Plenary Speakers:

Bev Yee |   Deputy Minister Alberta Environment and Parks 

Bev Yee was appointed Deputy Minister of Alberta Environment and Parks on September 18, 2018. She has spent more than 25 years with the Government of Alberta, most recently as Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Relations. Prior to that, she served as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Much of Bev’s time with government has been dedicated to the Environment portfolio, where she was previously Assistant Deputy Minister of Integrated Resource Management Planning, as well as Alberta’s Stewardship Commissioner. Before joining the Government of Alberta, Bev was a high school physics and biology teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Science.

Dr. Nadir Erbilgin | University of Alberta

Nadir Erbilgin is a Professor & Chair of the Department of Renewable Resources. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-Berkeley, and joined the University of Alberta as a Canada Research Chair in 2007. He has developed broad expertise in forest health indicated by high-quality publications, invitations to national and international meetings, invitation to testify before a foreign Senate, funding from national and international agencies, and many mainstream media interviews. He has trained over 60 students and postdoctoral fellows. He has been recognized by the Faculty of ALES Teaching Wall of Fame Award numerous times and was the recipient of the 2020-2021 Killam Annual Professorship. He took several leadership training courses, including the Gold College. He has served the University by sitting in over 20 committees including the Director of Field Research Office, Academic Restructuring Working Group, Research Impact Team, Indigenous Engaged Research Strategy Task Force, Public Health Response Team, Elected Member of Selection Comm. for the Dean of FGSR, and Academic Planning Comm. for the last 15 years.

Jessica Kaknevicius | Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Project Learning Tree Canada

Opening Plenary: Working Together to Grow Forest Literacy

Jess leads the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s work in education to advance environmental literacy, stewardship, and pathways to green careers. She is responsible for growing SFI’s award-winning environmental education program, Project Learning Tree® (PLT), and the expansion of programming through Project Learning Tree Canada. Prior to joining SFI, Jess was with Forests Ontario, where she developed and expanded their education and awareness programs. She has won several awards including the Canadian Forest Industries’ Top 10 under 40 award and the Canadian Institute of Forestry’s James M. Kitz Award. She is also the proud co-founder of Women in Wood, a networking group aimed at bringing together women who work in, with and for the woods. Jess holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Forest Conservation from the University of Toronto.

Mark Pearson |  Canadian Institute of Forestry

Mark Pearson is the Executive Director of the Canadian Institute of Forestry. Founded in 1908, the Institute is the national voice of forest practitioners and represents foresters, forest technologists and technicians, ecologists, biologists, educators and many others with a professional interest in forestry through its 18 regional Sections and one International Section.

The CIF-IFC is dedicated to providing national leadership in forestry and forest stewardship, promoting competency amongst forest practitioners and fostering public awareness and education of forest and forestry issues through its capacity building & knowledge exchange programs. Prior to joining the Institute in 2020, Mark served as Director General in the Strategic Policy Sector at Natural Resources Canada. Mark built consensus with stakeholders on sustainable development, international strategies and agreements, intergovernmental affairs, regulatory governance and the development of Canada’s Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act.  Mark also represented Canada on the International Board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Dr. Brett Purdy |  Alberta Innovates

Brett is the Executive Director (Environmental Innovation) in the Clean Resources Division of Alberta Innovates (AI). In this position, Brett works with a talented team responsible for supporting research and innovation in the areas of integrated land management, restoration and reclamation including oil sands tailings, climate adaptation and sustainable water resource management. Before his positions within AI, Brett worked in government and academic institutions as a reclamation research scientist, collaborating with others in academia, government and industry to facilitate implementation of applied reclamation research programs and policy development. Brett has conducted research in reclamation, forest ecology, conservation biology, and population genetics and taught university courses in forestry and conservation. Brett has a Ph.D. in Botany (U Alberta) and a B.Sc. in Biology (U Calgary). He is married with two young adults and enjoys an active lifestyle and outdoor pursuits.

Maya Carr | Canadian Rockies Youth Network

Youth Panel Discussion

Born and raised in Calgary, 16-year-old Maya Carr is the Outreach Coordinator for the Canadian Rockies Youth Network with ambitions to take on the director role next year! Maya works to present and create opporBorn and raised in Calgary, 16-year-old Maya Carr is the Outreach Coordinator for the Canadian Rockies Youth Network with ambitions to take on the director role next year! Maya works to present and create opportunities for youth to take climate action. Maya also founded the Environmental Club at her high school and is working alongside youth to build awareness and take action on environmental issues. Outside of her work and school, Maya is hiking and skiing in the Rockies or kayaking at her cabin in B.C.

