WCS North America

Staff

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Justina Ray
President & Senior Scientist
Dr. Justina Ray has been President and Senior Scientist of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada since its incorporation in 2004. In addition to overseeing the operations of WCS Canada, Justina is involved in research and policy activities associated with land use planning and large mammal conservation in northern landscapes. Having worked for years in African and Asian tropical forests, North America has been her predominant geographic focus over the past two decades. Justina has been appointed to numerous government advisory panels related to policy development for species at risk and land use planning in Ontario and Canada. She was the co-chair of the Terrestrial Mammals Subcommittee of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) from 2009-2017 and is currently a member of the IUCN Taskforce on Biodiversity and Protected Areas. She has been editor or author of 3 books and numerous peer-reviewed articles, and is Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto (Faculty of Forestry) and Trent University (Biology Department) and Research Associate at the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Sarah Olson
Associate Director - Wildlife Epidemiology
Sarah Olson joined WCS in 2011 and is currently the Associate Director, Wildlife Epidemiology, for the WCS Health Program. Her portfolio includes research on white-nose syndrome threats to western bats, zoonotic diseases, hammer-headed fruit bat ecology related to spillover risk, and One Health. Her broad research interest focuses on the intersection of wildlife, human, and environmental health. She received a joint PhD in Population Health and Environment & Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studied how deforestation and climate affect malaria incidence in the Amazon. She has also studied regional landscape drivers of Lyme disease in North America.
Science4Bats
Anna Machowicz
Wolverine Field Technician
As a wolverine field assistant, Anna works with Dr. Matt Scrafford to understand wolverine ecology in Ontario. She holds dual B.Sc degrees in Animal Science and Zoology from Michigan State University. Before building a dedicated wildlife research career, She spent many years working in veterinary medicine and the animal health industry. Anna is most interested in mammal conservation with a focus on mesocarnivores. She primarily spends her time in the field where she has worked with many species including various small mammals, California spotted owl, snowshoe hare, mule deer, river otter, bobcat, and coyote.
Biz Agnew
Director of Philanthropy
As the Director of Philanthropy, Biz leads fundraising and development for WCS Canada. Biz joined WCS Canada in December 2007. Prior to arriving at WCS Canada in 2007, she worked at Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) as Director of US Programmes and at WWF Canada focusing on several conservation portfolios: Eastern Arctic marine mammals, Canadian Prairie wildlife, WWF Canadian endangered species and the Latin American Programme focussing on Central America, Brazil, Guyana and Cuba. Biz has a BA from Queen’s University at Kingston and a Masters of Environmental Studies (Biological Conservation) from York University, Toronto.
Bryan Aber
Carnivore Conservation Specialist
Involved with WCS wolverine program since 2000, Bryan is currently filling a collaborative carnivore biologist position between WCS, Idaho Fish & Game and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Bryan was previously employed by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest as the District Biologist for the Ashton/Island Park Ranger District. He has a 27-plus year tenure with the US Forest Service. Bryan grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, but has lived in the Yellowstone Ecosystem since 1981.
Cheryl Chetkiewicz
Conservation Scientist
Cheryl Chetkiewicz is a Conservation Scientist. Her current program of work includes cumulative effects, environmental assessment, land use planning and policy, monitoring at community and regional scales, and engagement with Indigenous Peoples across our programs in Canada. More recently, Cheryl led Ontario's Northern Boreal program where her work focused on conserving the boreal region in the far north in Ontario through applied and field research on fish and wildlife. Cheryl has a PhD in Ecology from the University of Alberta where she developed models to design wildlife corridors to conserve grizzly bears and cougars. Cheryl is a board member of the Ontario Association for Impact Assessment. In addition to her current work with WCS Canada, she has worked with governments, Indigenous Peoples, and interested stakeholders on wildlife management and conservation in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and Peru.
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Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle
Conservation Planning Biologist
Dr. Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle specializes in understanding the impacts and interactions of climate and land-use change on biodiversity, and translating the implications into conservation planning. Much of her work is focused on developing systematic landscape planning approaches for conserving biodiversity, and working with expert/Indigenous traditional knowledge and empirical data to achieve science-based decisions. She is dedicated to working with First Nations, Governments and NGOs to provide the best available conservation science for policy approaches, land-use planning, and protected area management throughout the northern boreal mountains. Dr. Mantyka-Pringle holds a PhD from the University of Queensland’s Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions in Australia. She has worked for the Queensland State Government as a Research Projects Officer, managing water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. In Canada, she worked on the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) Indigenous-community led research programs on the impacts of multiple stressors on River Deltas, and on informing policy and planning processes around species at risk and climate change mitigation. Chrystal received a 2017 Mitacs Research Fellowship and the 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation & Innovation Award for her work. She is an Adjunct Professor of Conservation Biology with the School of Environment and Sustainability at U of S.
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Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne
Canada KBA Coordinator
Dr. Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne supports the Canadian Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Coalition to identify and map KBAs in Canada. Prior to joining WCS, Ciara worked as a researcher and consultant focused on understanding the different ways that people value and benefit from nature. Based in Montreal and affiliated with McGill University, she has engaged in research with colleagues in Canada and internationally on environmental management, system resilience, and futures thinking, and has authored over 20 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on these themes. Over the past decade, Ciara has also led the development of tools and methods to link science to the needs of decision-makers, with products that include an ecosystem services Toolkit for the Canadian government, and a mechanism for Technical and Scientific Cooperation for parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, developed in partnership with the Quebec Center for Biodiversity Science. Ciara completed her PhD in 2010 on the spatial analysis of ecosystem services and biodiversity across landscapes. This work was inspired by gaps identified in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, for which Ciara served as the coordinator of the Subglobal Assessment Working Group. Ciara also holds a graduate degree in tropical biology from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
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Claire Farrell
Ontario Northern Boreal Freshwater Scientist
Claire joined the WCS team in May of 2019 as the interim freshwater research scientist in the Ontario Northern Boreal Landscape program. Claire completed her BSc and MSc at Carleton University: working with the National Wildlife Research Centre of Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Lab. Her work examined local and landscape effects of forestry on threatened bird species in the boreal forest of Northwestern Ontario. During her degrees she was a multi-year recipient of the Donald R. Wiles Scholarship in Environmental Science and Carleton Prestige Scholarship. Her lifelong passion for conservation and biology in boreal systems is reflected in the diverse projects she has been a part of: including long term ecological monitoring, modelling cumulative effects in the Far North of Ontario, and performing aquatic research at the Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research in Thunder Bay. She has advanced ArcMap spatial analysis skills as well as ample field experience, spanning multiple taxa.
Research Gate
Constance O'Connor
Associate Conservation Scientist
Connie O’Connor is a freshwater ecologist and conservation biologist dedicated to finding conservation solutions for the globally important freshwater ecosystems of Canada’s boreal forests, and the people and the wildlife that rely on them. Connie leads WCS Canada’s research and conservation program in the Ontario Northern Boreal landscape. Some of her current program highlights include leading a lake sturgeon monitoring program in collaboration with Moose Cree First Nation; identifying priority areas for freshwater fish biodiversity using conservation planning tools; and applying research results to improve planning, management, and policy. Connie is also a member of the Freshwater Fish Specialist Subcommittee of COSEWIC, and an Adjunct Professor at Lakehead University. Before joining WCS Canada, Connie completed her PhD at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where she used advanced telemetry and field physiology techniques to study how environmental stressors impact fish. Next Connie completed a postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University, where she was awarded the prestigious Alice Wilson Medal from the Royal Society of Canada for outstanding academic qualifications in science.
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