John Urquhart, President & Treasurer
John Urquhart found his love for nature as a child, mucking about in the wetlands and forests of Northumberland County. He is the owner and Principal Ecologist at Blazing Star Environmental. He founded the company in 2015 to support all individuals, organizations and governments that are trying to ensure that sustaining a healthy environment is part of all aspects of growth in Ontario. Before Blazing Star Environmental, John worked for nearly 6 years as an ecologist and land manager at Ontario Nature where he managed their nature reserve system and their Citizen Science program. John completed two degrees at the University of Guelph: an Honours B.Env.Sc. in Ecology and a M.Sc. degree in Zoology.
Michael Farrell, Vice-President
Michael graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science and from Concordia University with a Masters of Environment in Environmental Assessment. Michael has represented Hydro One on the OIPC board since August 2015. He works in the Environmental Services group at Hydro One dealing with environmental regulations, including species at risk & invasive species.
Diana Shermet, Conservation Ontario
Diana Shermet is the Conservation Ontario representative. She currently holds the position of Terrestrial Ecologist at Central Lake Ontario Conservation (CLOCA). Her focus is in natural areas inventories, invasive species management, ecological monitoring and restoration. At CLOCA she leads the internal invasive species working group, and implements their Invasive Species Management Strategy, as well as the terrestrial component of CLOCA’s Integrated Watershed Monitoring program. Diana is also actively involved in the review and commenting process of development applications, private land and Conservation Area stewardship and restoration. She is a member of the Durham Region Field Naturalists club, Field Botanists of Ontario, North American Native Plant Society, and past Chair of the OIPC’s Horticultural Outreach Collaborative (2012-2019). Diana is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University (Geography) and Niagara College Ecosystem Restoration Post-Graduate Diploma.
Mhairi McFarlane, Nature Conservancy of Canada
Mhairi McFarlane grew up in Scotland, where she completed an Honours Ecology degree from the University of Stirling. She then completed her PhD in Ecology from the University of Exeter in Cornwall. Her thesis was on the behavioural ecology of Cape Sugarbirds in South Africa. She moved to Ontario in 2006, and had short contracts with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada before joining the Nature Conservancy of Canada in March 2008. She worked as the Conservation Biologist for southwestern Ontario before becoming the Conservation Science Manager for Ontario in September 2014.
Dr. Sandy Smith, University of Toronto
Dr. Sandy Smith is a Professor in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto, serving as Interim Dean (2010-2012). She specializes in forest health and is a leading expert in the ecology and biological management of invasive forest species, with recent focus on the urban environment.
Tanya Pulfer, Ontario Nature
Tanya is the Conservation Science Manager at Ontario Nature. She oversees Ontario Nature nature reserves with a focus on the strategic management of species & ecosystems on the nature reserves, including inventories, stewardship and restoration.
Diana Corona Castro, Forests Ontario
Bio coming soon.
Jon L. Peter, Royal Botanical Gardens
Jon L. Peter has diplomas in horticulture from the University of Guelph and from the prestigious Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture. Jon has worked at some of the finest botanical institutions in North America, including the Arnold Arboretum, The Morton Arboretum & the New York Botanical Garden. Jon is currently Curator & Manager of Plant Records at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario.
John Foster, Director at Large
John has been an Occasional Teacher with the Durham District School Board for 28 years. He has diplomas in Landscape Technology from Humber College. He obtained his Biology and Education degrees from Lakehead University. Currently he is the Vice-President of both the Durham Region Field Naturalists and the Pickering Naturalists. He is an active member of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and the Altona Forest Stewardship Committee. As a volunteer John participates in Bird, Frog, and Butterfly Counts, writes articles for newsletters, does inventories of Birds and Plants with various BioBlitzes, and leads Hikes for various environmental groups. He enjoys photographing trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.
Ken Towle, Society for Ecological Restoration Ontario
Ken Towle has over twenty-five years of professional experience in conservation biology, restoration ecology and environmental education. In 1990 he received a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from York University. Since then he has worked on such diverse issues as tropical forest conservation, migratory songbird declines, tallgrass prairie restoration, and natural heritage system design. Ken’s work with invasive plants began in the early 90s when he was confronted with dog-strangling vine while involved in restoration projects in Toronto’s Don River valley. Later he produced an educational booklet profiling major invasive plants in Ontario and participated in the Ontario Invasive Plants Working Group. Following five years with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority he moved to the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority in 2003 where he has since served as Terrestrial Ecologist. He now represents the Society for Ecological Restoration Ontario (SERO) and has previously represented Conservation Ontario on the OIPC Board of Directors. Ken is also the former Vice-President of the OIPC.
Shelley MacKenzie, Ontario Horticulture Association
OHA Outreach Representative for The Ontario Invasive Plants Council and The Western Fair Association.OHA Director for District 10 encompassing the Counties of Elgin, London Middlesex, Oxford, Perth and Lambton Shores. OHA certified Judge in Design and Horticulture. Past President of The St. Thomas & District Horticultural Society. Co-Chair of Community Gardens for The St. Thomas & District Horticultural Society partnering with The St. Thomas Elevated Park on the Eastern Approach Gardens. Partnering to create a tract of naturalized habitat and trail with many introduced Carolinian and Native Species.
Cara Webster, City of Toronto
Cara Webster is currently the Acting Supervisor for the City of Toronto Urban Forestry Tree Nursery & Natural Resource Management. She has worked for the City of Toronto for over 15 years overseeing staff, volunteer programs and contracted services to implement tree planting, restoration and invasive plant control projects. Cara is a past graduate of the University of Toronto (Zoology BSc) and the Niagara College Ecosystem Restoration Post-Graduate Diploma.
