Staff

Sandra Schwartz, National Executive Director

As a solutions-oriented leader, Sandra has worked in a wide range of public policy, strategic communications and political roles, where she has been a strong advocate for sound environmental policy and has championed progressive ideas for clean energy and tackling climate change.

Sandra holds Masters degrees in management and in environmental studies, and has a well-grounded understanding of the public and private influences on Canada’s natural heritage. With over 20 years’ experience within the federal government (Ministries of Environment, Natural Resources, and Office of the Leader of the Opposition), national associations, and not-for-profit organizations, including the Canadian Electricity Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association, Pollution Probe and the Canadian Institute of Child Health.

Most recently, Sandra was Director of Parliamentary Affairs in the Office of the Minister of Natural Resources Canada. She also has a long history of community service, including as board member on several national non-profit organizations, and as founding member of a prominent women’s network. She currently serves as Trustee on the Ottawa-Carlton District School Board.

She lives in Ottawa and is happiest out enjoying nature with her husband, Chris and their two children, Liam and Erika. She maintains her connection to Canada’s wilderness by visits to parks, where she enjoys camping, canoeing, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

Alexandra Barron, National Director Ocean Program

Alex rejoined the CPAWS team as National Conservation Manager for the Ocean Program in 2019 following a brief sojourn as a Technical Planner for the Province of BC and Nanwakolas Council working on the Marine Plan Partnership in BC. Prior to MaPP, Alex spent five years with CPAWS-BC as the Ocean Conservation Coordinator and later Ocean Conservation Manager, working to secure protection for British Columbia’s rich marine ecosystems. During her time with CPAWS-BC she was lucky enough to celebrate the establishment of the Hecate Strait Glass Sponge Reef Marine Protected Area and go down in a submarine to visit the glass sponge reefs of Howe Sound.  Alex holds an MSc in science, for which she studied the role of “blue carbon” ecosystems like kelp, eelgrass and salt marsh as carbon sinks. She has been fortunate to have worked in some remarkable places, including studying sharks in South Africa, saving turtles in Greece and protecting coral reefs in the Maldives, where she saw first-hand the benefits of Marine Protected Areas. Alex works from Quadra Island located between the Salish Sea and the Great Bear Sea, in beautiful British Columbia where she lives with her partner and dog.

Brad Clute, National Director, Operations

Brad is a nationally recognized environmental and community leader who has worked throughout his career to conserve our natural spaces, while laying the foundations for sustainable business development and building capacity within Canada’s environmental and outdoor recreation non-profit community.  He has over twenty years experience working within industry and the non-profit sector creating and implementing programs and campaigns that have won multiple regional and national awards.

Before moving to the CPAWS National Office team, Brad served as Executive Director of our Southern Alberta chapter, and prior to joining CPAWS he led Mountain Equipment Co-op’s community investment and sustainability programs at both a regional and national level. His passion for community development, conservation and sustainability has inspired him to serve as a board chair and director for several provincial non-profit organizations, while working as an advisor and consultant to numerous ENGOs, businesses and government agencies.

Brad spends most of his spare time paddling, skiing, hiking, and camping, somewhere in the Rockies.  

Laura Cui, National Director, Finance

Laura has over 15 years of experience in financial reporting, budgeting, and forecasting in not-for-profit, private as well as public sectors. She also brings operational leadership skills and strategic insight to ensure the financial health and integrity of the organizations she serves.

Prior to joining CPAWS, Laura served as the Manager, Finance and Human Resources Operations at the Canadian Electricity Association. Her role focused on managing the accounting team to perform the full cycle of accounting functions in addition to delivering quarterly forecast and financial reports, and developing multi-year budgets and business plan ensuring alignment with organizational vision and business priorities. In the process of developing, implementing, and maintaining the Financial Policy, Governance Policy and other internal control methods, Laura constantly challenges herself to streamline process while enhancing internal control objectives.

Laura currently lives in Ottawa with her husband and two lovely daughters.  As a dance mom, she enjoys accompanying her daughters to various local, national, and international dance competitions. She stays connected with nature by hiking and kayaking in Canada’s beautiful parks, rivers, and lakes and is passionate about the CPAWS mission to protect our public lands, freshwater and oceans.

Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in International Finance and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Tracy Walden, National Director, Communications and Development

Tracy Walden is a collaborative and flexible leader and influencer with 20 years of experience building high-performance  teams. She is committed to working on the urgent and complex challenges threatening nature and the environment.

Prior to joining CPAWS, Tracy was the Vice-President of Communications and Events for the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) where she focused on team building, engaging members, collaborating with clean energy allies, mobilizing amplifiers, advocating for change with decision-makers, and increasing literacy levels about the role for renewable energy in the clean energy transition.

A lifelong learner, she enjoys staying current on best-practices in communications and development, traditional and social media, stakeholder relations and events. She is a long-time member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and supporter of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS). In 2015, she was certified as a member of the Climate Reality Project’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps. She holds a Bachelor of Education and a post-graduate diploma in Education, both from the University of New Brunswick. She lives in downtown Ottawa with her husband Brent and loves to walk, bike, hike, cross-country ski, snowboard, canoe camp, make memories and be part of the solution.

Alison Woodley, Senior Strategic Advisor

After a two-year secondment working with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Task Force on Beyond the Aichi Targets to encourage Canadian leadership in setting the next decade’s global conservation targets, Alison has returned to CPAWS as Senior Strategic Advisor. Over two decades Alison has played leadership roles in many successful CPAWS campaigns, including the 2009 massive expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve, and the Green Budget Coalition’s successful effort to secure a historic $1.3 billion federal investment in nature conservation in 2018. She was a member of the ministerial National Advisory Panel for the Pathway to Canada Target One initiative which recommended how Canada could achieve its commitment to protect at least 17% of land and freshwater by 2020.  She has been a member of the federal Species at Risk Advisory Committee and an advisor to the federal Auditor General’s office on national park issues.  Alison started her career working for Parks Canada in Fundy National Park, which sparked a lifelong passion and interest in parks and protected areas. Alison holds a B.Sc. in Forestry from the University of New Brunswick, and an MA in Geography from the University of Waterloo. She lives in Chelsea, Quebec and is happiest out enjoying nature in nearby Gatineau Park, and other wild places around the world.

Naomee Ahmed, Junior Accounting Officer

Naomee joined CPAWS in January 2019 as a volunteer in the Finance department and joined the department permanently as a full-time Accounting Clerk by February. Naomee has more than 5 years in customer service experience. Prior to working for CPAWS, she worked for TD Canada Bank under MBNA credit card. Her other volunteer activities includes working at Platform Event Management in Bangladesh. Naomee holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Carleton University and is currently studying to complete her Bookkeeping Certificate at Algonquin College. Naomee loves to travel and discover new cuisines.

Hugh Brodie, Development and Municipality Fund for Biodiversity Coordinator

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Hugh holds a BA in Environmental Studies from McGill University and an MA in Economic History from Concordia University.  Having started his fundraising career at in the 21st Century Fund Campaign at McGill University, he served at the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation and the McGill University Health Centre Foundation in programs such as Major Gifts, Planned Giving and Corporate Giving, among others.  Eight years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in managing community partnerships reinforced Hugh’s interest in community mobilization with an eye to important social causes.  It has been his dream for many years to bring this fundraising and community relations experience to bear in the environmental sector.  Hugh joins CPAWS with pride and enthusiasm.  Living now in Gatineau, Hugh is able to indulge in his lifelong love of nature in cross-country skiing and hiking in Gatineau Park and other area parks and forests.  Hugh talks to trees.

Jennifer Brown, Senior Communications Coordinator, Ocean Program

Jennifer (Jenn) Brown joined the CPAWS’ National Office in the role of Communications and Events Coordinator, Ocean Program in October 2020. An experienced sailor and diver, Jenn is excited to channel her passion for ocean stewardship in support of CPAWS’ mission to protect 30% of Canada’s marine and freshwater environments by 2030. 

After earning her private pilot and glider licenses in high-school, Jenn studied at Carleton University and is currently completing a post-graduate certificate in Environmental Policy and International Development with Harvard University’s Extension School, focusing on marine policy, ocean and watershed resource management, and conservation biology. Her professional background is predominantly based in the Canadian not-for-profit and charitable sectors, where she has served as an innovative, solutions-driven leader producing large-scale national events and managing communications, outreach and marketing programs for a portfolio of clients. A seasoned traveler, Jenn’s work with Pets of Aguirre Welfare Services – a grassroots animal welfare agency in Costa Rica – in 2012 holds a particularly special place in her heart.

