Meet the Staff Team of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary

Cara Gibson

Cara Gibson

Executive Director

Cara has a BSc (Biology, Honours, Univ. of Toronto) and a Master’s and PhD (Entomology, Univ. of Arizona). She taught in higher education for over 20 years and her background spans biodiversity monitoring, science research and management, instructional design, fundraising, community organizing and scientific illustration. Cara joined the Nature Sanctuary as a Board member in 2019 and stepped into the Executive Director role in 2020. She is 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.

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Kirsten Grove-White

Administrative Assistant

Kirsten’s background is in customer relations and retail management. She grew up just a short walk away from the Nature Sanctuary, and has many fond memories with my family on its grounds.

Away from work, she enjoys creating art with preserved flowers and experimenting in the kitchen with locally-foraged botanicals.

Jay Rastogi

Jay Rastogi

Site Director

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

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

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

Ben Milligan

Ben Milligan

Nature Sanctuary Maintenance Worker

Ben is a graduate of the Camosun College Environmental Technology Program and has training and work experience in the trades. His 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. He began working for the Sanctuary in June 2019 as a summer student, and has been working here full time since December of that year.

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Wren Shaman

Community Relations Assistant

Wren’s background is in History and Indigenous Studies, with a focus on decolonial learning opportunities. Over the past years she has had the pleasure to work across the heritage sector, and is excited to be joining the Swan Lake and Christmas Hill team. Outside of work they love working with various grassroots organizations to create caring, connected, and nourished (physically and beyond) communities. Wren enjoys connecting with folks and connecting folks to one another! She/they think communications and outreach positions are so important in that work, and is excited to bring those skills to the team!

When not working or volunteering you can find them knitting, needle felting, reading, backpacking, looking at tidepools, or bikepacking!

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Gabe Schepens

Biodiversity Coordinator

Gabe studied Biology (BSc) and Environmental Studies (MSc), with a focus on changing vegetation communities and the loss of culturally important plants under colonial contexts. They have experience in ecological research of species, community, and landscape level patterns. Gabe is keen to bring an analytical skillset to their role as Biodiversity Coordinator to support a thriving ecological community at the Nature Sanctuary. They are especially grateful to steward the beautiful spring wildflowers. They are a proud advocate for equity, justice, and decolonial praxis within ecology.

Gabe enjoys spending time in tidepools, in the mountains, in the garden, and buried in a book.

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Sarafina Lewis-Henderson

Research & Education Coordinator

Sarafina studied Wildlife Biology and Conservation at the University of Guelph. Her 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. Her 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.

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

Madi Haller

Madi Haller

Community Educator

Madi’s background is in environmental studies and nature interpretation/education. Madi was fortunate to study at the University of Waterloo as well as abroad in Australia and Haida Gwaii, BC. They enjoy many aspects of ecology, especially field work, community science, education, fungi and artistic expressions of the environment! She values connecting people to nature through the exchange of knowledge and passion. Madi sees 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 Madi enjoys dabbling in art, podcasts, playing guitar, board games, camping, foraging and cooking!

Mia Papp

Mia Papp

Community Educator

Mia is Australian born and completed my Environmental Science Bachelor’s degree at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.  They were then fortunate enough to complete a Master’s of Conservation Biology in France. Now, they are very lucky to call themselves one of the Community Educators that works at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary! They are excited to help run educational programs, aid in site monitoring and learn as much as they can along the way.

Mia’s interests include sewing, working on podcasts, spending time with animals, learning about plants and exploring beautiful places around the Island.