Karen McDonald, Toronto Region Conservation Authority
Karen is a Senior Manager at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. She works with a dynamic team overseeing ecological restoration projects in the Toronto area, including invasive plant management. Karen is a contributing author for the City of Toronto Biodiversity series and is on the Bird Studies Canada board of directors. She is a former councillor with the Toronto Ornithological Club, and past chair of the Durham Environmental Advisory Committee. Karen is a self-described native plant champion.
Chris Craig, Plenty Canada
Chris Craig a member of the Algonquins of Pikwákanagán (formally Golden Lake) and Senior Forestry Technician for South Nation Conservation. He has completed his Forestry technician diploma at Sir Sandford Fleming College. He has worked for South Nation Conservation (SNC) since the ice storm of 98. He is certified as: Chainsaw cutter, Tree marker, Ecological Land Classification, Butternut assessor, Seed and stock collector and much more. He has been working on projects on behalf of the South Nation Conservation Authority such as Invasive species management, the black ash inventory and medicinal plant inventory project and numerous species at risk projects to protect and enhance First Nation values and interests international and locally. Chris is the creator of the Eastern Ontario First Nations Working Group. He also sits on the Working Group as one of two Aboriginal chamber members for the National Risk Assessment for Forest Stewardship Council of Canada and has worked with Plenty Canada on numerous projects along with Ontario Nature for Biodiversity Offsets and Pathways one, Indigenous perspective on protected areas.
Kristina Pauk, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
After earning her B.Sc. in Environmental Biology at the University of Waterloo, Kristina joined the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in 2009. She has been a specialist in the Invasive Alien Species and Domestic Plant Health Programs Section at the CFIA in Ottawa since 2011. Her work focuses largely on preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species in Canada (e.g., invasive plants, molluscs, insects, etc.) on a national level. Kristina leads the Invasive Plants Program, which includes managing the kudzu site in partnership with the Ontario Provincial Government. She is also involved in numerous other invasive alien species and domestic work such as the Potentially Injurious Organisms program.
Michael Irvine, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Michael Irvine has been with the Ontario Invasive Plant Council since its beginning. As the Provincial Vegetation Management Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry his areas of responsibility include managing vegetation to ensure effective forest renewal as well as working in teams to control specific invasive plants. Michael has a B.Sc.(Agriculture) and Ph.D. from the University of Guelph and a Master of Pest Management from Simon Fraser University.
Paula Berketo, Ministry of Transportation
Paula is a graduate of the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph and has been a licensed Landscape Architect since 1993. She is presently the Principal Landscape Architect at the Ministry of Transportation and oversees all aspects of design, planting and specifications for work along the provincial highways. In this role she is involved in the development of plant and seed lists and assists with project oversight and maintenance requirements dealing with invasive plants. Prior to working for the MTO, she worked on a variety of private consulting projects including the design of cemeteries, parks, streetscape and tourist developments. Between 1996 and 2007 Paul taught landscape design and estimating at Niagara College and Niagara Parks.
Kristen Obeid, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Kristen has a master’s degree in weed science from the University of Manitoba and an honors bachelor of science degree in agriculture from the University of Guelph. As OMAFRA’s Weed Management Specialist for Horticulture crops, she leads the development, coordination and implementation of programs related to weed management issues in Ontario. Kristen is a past recipient of the Deputy Minister’s Award for her work as a provincial vegetable specialist and the recent recipient of the Excellence in Weed Science Extension Award from the Canadian Weed Science Society (CWSS) for her current work. Kristen previously spent several years with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers and in the private sector coordinating research trials in support of new product registrations.
Francine MacDonald, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Bio coming soon.
Prabir Roy, Parks Canada
Prabir has been an Ecosystem Scientist working for Parks Canada since 2007. He completed his Ph.D. (2002) in the field of biology from Dalhousie University and postdoctoral studies at Cornell University. At Parks Canada, his current interests concentrate on forecasting ecological change, the important of invasive species and habitat restoration. He’s published more than 20 scientific articles in peer reviewed journals.
Iola Price, Special Advisor
Iola Price, is a retired biologist. She started her career as a wildlife biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, initially working on contaminant effects on fish-eating birds on the Great Lakes. Other exciting parts of her work included hatching Peregrine Falcons in an urban setting, being responsible for national coordination of programs on endangered species and transboundary wildlife and the CWS Latin American Program of contact and joint research with countries in Latin America.
She moved to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as the Director, Aquaculture and Oceans Science. She co-chaired the fed.-prov. committee writing the National Code on Introduction and Transfer of Aquatic Organisms and at various times was responsible for national coordination of programs on biological and physical oceanography and impact of changes in the oceans on fish populations; habitat science and acid rain impacts on fish populations; salmonid and new species aquaculture research; and, Canada’s fish health program.
Her volunteer work has included being a member and then chair of the Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee (reporting to Ottawa City Council) 2001-2007 advising on urban and rural tree and forestry issues, wetlands protection etc. She hosts the annual informal meeting of the Ottawa Invasive Plant Group.
Owen Williams, Special Advisor
Owen worked for MNRF for over 35 years as a wildlife biologist, communicator and public stewardship engagement coordinator. In 2009 he continued on into retirement helping to lead the OIPC (from its inception to now) and on the Board of the Carolinian Canada Coalition (since May 2013). His contract work has broadened in recent years to include photography and his retirement commitment has increased to enjoying more time outdoors.
John Benham, Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association/Wellington County, Special Advisor
John was a dairy farmer until 1988. In 1988, he then became the Wellington County Weed Inspector and Tree Bylaw Officer. He also delivered the Environmental Farm Plan in Wellington County for several years. After being the President of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, he was elected to the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame. John was significantly involved on the planning committee for the establishment of the OIPC and continues to offer his assistance and expertise.
OIPC Board Member Contact Information