When she’s not wearing a mask and fins, you can find her cheering on the Toronto Raptors, immersing herself in the latest shark research and enjoying the terrestrial side of nature with her two pups, husband and extended family in Bronte, Ontario.

Andrée Charlebois, National Administrative Coordinator

Andrée brings with her significant experience in the arts and non-profit sectors, as well as in administrative support. As Administrative Coordinator, she ensures that the National Office in Ottawa is run in an organized and efficient manner, and is the first point of contact for public enquiries. Andrée is fluently bilingual. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Contemporary Dance from Concordia University, and participates in the arts culture in Ottawa, as an educator and youth leader.  

Jessie Corey, National Senior Manager, Terrestrial Conservation Program

Jessie is a seasoned campaigner and conservation advocate, with over a decade of experience working on regional and national initiatives within the environmental non-profit sector in Canada. She is a dedicated strategist who brings a collaborative and inclusive approach to conservation and is committed to embedding and applying the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in this important work.

She originally joined CPAWS in 2012, working on public engagement initiatives to support and connect the work of CPAWS chapters across the country, and has been working for the B.C. chapter since 2014. Prior to joining CPAWS, Jessie spent several years working on public engagement initiatives with other ENGOs, including Nature Canada and Ottawa Riverkeeper.

For the last five years, Jessie has been leading the terrestrial conservation program with the B.C. chapter of CPAWS, developing partnerships with First Nations and working with governments and local communities to protect and conserve more of B.C.’s lands, waters, and wildlife. She brings experience and expertise in strategic campaign planning, public engagement, coalition building, and partnership development, and is thrilled to be returning to the CPAWS national team to help build the foundation of the campaign to protect 30% of Canada’s lands and waters by 2030.

 In her free time, Jessie is an avid cyclist and outdoor enthusiast who loves cooking, reading, and board games. Originally from Ontario, she now lives, works, and plays on the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), kwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples in what is also known as Vancouver.

Amy Day, National Development Coordinator

Amy joined CPAWS in 2013 as a volunteer for the development team. Since then, she has worked for CPAWS’ Ottawa Valley Chapter as an Event Planner for the MEC Big Wild Challenge, and then joined the national office team as the full time Development Assistant in 2015. Originally from Barrie, Ontario, Amy moved to Ottawa in 2010 to attend Carleton University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and minor in Law. Amy’s love of animals is what led her to a career in conservation; she is especially passionate about animal welfare and habitat conservation.Enthusiastic about nature and wildlife, Amy reconnects with the outdoors whenever she can. She enjoys everything from snowboarding, skating, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock-climbing and exploring new trails with her family and dog, Barkley.

Ursula Dechnik, National Donor Database Manager

Ursula joined CPAWS in the summer of 2008. She has a BA in Environmental Science and Chemistry from Poland, and a Diploma in Computer Programming from Canada. She has 10 years of experience in fundraising. Prior to her role at CPAWS, Ursula worked for Nature Canada as their Database Manager and for the Canadian Cancer Society as a Programmer Analyst. She enjoys traveling from coast to coast across our beautiful country with her husband, two children and dog, which she takes camping during the summer.

Vicki DiMillo, National Development Manager

Vicki has 12 years of experience fundraising for charities and not-for-profits. She joined CPAWS in 2003 as a part-time membership assistant, and expanded her role in 2005 to full-time Donor Relations Manager. Prior to her role at CPAWS, Vicki worked for the Association of Fundraising Professionals as the Administrative Coordinator, and she was employed 10 years as the Development Officer for the Queensway-Carleton Hospital Foundation. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Canadian Marketing Association. Vicki resides in Ottawa with her husband and three children.

Benjamin Filliol, National Communications Coordinator, Brand and Engagement

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Benjamin is a driven communications strategist who loves to put his expertise and energy at the service of causes he holds dear.

With a strong track record of hands-on coordination experiences, Benjamin always strives to bring a creative point of view, a results-focused approach and to keep a people-centric state of mind. His love for digital technologies and innovative solutions often incites him to find new ways of doing things, challenging the status quo while staying empathetic.

Before joining CPAWS in April 2021, Benjamin oversaw digital marketing and communication strategies for BVA Group, a consulting company based in France where he led the development and implementation of a global CRM as marketing representative.

