Michael Keefer, MSc, PAg
PRESIDENT, LEAD VISIONARY
Michael is a visionary leader with expertise in a broad range of fields that include plant ecology, ecological restoration, ethnoecology, the management of large and complex projects, communication, curriculum development, and others. A key theme in his career has been bridging knowledge sources and perspectives together to come up with positive solutions to complex environmental and social challenges. He is known widely as a top expert in the fields of ecological restoration, ethnoecology and native plant horticulture.
As an Adjunct Professor at Royal Roads University he helped to create the Growing Our Futures native plant horticulture training program, a curriculum designed for First Nations learners. Michael has the start-up of businesses that include: Keefer Ecological Services, Twin Sisters Native Plants Nursery, Tipi Mountain Native Plants and Tipi Mountain Eco-Cultural Services. As a volunteer, Michael was part of the start-up of the Columbia Basin Environmental Educators Network, led the growth of the Society of Ecological Restoration (SER) BC to being SER Western Canada when he was Chair, and has sat on a handful of other volunteer boards as a director.
In his recreational time, Michael is an avid skier, canoer, sailor, hiker, food gardener, naturalist and wood butcher. He is frequently a presenter at conferences and loves to share his perspectives with diverse audiences to build understanding on how humans can revitalize their connections to the world's ecosystems to solve complex environmental problems.
Jessica Lowey, MSc, PAg
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST, PROJECT MANAGER
Jessica is an environmental scientist with an extensive background in environmental consulting. She completed her Bachelor of Science (honours) in 2012 with an undergraduate thesis in Soil Science and a certificate in Geomatics, and has since completed her Master of Science in Environmental Practice through Royal Roads University. Jessica received two awards for her Master's research paper titled "Promoting Ecological Restoration of Degraded Mine Soils Using MSW Compost" which can be found here. Jessica is also the East Kootenay Regional Director for the Pacific Regional Society for Soil Science and is working to bring more soils courses to the area.
Previously, Jessica has worked in the oil and gas and forestry industries, performing a variety of environmental assessments and is well-versed in vegetation and soil identification and sampling, wildlife surveys, as well as construction monitoring. At KES, Jessica has been instrumental in managing and completing a number of projects including environmental management plans, socio-economic reports, feasibility studies, invasive plant management, recovery of the endangered whitebark pine, and soil and terrain mapping.
Jessica enjoys all aspects of the Kootenay lifestyle - camping, climbing, mountain biking, whitewater paddling, backcountry skiing and fly fishing.
Leah Andresen, MSc
SENIOR WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST & BIOSTATISTICIAN
Leah is a wildlife biologist with 10 years of experience in population biology and ecology of diverse terrestrial mammal species. Her expertise includes quantitative population, community and landscape ecology, habitat modeling, biodiversity and population monitoring techniques and analysis, quantifying rare species, human-wildlife interactions and predator-prey dynamics. She has extensive experience in survey design, statistical analysis and modeling and interpretation of wildlife ecological data and conducting wildlife studies in remote and challenging environments. Leah graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science (honours) in Biology (Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecology) from Vancouver Island University. Her research estimated jaguar abundance and density using capture-recapture statistics and data she collected with remote camera-traps in Belize. In 2013, Leah graduated with a Master of Science in Wildlife Management from the University of Pretoria. Her thesis investigated habitat selection by cheetah in a landscape recovering from civil war.
Leah previously Consulted for Environment Yukon. Her work involved quantifying meso and large carnivore habitat selection and monitoring collared pika as an indicator species for climate change. She has also assisted the regional biologist with various studies involving ungulates, carnivores and raptors. In Africa, Leah developed and managed a transboundary conservation project to improve prospects for large carnivore species at risk of extinction. Leah is widely published in population and habitat ecology of terrestrial wildlife.
Prior to working as a biologist, Leah worked for six years as a wilderness guide and manager for Northern Wildlife Safaris, guiding extended wilderness camping trips by horseback, dogsled and canoe. She undertook several wilderness expeditions into the Yukon and Northwest Territories including 2800 km by horseback, 2500 km by canoe and 3000 km by dogsled. Her experiences have provided her with considerable familiarity and practical knowledge of wilderness landscapes and wildlife.