Ava Vanderbeek | Canadian Rockies Youth Network

Youth Panel Discussion

Ava Vanderbeek is the first female and Indigenous director for the Canadian Rockies Youth Network. As part of her role, she works to get more youth involved in decision-making practices and working on the landscape to better the environment. One of her proudest achievements is winning the Mountain Spirit Award by the Banff Centre of Arts and Creativity. With the Network she connects youth with mentors and experts in the field of conservation to unite the future generation and the knowledgeable. If she is not working with her Network you can often find her hiking in the woods with her three dogs or riding her huge horse in the Rockies! Ava plays a big role in her community and tries every day to improve the landscapes and the lives around her. 

Sandeep Singh

Youth Panel Discussion

Immigrated from Punjab (India) as a student – completed my B.Sc. in Agriculture in India. Graduated from Norquest in Environment Protection Technology last year. A passionate environmentalist. Want to explore indigenous ways of living and respecting nature!

Breakout & Workshop Speakers:

Sithara Fernando | Norquest College

Session Title: Environmental Education for New Canadians

Sithara Fernando has a BSc in Forestry from the University of Alberta, after graduating she worked for Parks Canada and settled in Fort McMurray working for Suncor. After the 2016 Wildfire, Sithara was looking for a change and took a job in Fort Chipewyan teaching Community Based Environmental Monitoring to Indigenous Communities. Shortly after, NorQuest was starting its Environmental Protection Technology Program in Edmonton and Sithara moved back to her hometown. Sithara is now the Program Chair and is looking forward to a post – pandemic world.

Jennifer Janzen |  Alberta Tomorrow

Session Title: Using Simulation Technology to See and Make Changes on the Land with Alberta Tomorrow and BC Tomorrow

With over 30 years of experience in various roles including a high school science teacher, plant ecologist, and environmental educator, Jennifer is now Executive Director of Alberta Tomorrow, an Alberta non-profit dedicated to providing a platform that empowers youth to design and live sustainable futures for our shared ecosystems.  When she’s not working, she can usually be found somewhere on the landscape with her husband and two daughters, exploring the amazing landscapes Alberta offers.

Rob Buchanan |  Academy of Inquiry and Adventure – Okanagan

Session Title: BC Outdoor Experts – An Online Mapping Platform for Science Based Outdoor Learning

As an educator at Academy of Inquiry and Adventure – Okanagan (AIAO), Rob facilitates numerous environmental outdoor education courses and has built meaningful relationships within his community. He has witnessed the curiosity and depth of learning generated from local outreach and understands the long-term benefits of making environmental outdoor educational opportunities more accessible. Rob is also a dad, husband, friend, Kootenay kid (New Denver), nature wanderer, former forester, aspiring naturalist  and a science enthusiast.

Dan Pigat |  Fluid Planet

Session Title: Join us on a virtual field trip!

Dan has worked in the technology industry for a few decades, with a few of those years focused on education during his time at SMART Technologies. He currently works with industry, schools and other non profits to bring digital twin capabilities to all communities. is currently working with Inside Education and the Universities of Lethbridge and Calgary to bring the Castle Mountain region to life in a “video game” of the real world featuring the flora and fauna of the area in their natural environment.

Gary Redmond |  West Central Airshed

Session Title: Increasing Community Resilience to Wildfire Smoke

Gary Redmond is the Executive Director of West Central Airshed, one of 10 not-for-profit Airshed organizations responsible for monitoring outdoor air quality in Alberta. For more than 25 years Gary has worked with all orders of government, industry, and not-profit organizations in emergency and environmental management. A former delegate with the International Red Cross, Gary has worked in several countries as well as communities across Canada.

Michael Wagner |  Government of Alberta – Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development 

Session Title: Forest and Water Connections

Michael Wagner is a Forest Hydrologist with Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. He works in the Forestry Division out of the Calgary Forest Area and has over 18 years of experience in forest management, forest hydrology and watershed science. His position in the Alberta Government is focused on forest management and watershed planning, policy development and analytical and field based support to help address water and watershed management issues in forested landscapes across the province of Alberta. He is a Registered Professional Forester, with a B.Sc. in Forest Management and a graduate degree specializing in Forest Hydrology from the University of Alberta. Michael is involved with research institutions, collaborative watershed monitoring programs, Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils and various watershed stewardship organizations across the Province in helping to understand watersheds and address local watershed management issues.