In 2018, Benjamin spent a year in Australia working in the public sector. In addition to a rebranding project for the Institute of Public Administration Australia, Benjamin worked for the City of Darebin, where he developed communication plans for the Community Services initiatives (Diversity, Families, Young adults, Aboriginal community) and advocacy campaigns.

Benjamin is an avid hiker and runner, with a couple of marathons under his belt and has a passion for wildlife and conservation. During his free time, you will probably find him on the trail, documenting his encounters with local fauna and editing short videos to share his adventures with friends and family.

Muditha Galle Kankanange, National Development Data Advisor

Muditha has over 10 years of experience working in the not-for-profit sector. She holds a joint honors degree in Social Sciences in Communication and Sociology from the University of Ottawa. Her background and expertise are in database management and fundraising. Her specializations are in gift processing, donor management and customer service. She is a proven leader who enjoys managing, training, and collaboration. She also is creative and solution drive. Muditha helps organizations make data driven decisions to optimize their development, fundraising goals, and donor outreach.

Prior to joining CPAWS, she worked at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, as its Donation and Databases Manager. There she led the Gift Processing department by improving donation intake and database coding processes. She improved reporting systems and was part of various database integration projects. Muditha has also worked at Canadian Blood Services and SOS Children’s Villages, helping to coordinate their various fundraising campaigns and initiatives.

Muditha enjoys traveling, exploring, and experiencing different cultures and cuisines. Her childhood was spent growing up between Saudi Arabia and Sudbury, Ontario. This allowed her to become more adaptable, open-minded, and appreciative of different cultures, people, and diversity. Her hobbies include photography, drawing, and reading – she is a lifelong learner. Muditha has a creative eye for event planning, decorating, and staging. She enjoys being out in nature, swimming, snorkeling, and exploring hiking trails. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband, her young daughter, and her orange tabby cat.

Natalie Groulx, Senior Conservation Coordinator, Ocean Program

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Between viewing nature documentaries and reading National Geographic publications, Natalie’s interest in all things marine started young. First studying at Carleton University, where she completed a B.A. in Humanities, she later expanded her education with the intensive Royal Ontario Museum Environmental Visual Communications (EVC) program in Toronto, Ontario. There she got her feet thoroughly wet in visual communication skills and strategies to inspire environmental awareness and advocacy, and worked with her cohort on the highly successful Canada’s Oceans: Towards 2020 event that saw 30+ leaders, scientists, Indigenous representatives, and storytellers craft a vision for Canada’s oceans as an ocean nation.  

Prior to joining CPAWS’ oceans team as Conservation Coordinator, Natalie helped double the size, reach and impact of SeaLegacy, a leading ocean conservation agency, nursing the rollout and production of digital campaigns on species and habitat protection, including the ban on oil development in Lofoten, Vesterålen, and Senja in Norway and the critical CITES Appendix II listing of mako sharks in 2019. In her free time, you will find Natalie grabbing her camera and touring new places.

Anika Hazra, National Communications Advisor, Digital Media

Anika Hazra joined CPAWS in July 2019. Prior to pursuing a career in science communication, Anika earned a BSc in Ecology, with a minor in English, from the University of Toronto and a MS in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Her Master’s research focused on the interactions between ants and acacia trees in experimentally restored forest in Veracruz, Mexico; this research direction stemmed from, and further fueled, her love for ants.

In addition to conducting research, Anika has worked in science and nature education with A Rocha Canada, Bugs Without Borders and the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Costa Rica. She has also done various stints in science writing and editing for the Science Café, Envirobites, Cactus Global and the National Geographic Society.

Anika is happiest when sharing her passion for science, nature and conservation with the public, and in her spare time she guest hosts the Science for the People podcast. 

Bani Maini, Assistant Conservation Coordinator, Ocean Program

Bani joined CPAWS in September 2021 as the Assistant Conservation Coordinator for the National Ocean Program. She is delighted to be working at the science-policy nexus in ocean conservation. Her research focuses on area-based conservation through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and marine Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs).

Before joining CPAWS, Bani worked as the Climate Change Coordinator at the Town of Pelham, Ontario where she developed the Corporate Climate Change Adaptation Plan. She also has extensive event planning and operations experience gained through her work in the education sector in India.