Tom Braumandl, BScF, RPF
Tom is a forest ecologist with almost 40 years of experience in forest management
planning, research and monitoring, quality assurance and audit services. His
expertise lies in vegetation ecology, biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC)
and mapping, landform interpretation, soil survey and mapping,
natural disturbance ecology and ecological restoration. Tom is a recognized
provincial BEC expert, having led the provincial government forest ecology
program in the 8-million hectare Nelson Forest Region for a couple of decades. At
KES, Tom has been busy conducting rare plant surveys, terrestrial and sensitive
ecosystem mapping, vegetation monitoring and soil mapping.
Tom is a keen mountain biker and skier and loves wandering amongst the rough
fescue of his backyard searching for the latest wildflower that has popped up.
Hilary Baker, BSc, PAg
AGROLOGIST & ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST
Hilary is a professional Agrologist with extensive experience in resource management. Hilary brings with her strong skills in vegetation identification, sampling and
mapping, ecological classification and management of upland and riparian plant communities, landscape ecology, reclamation and remediation practices on native grasslands, wildfire ecology, wildlife-grazing interactions, livestock production and nutrition, integrated resource management and management planning. Hilary is a University of Alberta graduate with a BSc in Agriculture majoring in Animal Sciences
with a focus on vegetation and rangeland science. Hilary has extensive experience leading workshops in classroom and field settings in rangeland and agricultural topics and has experience leading agriculture extension and outreach initiatives.
Hilary has previous experience with the Government of Alberta as a Rangeland Agrologist in northern Alberta, and as a Range Management Specialist in the southwest based out of Pincher Creek. Hilary has experience working in several grassland and forested ecosystems with strong skills in the Montane, Subalpine, Foothills Parkland, Foothills Fescue, Dry Mixedwood, Peace River Parkland, and Central Mixedwood Natural Subregions. Hilary has worked to promote, train, convince and connect a diverse group of stakeholders and agencies about the value and benefits of managing and sustaining rangeland and ecological resources. Hilary was the 2019 recipient of the Alicia Hargrave Memorial Award which was presented to her by the International Mountain Section of the Society for Range Management. This award recognizes a young woman who has shown promise early in her career to further the art and science of rangeland management.
Hilary spends her free time exploring in the mountains, grasslands, and all places wild enjoying horseback riding, hiking, backcountry skiing, hunting, fishing and searching for wildflowers.
Andrew Simon, MSc
Andrew is an ecologist with over a decade of experience working at the intersection of conservation biology, ecological research, and biodiversity data science. He has worked closely with environmental NGOs, First Nations, government, and academia on numerous multidisciplinary projects, including environmental monitoring, ecological inventory, ecosystem-based land management, and rare plant surveys.
Andrew’s professional and academic experience spans a diverse range of environments throughout British Columbia, granting him intimate insight into numerous ecological systems—from the mountain caribou of the Wet Belt to the plant-pollinator communities of BC’s south coast. These experiences have made him comfortable tackling just about any complex ecological problem. At KES, Andrew is keen to apply his skills working with a multidisciplinary team, beginning with a focus on data analysis for habitat suitability modelling.
When he’s not at work Andrew enjoys pushing the boundaries of his biodiversity knowledge throughout BC, whether hiking in the alpine or scuba diving in the islands. Otherwise, he is well known for his long-standing dedication to community science, as the curator of the Biodiversity Galiano project http://biogaliano.org/, and president of the Institute for Multidisciplinary Ecological Research in the Salish Sea http://imerss.org/
Elliott is a GIS Specialist who completed his training in GIS at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary, AB. Much of his work at KES includes creating, editing, and updating thematic mapping products for environmental assessments, reports, and other projects. Elliott also assists with the creation of wildlife habitat models through data analysis with spatial and non-spatial data. Elliott has a diverse academic and research background in the social sciences, with a Masters in Criminology from Simon Fraser University, and Bachelors in Criminal Justice (honours) from Mount Royal University.
In his spare time, Elliott enjoys many outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, and camping.
Elliott Mann, MA, BATech
Kyla Rushton, BSc, AIT
AGROLOGIST & ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST
Kyla is an agrologist and environmental scientist with experience in rangeland and riparian monitoring, management and stewardship. Kyla has expertise in vegetation identification, ecological classification of riparian and upland plant communities, sampling and mapping, and habitat management planning on agricultural lands. She has previously worked in the not-for-profit sector and the Government of Alberta as a Range and Riparian Specialist and rangeland technician, working throughout southern Alberta. Kyla has experience working with a variety of stakeholders to implement practical beneficial stewardship practices on multiple-use landscapes to enhance habitat for wildlife through grazing management and of native riparian areas.