Jim Costley | BC Council of Forest Industries

Session Title: “Find Your Passion” a snapshot of COFI’s Forest Education Program

Jim Costley is the passionate teacher behind COFI’s Forest Education Program — presenting to classes and hosting events & workshops in-person and online. Jim previously spent 18 years as a secondary school teacher and athletic director, where, in the summer, he also worked as a logger, road building supervisor, and sawmill cleanup supervisor. Now, Jim gets to combine his love for both teaching and forestry!  As manager, Forest Education, Jim is responsible for the overall coordination of COFI’s forest education program.

Brock Mulligan | Alberta Forest Products Association

Session Title: Love Alberta Forests

Brock Mulligan has been with the Alberta Forest Products Association for 12 years, working in government relations and communications roles. He is especially proud of the Association’s Work Wild program and Love AB Forests campaign. He lives in Edmonton with his wife and two young children.

Catherine Brown | Ducks Unlimited Canada

Session Title: Wetland Information Packages

Catherine Brown (she/they) works for Ducks Unlimited Canada’s National Boreal Program. As part of this team, she spends a lot of time thinking, listing and talking about the importance of boreal wetlands. Sometimes this happens in the form of writing field guides and the continued conversations/training/webinars/etc. following the publication of the guides. Thanks to our partners, today Catherine is able to offer guides/training at no cost. She looks forward to participating in conversations on the resources with ForestEDWest attendees.

Warren Lake | Robert Thirsk High School

Session Title:  Forestry Through a Natural Science Lens

Warren Lake has lived his entire life in Calgary on Treaty 7 land and considers himself to be a Biology teacher always in transition: he is searching for ways to reconnect high school teenagers to the natural world. He started his career in 1995 with the Canadian Rockies School Division teaching at Canmore Collegiate High School for 18 years. Warren pursued an opportunity to move back into Calgary and helped open a new high school in Calgary, Robert Thirsk High School, and continues to teach here to the present day. The enticement back to the city was to envision and create a Natural Science program that would reignite the awe, wonder and excitement of nature in high school students and show them the future these reconnections can create. The program has grown to encompass opportunities for Grades 10-12 and continues to evolve as students participate in the experiences offered.

Danika Strecko | Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Session Title:  Forest Smart: Exploring the Forest Literacy Framework

Danika plays a central role in SFI’s education and career pathways work, leading the development of cross-border educational materials and programs and expanding SFI’s education work in Canada. Danika leads the implementation of the Forest Literacy Framework, and expands the reach and engagement of youth in environmental literacy, stewardship, and career pathways Prior to joining SFI, she was the manager of online learning and ocean literacy at the not-for-profit Ocean Wise and a board member of the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society. Danika is a B.C. Ministry of Education Certified Teacher and holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia. She is working towards a Master of Educational Technology from UBC.

Cori Klassen | Lesser Slave Forest Education Society

Session Title:  Including Indigenous Perspectives in Forest Education

I’ve been working in forest education since 2006 and started my career with the Lesser Slave Forest Education Society and the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory as their Boreal Educator. In 2019 I took over as Executive Director for the LSFES when my mentor and long-time ED, MJ Munn-Kristoff, retired. As the only full-time employee of a small non-profit society, I get to do it all administration, finances, marketing, bookings, program development, and program delivery! I am also a student. I began a Master of Education through the UofC last summer. The first year of my program is studying critical environmental education and it has been a great learning experience! When I’m not working or hitting the books I enjoy spending time with my family. We love camping and I’m trying to train my kids to enjoy hiking. No luck yet but I’ll keep trying! 

Emma Kniel | Work Wild

Session Title: Forestry is a Career With Many Branches

Growing up, Emma did not know much about the forest industry. While she loved the outdoors and wanted a job in the environmental sector, her high school never exposed her to forestry opportunities. It wasn’t until she spoke with a Work Wild representative at a networking event that forestry became a clear choice for her career. While studying at the University of Alberta’s forestry program, her passion for the industry was solidified. She took every opportunity to teach and expose fellow students and the public to the industry and the vast career opportunities available. It was the perfect match when her career led her to work for the Work Wild program, which had helped guide her career path when she was a student herself!

