Meet the Staff Team of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary

Cara Gibson

Cara Gibson

Executive Director

I have a BSc (Biology, Honours, Univ. of Toronto) and a Master’s and PhD (Entomology, Univ. of Arizona). I taught in higher education for over 20 years and my background spans biodiversity monitoring, science research and management, instructional design, fundraising, community organizing and scientific illustration. I joined the Nature Sanctuary as a Board member in 2019 and stepped into this role in 2020. I am honoured to be helping to protect the Nature Sanctuary's rare and threatened species, steward and restore its ecosystems, and grow its communities of practice and education.

Julia Dawson – Coordinator of Volunteers & Events

Julia Dawson

Community Coordinator

I have been a volunteer management professional for over 10 years.  Working at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, I am privileged to combine my skills in developing an engaged and vital volunteer resource with a love of nature.  I joined the Nature Sanctuary team in 2017 and I am inspired daily as people thrive and connect with each other and the environment through volunteerism.

Kirsten Grove-White portrait

Kirsten Grove-White

Administrative Assistant

My background is in customer relations and retail management. I grew up just a short walk away from the Nature Sanctuary, and have many fond memories with my family on its grounds. Away from work, I enjoy creating art with preserved flowers and experimenting in the kitchen with locally-foraged botanicals.

Phaedra Otwey

Phaedra Otwey

Community Education Assistant

I graduated from the University of Toronto in 2020 with an Honours BSc in Ecology and Conservation Biology. I have studied and worked in protected areas and parks in urban environments and am passionate about environmental stewardship in these regions which are so vital to humans and wildlife. Starting at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in the Fall of 2021, I am focusing on the Bird Friendly Saanich Initiative where I get to combine by passion for nature and bird conservation.

Kalene Lillico

Kalene Lillico

Program Naturalist

My background is in a variety of different nature education fields ranging from insects to whales. My strongest motivation as a naturalist is to give people from all walks of life the tools to build positive connections with the natural world. My most gratifying moments are when I can help change a perspective on a misunderstood species.

Madi Haller

Madi Haller

Community Educator

My background is in environmental studies and nature interpretation/education. I was fortunate to study at the University of Waterloo as well as abroad in Australia and Haida Gwaii, BC. I enjoy many aspects of ecology, especially field work, community science, education, fungi and artistic expressions of the environment! I value connecting people to nature through the exchange of knowledge and passion. I see this exchange as an excellent pathway to sustaining the earth’s ecology via creating awareness of the extravagant beauties and sophistications of the natural world.

Outside of ecology I enjoy dabbling in art, podcasts, playing guitar, board games, camping, foraging and cooking!


Sarafina Lewis-Henderson

Research & Education Coordinator

I studied Wildlife Biology and Conservation at the University of Guelph. My background includes Community Outreach instruction with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, and research with the Sustainable Nunatsiavut Futures. The latter project works to build resiliency in Labrador through bridging Indigenous, local, and science knowledge systems. My involvement in research projects has encompassed a wide variety of biological areas, including the population dynamics and species range of the elusive and vulnerable American eel (Anguilla rostrata) in Newfoundland and Labrador to the phenology and diversity patterns of riparian insects in southwestern Ontario.

I am thrilled to bring my passion for conservation, teaching and community-led stewardship to the Nature Sanctuary as a Research and Education Coordinator!

Jay Rastogi

Jay Rastogi

Site Director

I studied Natural Resources Management and Environmental Studies at the University of Guelph and worked at the University Arboretum. After graduation, I mentored in sustainable forestry practices with renowned ecoforester Merv Wilkinson. Over the past 15 years I have shared these teachings and principles with thousands of students and adults during tours and workshops.

My family background includes farming and forestry, in Ontario, and wandering the foothills of the Himalayas, where I lived until I was 12 years old.

My interests include nature observation, studying landscape ecology and promoting sustainable land stewardship and self-sufficiency.  I am especially fond of growing food and foraging for wild plants and mushrooms.

Ben Milligan

Ben Milligan

Sanctuary Maintenance Worker

I am a graduate of the Camosun College Environmental Technology Program and have training and work experience in the trades. My goal in doing site work at the Sanctuary is to help preserve and restore habitat for the many rare and amazing plant and animal species that inhabit our region. I began working for the Sanctuary in June 2019 as a summer student, and have been working here full time since December of that year.