, and event planning for the university. After graduating and yearning to explore, she moved to Asia which introduced her to the ocean and fresh mountain air. She’s excited to be back on home turf with a greater appreciation of Canada’s natural diversity and the opportunity to explore the west coast. In her spare time, she likes cooking elaborate dishes, enjoying some fresh air, and getting lost in new places.

Michael Murray

Development Assistant

Michael joined SPES in August 2017 after serving as communications volunteer for the past year and a half. With a B.A in Geography from UBC and a certificate in Fundraising and Non-Profit Management from BCIT Michael has enjoyed a varied career in the non-profit sector working as a fundraiser and program coordinator for The Land Conservancy of BC, and The Heart and Stroke Foundation among others.  When not at work, this Vancouver native can be spotted hanging out at English Bay, spending time with his dog Rhylee (the world’s cutest westie) and exploring all that Stanley Park has to offer. He is excited to join SPES and help people further connect with nature.

Starla Bob

Eco Monitor

Kushi opi mani wi, or Starla Bob, is a West Coast Salish woman of the Cowichan Tribes, Snuneymuxw First Nation peoples. She was born, raised, and grown in Vancouver in Squamish Nation territories. Besides working as an environmental monitor for SPES, Starla is a wellness consultant and yoga instructor specializing in weight loss, nutrition, and core conditioning. She studied Environmental Monitoring and Assessment at Kwantlen Polytechnic University as well as Yoga Teacher’s Training at Semperviva Yoga College and Administration at Academy of Learning Career College. 

Kushi  Opi Mani Wi fell in love with the wildlife and environment in Stanley Park as well as the staff at the Ecology Society. She works across all its departments—in Conservation, Public Education and Outreach, and School Programs. Starla began her professional relationship with SPES in the spring of 2016 and is eager to share her wealth of traditional, medicinal, and spiritual plant use knowledge with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Katherine Cheng

Office Coordinator

Katherine joined SPES in March 2017 with a BBA in Accounting from Laurentian University, and six years of experience in accounting and financial analysis and general office administration.  She is excited to bring her professional financial skills to the full-cycle accounting and office management roles at SPES.  Katherine is passionate about pursuing a healthy lifestyle with daily physical exercise and is fond of enjoying the natural beauty of Stanley Park and other Lower Mainland hiking sites with her husband and two dogs.