Bernadette Slager | The Saskatchewan Forestry Association

Session Title: Student Classroom Activities in Forestry Learning

Living at the edge of the Boreal Forest Bernadette Slager has worked with the Saskatchewan Forestry Association since 2004.  She spends her spring and fall time taking students out into the forest.  During winter she presents the lessons in classrooms and at teacher workshops where she introduces the teachers to our online resources.  Each of the lessons has fun short activities to get the students interested in the area of the forest or environment they are learning about.  Bernadette is a qualified teacher who once taught in Fort McMurray and Lloydminster.  Our contribution to education is to do all the research and planning so teachers can take the lesson material and make it their own.

Bill Belsey | RancheView School

Session Title: We Speak for the Trees

Bill Belsey’s teaching career has included living and working with the Inuit of Canada’s Arctic for nearly twenty years, where he introduced the very first computer in the Canadian Arctic at Kreterklerk School (sic) in (then) Eskimo Point, NWT. Mr. Belsey lives in Cochrane, Alberta, with his wife, Helene (also a teacher), and two teenage children. He currently teaches at Springbank Middle School for the Rockyview School Division.

Michelle Holland | Canadian Wildlife Federation- WILD Outside Program

Session Title:  Engaging Diverse High School Age Youth

Michelle Holland is an environmental educator with a Biological Sciences diploma from NAIT as well as a Bachelor of Science degree from MacEwan University. She has worked extensively in the public sector, including as a natural history interpreter for both the City of Edmonton and Alberta Parks. She loves any chance to get her hands dirty in the outdoors, especially when she worked as a conservation coordinator with the Edmonton and Area Land Trust. She now works with the Canadian Wildlife Federation helping to run Edmonton’s WILD Outside Youth Leadership Program; balancing interpretation, outdoor recreation, service/fieldwork, and leadership with diverse high school-aged youth.  In this role, she gets to share her passions for the outdoors and enjoys the constant thrill of finding new places to explore and resources to share.

Chelsea Martin | Ducks Unlimited

Session Title:  Boreal Wetlands

A member of Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, Chelsea is a social scientist that is passionate about braiding both TEK and western science together to move forward in the name of conservation. 

Colin King | Inside Education

Colin comes to Inside Education with a background in outdoor leadership and education. At Inside Education he combines his love of the outdoors, teaching, and science to bring fun and engaging programs to teachers and students across Alberta. He is primarily responsible for coordinating and delivering field programs at Jumpingpound and Des Crossley Demonstration forests.

Briana Van Den Bussche | Biogeoscience Institute at the University of Calgary

Tour:  Forest Inquiry

Briana has an education background in Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership. A lifelong passion for nature also lead her to pursue a minor in biology which she has used to follow a career in Environmental Education. Her passion for teaching and learning about the natural world has provided some amazing opportunities from working with beautiful bugs in Costa Rica, to massive Musk oxen in Yukon territory and, of course, exploring the unique and varied  natural areas around Alberta. She has been with the Biogeoscience Institute for almost 3 years, leading school programs and providing additional educational outreach through social media, science writing and more

Sue Arlidge | University of Calgary – Biogeoscience Institute

Tour:  Forest Inquiry

Sue Arlidge has been an environmental educator for over 30 years. Trained as a high school science teacher and a hiking/snowshoe guide with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, Sue has held a number of positions in the non-formal education sector from being an interpreter in Kananaskis, to family hiking guide and horticultural education coordinator at the Calgary Zoo. Sue’s passion for engaging students in meaningful learning experiences has grown since coming to work with the University of Calgary’s Biogeoscience Institute over twenty years ago. Sue is the School Consultant at the Field Station, which means she helps high school students and teachers ask and then design studies to answer ecology research questions. Often described as a squirrel on caffeine, Sue follows this advice from her rodent mentors – ‘spend lots of time in the woods, eat plenty of fiber, and it’s okay to be a little nuts’.

Garry Merkel | Tahltan Nation, RPF and UBC Faculty of Forestry First Nations Council of Advisors

Garry Merkel has been involved in education for many decades at a variety of levels from sessional lectures to national policy initiatives. Garry views education as understanding our circumstances in broader human terms, and more importantly how to implement solutions that change those circumstances in a way that is grounded in our evolving cultures while still remaining an interdependent part of the planet and mankind. Garry chaired several key education initiatives including the Aboriginal Forestry Education & Training Review, First Nations Council of Advisors for the UBC Faculty of Forestry and numerous multi-stakeholder planning sessions in the drafting of British Columbia’s first comprehensive aboriginal post-secondary education strategy. He has developed a curriculum for and taught various courses in topics ranging from business development, reconciliation, governance, natural resource management, computer applications to applied field training in natural resources. Garry has been recognized with a Honorary Associate of Arts Degree – Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; Distinguished Alumnus – Selkirk College; Honorary Alumni – University of British Columbia and and a Honorary Doctor of Science – University of British Columbia.