Kyla is a 2019 graduate from the University of Lethbridge with a BSc majoring in Environmental Science with a focus on Ecology and GIS. Throughout her degree Kyla was involved in rangeland studies on shrub encroachment and native grassland management in southeast Alberta.
In her free time, Kyla enjoys, hiking, skiing, paddling excursions, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, looking for wild plants and gardening.
Brynlee Thomas, BSc
Brynlee is a wildlife biologist with a diverse background in organizing and conducting
wildlife research for a variety of organizations including industry, academia and
government. Brynlee completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2015 from the
University of Victoria. She has previous experience with the Government of Alberta as a
species at risk biologist in northern Alberta working on woodland caribou and native trout
recovery projects. Prior to that, she gained experience at the University of Alberta
coordinating a wildlife field research camp in the Yukon and leading large mammal field
research in the Athabasca Oil Sands region. At KES, she is involved with wildlife related
projects including data collection and analysis, habitat assessments and terrestrial wildlife
components of Environmental Assessment reports for coal mining developments.
In her spare time, Brynlee is busy enjoying all that the outdoors have to offer, from downhill and Nordic skiing, to biking, trail running, hiking and camping.
Jordan Gardener, MSc
Jordan is a statistician with two years of consulting experience. His prior research has been focused in variable selection, clustering, and classification. Jordan graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics in 2016 and proceeded to complete a Master of Science in mathematics focused in statistics in 2020. During his master’s degree, Jordan was able to gain statistics consulting experience, working on several projects for local companies. This allowed Jordan to obtain a firm grasp of applying statistical models to meet the needs of clients.
In his free time Jordan enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, and swimming.
Emma Cooke, BSc
Emma is a junior environmental scientist with a background in conservation biology and GIS. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Conservation Sciences from the University of Alberta in 2020. One semester of her degree was completed at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå, Sweden in 2019. Emma has previously worked in wildlife research and the not-for-profit sector. Through these experiences, she has gained skills in plant and wildlife identification, sampling, data collection and analysis, stakeholder engagement, and environmental education.
In her free time, Emma enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, camping, and letting nature inspire her watercolour painting projects.
Virginia Hermanson, MSc
Virginia is an ecologist and environmental scientist who has carved out a unique niche of experience related to wildfire management and suppression. She recently completed a dual master’s degree in Environmental Science from the Swedish University of Agricultural Science and the University of Copenhagen. Her thesis work was a study of the structural effects of restoration-oriented prescribed burns in open pine forests in South-Central Sweden.
Virginia has worked as a wildland firefighter on the Flathead Unit Crew for four
seasons out of the Cranbrook PAB. She is excited to combine and apply this hands-on experience with her academic and technical understanding of fire. Outside of this particular interest, Virginia specialized in ecosystems and biodiversity studies during her academic career and developed a broad suite of knowledge on global environmental systems and their interface with human development and activities.
Mike Kurucz, BBA
Mike is a highly skilled business and administration coordinator with over five years’ experience working in financial and accounting environments. Mike completed his Bachelors of Business Administration at the University of Regina in 2008. From there he worked at Island Savings Credit Union, providing lending advice, operational support and accounting administration.
As an employee at KES, Mike coordinates and maintains the Occupational Health & Safety Plan; assists with purchasing, accounts payable and receivable, payroll and communications; and provides human resources support. Mike has been a member of an Occupational Health and Safety committee for over four years. He has maintained the highest level of performance standards within a diverse range of occupations. His education and experiences make him a uniquely qualified individual.
Lizzy Whitehouse, BSc
COMMUNICATIONS & ADMINISTRATIVE COORDINATOR
Lizzy is a coordinator with over six years experience organising and providing support to arts festivals, competitions, events and various renewable energy projects. Lizzy graduated from The University of Leeds in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Human Physiology. Her research project involved the development of biosensors for point of care testing. Lizzy has previously worked in the tourism industry as an event coordinator and has been involved in various marketing platforms. At KES, Lizzy designs and manages creative content and communications for digital marketing. She also provides administrative support for projects and financial aspects of the company.
In her spare time, Lizzy is planning her next adventure with her dog Mack. She always has a keen eye for the surrounding flora and fauna and is happiest travelling by foot, bike or canoe.