MEET THE STEWARDSHIP TEAM
ALYSON SKINNER, Executive Director
Alyson is one of the founders of Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society (2012), having worked with the SOS Stewardship Program since 2005 prior to incorporating OSSS as a society. She is a Simon Fraser University graduate with a B.Sc. in Biology, concentration in Ecology. She has 20 years of experience ranging from habitat enhancement, nature interpretation, program and grant management, but her real passion is engaging local communities and residents in hands-on-projects. She currently is on the Executive Committee for the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program and the Steering Committee for the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program and Leadership Team for the Okanagan Wetland Strategy. Alyson also helped to establish and lead the Young Naturalists Club of the South Okanagan in the valley.
Email: alyson [at] osstewardship.ca
LIA McKINNON, Stewardship Biologist
Lia joined the Stewardship Team in 2014. She has an eclectic background working with everything from native pollinators, to rattlesnakes, to burrowing owls. This a a background that fits in well with the OSSS since we work with a diverse group of species and habitats throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Lia also works with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society and is a Director on the Board for the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance.
Email: lia [at] osstewardship.ca
VALERIE BLOW, Stewardship Officer
Valerie started working with OSS in 2015. Originally from the Central Kootenay area, she has been in the Okanagan since 2008 when she started at UBC Okanagan tp obtain her degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In addition to working with Stewardship, Valerie also works with the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance doing educational programming. Previously, she worked with the Osoyoos Desert Society and the Love Your Lakes program and has volunteered with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society and the SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre.
Email valerie [at] osstewardship.ca
MICHELLE STANLEY, Stewardship Technician
Michelle has called the Okanagan home for most of her life which has fostered her passion for wildlife and preserving local habitats. In addition to working for Stewardship, Michelle has volunteered with the Burrowing Owl Society, SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre and the Kamloops Wildlife Park and currently also works for the Osoyoos Desert Society doing habitat conservation, restoration and education. Now residing in the Joe Rich area of Kelowna, she is excited to work as the Stewardship Technician for the North Okanagan.
Michelle is currently on maternity leave.
NORA the GOPHERSNAKE, Species Ambassador
Nora is the newest addition to the OSS team. She is a Sonoran subspecies of nonvenomous Gophersnake (Pitouphus catenifer), and a close cousin to the Great Basin subspecies of Gophersnake found throughout BC. Nora arrived at the OSS office in 2019 from the Kamloops Wildlife Park after she had been confiscated from an individual who did not have proper exotic animal permits.
When she is not participating in OSS's SnakeSmart program or attending other OSS presentations to help reduce fear and misunderstandings around snakes, Nora can usually be found basking under her heat lamp, dozing under her favourite piece of bark or eating a freshly thawed rat.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Eva Durance, Chair
2020-present (Director 2018-present)
Eva grew up in Southwestern Ontario in a family involved in farming and with a strong interest in the natural world. She studied English Language and Literature at University of Toronto, Western University), University of Virginia and Dalhousie, including advanced graduate studies. She taught at Carleton University and University of Ottawa before becoming for ten years the Editor for an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture research publication.
Since relocating to the Penticton area in 1990, Eva has been involved as a contractor and a volunteer in a wide variety of environmental, naturalist, agricultural, and community and projects.. Now retired, she volunteers as Caretaker for the Vaseux Lake Important Bird & Biodiversity Area, as a member of the TAC for the Okanagan Conservation Fund, on the BC Nature’s Conservation Committee and for the Burrowing Owl Society of BC and the South Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society since the last was formed.
Jennifer Miles, Past-Chair
2020-present (Chair 2016-2020)
Jennifer Miles is the Water Sustainability Coordinator for the Regional District of North Okanagan. She works with the public to help find ways to improve their water use efficiency and protect the watersheds that provide our drinking water. In particular, Jennifer encourages residents and businesses to create landscapes adapted to the Okanagan climate, requiring little to no supplemental irrigation, which also support ecosystem functions and wildlife habitat. While originally from Summerland, Jennifer has lived in Vernon for eight years, moving to the area following completion of her Master’s degree in Environmental Design from the University of Calgary. She also holds a Bachelor of Science from Simon Fraser University.
Susan Latimer, Secretary, RPBio
Susan has had extensive experience in habitat issues and species at risk through her 34 years with the Ministry of Environment as a habitat biologist, independent environmental consultant, and helped to form and became the project manager for Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP). Through these roles, she has been involved in the areas of mapping and inventory projects, environmental impact assessments, best management practices, trans-boundary workshops on connectivity and climate change and the BX Wetland Enhancement project. She has also been involved in the region’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy as well as several outreach initiatives with Allan Brooks Nature Centre as well as the “How do we get from here to there” exhibit which is currently touring nature centres in the Okanagan.
Natasha Lukey, Treasurer
2020-present (Director 2018-2020)
Natasha moved to the Syilx/Okanagan Territory in 2006 to pursue a Bachelor of Science, Major in Ecology and Evolution from the University of British Columbia. Afterwards, she graduated in 2016 with a Master of Environmental Studies at University of Waterloo. She worked as a Stewardship Technician for OSS from 2012 – 2014, and then joined the Okanagan Nation Alliance as a Fisheries Habitat Restoration Biologist.
Although she has worked with a variety of Okanagan habitats and species, her focus and love is with wetlands and amphibians. She’s specifically dedicated to restoring the Okanagan River/floodplain system, restoring this amazing river ecosystem’s capacity for providing food, shelter, and high quality of life for people and wildlife alike.
Dianne Bersea, Director
Dianne is defined by her deep affinity for nature and the creative process. Simply put, she’s a nature nut and a full time observer of her world. Everything interests her… unusual light, dark clouds, strong colours, odd juxtapositions, bird behaviour. Dianne mines artistic knowledge from careers in graphic design, fine art, natural history illustration, and exhibit design. She is also an accomplished arts instructor and public speaker. A recent addition - she writes a monthly Nature Wise column in Penticton Western News.
Following eighteen years on Cortes Island in BC’s Northern Gulf Islands, Dianne has logged eight years (seven on a 1500-acre ranch) in the South Okanagan. Known for her painterly interpretations of the Canadian west coast and Interior landscapes, Dianne is now making an almost daily practice of nature photography. She has done freelance self-employment as an illustrator / fine artist her whole life.
Amanda J Miller, Director, P.Ag.
Amanda is passionate about stewardship and conservation, with a keen interest in providing ecological tools and strategies for long term sustainable land management. Applied science, extension, and effective communication with stakeholders and land managers are key areas of interest. Amanda has a master’s degree in Rangeland and Wildlife Resources from the University of Alberta and has been a professional agrologist since 2016. As a rangeland specialist for the Government of Alberta from 2013-2019 she worked to develop ecological tools, applied research, and policy to address emerging rangeland issues, and was a rangeland representative on the MULTISAR Steering Committee.
The owner and founder of Palouse Rangeland Consulting, Amanda works largely with the BC Cattlemen’s Association, and is a supporter of sustainable beef and cattle as a conservation tool. In her free time, you can find her exploring the mountains by foot, on skis, or horseback.
Patrick Ling-Allen, Treasurer
Sara Ashpole, Chair, Co-Founder
Anthea Bryan, Vice-Chair, Co-Founder
Carolina Restrepo-Tamayo, Treasurer, Co-Founder
Mellhina Thibault, Secretary, Co-Founder
Hilary Sampson, Director, Co-Founder