Jordan Ede | Mahikan Trails

Jordan Ede is an Indigenous Guide who has learned about the plants and medicines in the forest from his Mom who is a Traditional Knowledge Keeper of Plant Medicine, as well as his grandmother and great grandmother who was a medicine woman from the Kwarakwante and Cree from the Jasper Alberta area.

Janis Lawrence-Harper | CAREERS: The Next Generation

Janis Lawrence-Harper has worked with CAREERS: The Next Generation for ten years to expand career awareness and experiences for high school youth. Initially facilitating internships in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and three years later across the province, the opportunity has been to connect youth, teachers, parents, and employers to create career learning possibilities. Today she continues to work with companies, not for profits, secondary, and post-secondary institutions to build internships and career exploration activities for youth interested in exploring trades, information and communication technologies, health, and other in-demand occupations. The foundation for creating learning sessions stems from ten years growing and managing continuing education and workforce development programs at Keyano College.

Stefan Rutkowski | CAREERS: The Next Generation

Growing up in Germany, Stefan always wanted to do two things: spend as much time as possible in the outdoors and travel. This led him to a degree in environmental geography and a 22-year career in environmental and management consulting with a large, multi-national engineering firm that allowed him to work and live in several countries. In 2020 he decided to make a career change by joining CAREERS and never looked back. In his current role, he is tremendously enjoying the experience of working with a highly dedicated team to provide paid internship positions to high school students and youth in a wide range of industries, including forestry, to put them on a path for a successful career. Stefan lives in Edmonton with his wife Lydia, their two sons Etienne and Zayd, and their two dogs Frasier and Picard.

Adam Robb | The Howl Experience

For the past 15 years as a high school teacher, Adam has helped to create unique experiential education programs allowing for self-discovery for youth on Treaty 6, 7, 8 territories as well as the traditional lands of the Beaver, Cree, Ojibway, Secwépemc, Stoney, and Métis. The focus of these programs has always been about connecting youth to the land as a way of learning self-resiliency, problem-solving, risk-taking, relationship-building, history, technology, politics, science, economics and protocols from Traditional Keepers of knowledge. “Howl”, a new non-profit structured gap year education option for youth, is the manifestation of all Adam’s beliefs about learning; it has to be experiential, community-based and focused on solving real problems and achieving real results. He is proud to be working alongside several past students on this project and a number of valued colleagues across various realms of learning realms.

Michael Flynn | FireSmart Alberta

Michael Flynn is the first Executive Director for the recently incorporated FireSmart Alberta. Prior to joining FireSmart, Mike served as the executive director for the Calgary Police Commission, the Urban Development Institute and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administration. Mike is a born and raised Calgarian and spends his free time trying to catch his five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

Caroline Whitehouse | Government of Alberta – Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development

Caroline is a forest entomologist with Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic development. Prior to joining the government, she worked at the University of Alberta in a lab focused on the ecology of insects such as mountain pine beetle, forest tent caterpillar, and numerous agricultural pests. Her M.Sc. was focused on the reproductive biology of a cone-feeding insect pest in conifer seed orchards. Her forest entomology background provided the knowledge needed for her first role with the Government of Alberta as a Forest Health Officer in northwest Alberta. Her current role is provincial in scope and uses her operational experience to complement her academic background. She helps to deliver comprehensive forest health programs focused on forest insects, diseases, and climate change.

Lee Woodham | Government of Alberta

Lee Woodham is part of the Forest Stewardship and Trade Branch with Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development.  She is currently the Director of Forest Health and Adaptation and leads a diverse team of experts in the management of forest health related issues as well as forest genetics and tree improvement.  Prior to this role, Lee was the Director of Economics and Trade involved in the preparation of the legal defenses for international and domestic trade restrictions on Alberta forest products.  Lee holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of Alberta and has worked in both Alberta and BC’s forests, primarily within government, but also consulting privately for oil and gas while raising a young family.  She is passionate about keeping our forests thriving in the future and her team is focusing on the challenges that climate change imposes on the sector and land management.