Bani’s education has been transdisciplinary. She holds a Master of Sustainability from Brock University, Ontario with a focus on marine conservation. In addition, she has a B.Sc. in Chemistry from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, India. In 2014, she was chosen for the Young India Fellowship at Ashoka University, Delhi NCR, India, where she was introduced to liberal arts and leadership skills training.   

Bani loves the ocean, enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends.  

Anabelle Mirfatahi, Digital Communications Assistant, Ocean Program

Anabelle Mirfatahi joined CPAWS as the Digital Communications Assistant for the CPAWS’ National Ocean Program in October 2022. As a graduate of Simon Fraser University’s class of 2021, Anabelle has a BA in Communications with coursework in Resource Environmental Management, First Nation Studies, and Publishing. 

Prior to joining CPAWS, she worked for the Georgia Strait Alliance as a Communications Assistant where she helped curate a master media list including Indigenous and Non-English-speaking outlets. She is pursuing a career in environmental communications to help empower diverse voices and create greater awareness and action toward global environmental issues. 

Anabelle has spent time volunteering for her university’s Ban the Bottle campaign that worked to decrease the sales of plastic bottles on campus, attending local beach clean-up initiatives and learning ways to live more sustainably. Anabelle’s interests include climate justice, decreasing plastic pollution & upcycling and the protection of the Southern Resident Orca population and their habitat.

Born in England, Anabelle now lives, works, and plays on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples- the Kwantlen, the Katzie, the Semiahmoo and the Tsawwassen First Nations. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, hiking and rock climbing.

Anna Pidgorna, National Senior Conservation Coordinator

Anna holds a B.Sc. in Biology, an M.S. in Zoology, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science with a focus on design of protected areas. Before joining CPAWS in February 2019, Anna worked in several non-governmental organizations in different capacities, including as Acting Executive Director, Director of Programs, and Donor Relations Manager. She has extensive project management experience and has participated in many conservation projects, including an analysis of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System and its ability to maintain its key target species, a study of the role of advocacy in conservation science and the definition of recovery under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. She also co-authored a report for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the Impact of Global Climate Change on the National Wildlife Refuge System. Anna loves nature and wildlife and is passionate about ensuring sustainable ecosystems are safeguarded in perpetuity.

Jennifer Scott, National Communications Manager

Jennifer joined CPAWS as the National Communications Manager at the end of 2015. Jennifer has worked in the communications field for over ten years, predominantly in the not-for-profit sector in the area of medicine and health promotion. She has experience writing a diverse array of materials for a variety of audiences, and developing confident articulate spokespeople through focused interactive media training. She grew up in the Toronto-area but quickly fell in love with Ottawa when she moved to the National Capital Region to pursue a degree in Sociology-Anthropology at Carleton University, where her studies also included a concentration in linguistics. She’s also gone on to complete professional certificates in public sector & non-profit marketing, social media & e-marketing, graphic design, public relations & media communications. Jennifer resides in Ottawa with her daughter and rambunctious pup. 

Tina Singh, National Accounts Officer

Tina joined CPAWS in summer 2011 as a volunteer in the Accounts & Finance department. Later in April 2012, she joined the CPAWS team as a full-time Accounts clerk. A well-trained auditor with 3 years of working experience, she holds a master’s degree in finance from a renowned University in Nepal. She has volunteered for Canada Africa Community Health Alliance (CACHA) as well. She loves to paint and cook in her leisure time. She resides in Ottawa with her husband and daughter.

Emily Smith, National Manager, Foundations

Emily Smith has a long history with CPAWS, starting with volunteering with the Ottawa Valley Chapter in event planning and public outreach in 2003, followed by an administrative role at the CPAWS national office. Throughout her time with the organization, she has acted as Executive Assistant, Office Manager, Chapter & Board Relations Manager, and now focuses on finding ways to fund CPAWS’ diverse and critical conservation programs. During a 2-year stint in the Yukon wilds, Emily worked in diverse roles: managing the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon; teaching at Yukon College; Bear Awareness training for industry; and contracting as a project manager for an Aboriginal Women’s group. Always open for adventure, Emily spends her vacations exploring the wilderness CPAWS fights to protect – paddling the Dumoine watershed with colleagues; exploring the Muskwa Kechika Management Area on horseback; floating down the Tatshenshini River by raft; or traversing the populated watersheds of the Eastern Woodlands by voyageur canoe.