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 to 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, Vaseux Lake Bid Observatory, 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 the Sonoran subspecies of nonvenomous Gophersnake (Pitouphus catenifer), and a close cousin to the smaller Great Basin subspecies of Gophersnake found throughout BC, Nora arrived at the OSS office from the Kamloops Wildlife Park in 2019 after she was 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.
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, 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.
Jill Bisaro, Director
Jill grew up in the West Kootenays and always had an interest in biology and conservation. She pursued a technical diploma in Recreation, Fish and Wildlife at Selkirk College, followed by a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Northern BC. In the summer of 2016, Jill worked as a Stewardship Assistant with OSS betweem semesters at university, and then again after graduating from her degree in 2019. During these summers, she fell in love with the biodiversity of the Okanagan Valley as well as the stewardship efforts that are being undertaken by OSS.
After completing a research position with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Jill has now settled in Vernon and is a Junior Biologist with Western Water Associates, a small aquatic resource-based environmental consulting company.
Melanie Pieorecky, Director
Related to conservation and ecology, Melanie is happy to wear her vegetation ecologist hat, and applying that to restoration planning. She is passionate about working towards shared multiple land uses. Through collaboration she works to understand what those uses are, then figure out out best way to support them. This has been possible through her work as an environmental consultant, which began in 2000. Prior to that she worked for the Ministry of Forests as a rangeland manger in the Bulkley-Cassiar. Through her consulting and volunteer work she has specialized in vegetation ecology, botany for rare plant surveys, soil science, agricultural land use, reclamation and restoration planning, beneficial use of organics and climate change implications to project planning. Her consulting work is driven by regulatory requirements, but Melanie capitalizes on opportunities to collaborate between groups for the benefit of all land users, including wildlife!
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
Jen Miles, Chair