Presenter Biographies

Learn more about the presenters below.

Keynote Presenters:

Robin Clark (Feb 22) Brian Minter (Feb 23) Mia Lehrer (Feb 24)

Session Presenters:

Session presenters are listed alphabetically by first name.

Aaren Topley Doug Wournell Magnus Sinclair
Adam Rossi Dylan Eyers Mandy Hadfield
Amit Gandha Grace Augustinowicz Mike Redpath
Biliana Velkova Ian Lai Nikki Higgs
Chad Townsend Johanna Moretto Robert Gifford
Christine McLeod Karen Pyne Stephanie Mak
Darren Peterson Kristin Buhr Sylvia Grace Borda
Doug Merry Lauren Sim Zhaohua (Cindy) Cheng

Robin Clark

Robin Clark

February 22, 8:00 – 9:05 am | Keynote: FireSmart Your Community

Robin is a registered professional forester and a local FireSmart representative. Owner of a natural resource consulting business for over 25 years, his current focus is preparing and implementing community wildfire resiliency plans, fuel management prescriptions and FireSmart neighbourhood plans.
Brian Minter R

Brian Minter

February 23, 8:00 – 9:05 am | Keynote: Plants and Trees of the Future – A New Perspective in a Changing Environment

Brian is a University of British Columbia graduate (BA) and Master Gardener, and quickly became BC’s go-to garden expert through his experience at both the Minter Gardens garden centre and display gardens. As such, he has hosted countless radio and television shows, is a frequent gardening columnist and is author of Canadian Best Seller, Brian Minter’s New Gardening Guide - Fresh Approaches for Canadian Gardeners.

Brian is well known from his magazine and syndicated newspaper columns and TV and radio programs. He is recipient of the Order of Canada (2018), an Honorary Doctorate of Technology, and many other awards, Just recently, Brian received an Award of Merit from the Perennial Plant Association in recognition of outstanding contributions to the perennial industry. He was also inducted into the Gardening Writers Association’s Hall of Fame ‘in recognition of a lifetime of exceptional work and spirit promoting gardening and garden communications to the public.’

Mia Lehrer

Mia Lehrer, FASLA

February 24, 8:00 – 9:05 am | Keynote: Sports Stadiums as a Community Resource

Mia founded Studio-MLA with a vision to improve quality of life through landscape architecture. With offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the robust and multidisciplinary team works to address urban issues through environmental systems planning and resilience strategies. She has led the design and implementation of ambitious public and private projects including the Hollywood Park Racetrack redevelopment and its new SoFi Stadium, associated parks, and public open spaces, Dallas’ Fair Park Community Park, the LA County Natural History Museum Gardens, Vista Hermosa Park, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and many urban river-related projects including the Rio Tietê in São Paulo, Brazil, and the Los Angeles River Taylor Yard G2 River Park and Upper Los Angeles River and Tributaries Plan.

Mia is internationally recognized for progressive landscape design, advocacy for sustainable and people-friendly public places, and catalyzing work for a climate-appropriate future. Educated at Tufts University and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, she lectures and teaches around the world.

Among her recent accomplishments, she is the newest Commissioner of the all-female Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, she served on Obama’s Fine Arts Commission, and was honored with the ASLA LaGasse Medal. Most recently, Mia and Studio-MLA were selected by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for the 2021 National Design Award for Landscape Architecture.

Aaren Topley R

Aaren Topley

February 23, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Panel: The Evoltuion of Equitable Community Spaces and Gardens

Aaren lives in Victoria, BC on the homelands of the Lekwungen people, now known as the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. He has an undergraduate degree in Recreation Health Education and a Masters degree in the Social Dimensions of Health from the University of Victoria. Aaren has been working in the field of food system development for over nine years, with a focus on creating urban food policy, building community food literacy, Indigenous land revitalization and supporting youth food system engagement. For the last four year, he has worked with Farm to School BC as the Capital Region Animator. In this time, he established Victoria’s first urban school farm and created an Indigenous plant garden and language revitalization program with School District 61. He is the Provincial Manager for Can You Dig It, supporting municipalities to develop and implement community growing programs and policies. In his spare time, he volunteers with the Victoria Urban Food, a food policy advisory body to the City of Victoria, which he is also one of the co-founders and past co-chair.

Adam Rossi R

Adam Rossi

February 24, 9:15 – 10:15 am | Incorporating Biodiversity into Urban Parks

Adam is a Park Planner with the City of Surrey and has worked with stakeholders to develop and establish the City's newest preserve, Campbell Heights Biodiversity Preserve.

Amit Gandha R

Amit Gandha

February 22, 11:45 – 12:45 pm | Strathcona Park Decampment

Amit began his career in municipal sector in 1995 when he was hired as a labourer in Urban Forestry for the Vancouver Park Board. Progressively, Amit evolved into roles as Superintendent and Supervisor of Urban Forestry and Human Resources. He became Manager of Park Operations in 2018 and became the Director of Parks for the Vancouver Park Board in 2019. He brings with him an extensive background in Urban Forestry, Landscape Maintenance, Park Ranger programs, and Facilities Maintenance.

His experience also includes collaborating with non-profits, homeless services, community based organizations and other agencies to support the delivery of activities and programs to the Park Board. He also has experience with financing and administrative operations for Urban Forestry, over 240 Parks, Stanley Park, 3 Championship Golf Course and 3 Pitch and Putts, Facilities Maintenance and Fleet Operations City’s Landscape Maintenance District.

Biliana Velkova R

Biliana Velkova

February 24, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Community and Environmental Practices in Public Art

Biliana is the Public Art Planner for the City of Richmond. In her role, she oversees the City’s Public Art Program. One of the main goals of the Program is to develop opportunities to maximize public art’s potential to engage communities and transform public space. Previously, she was the Arts Coordinator for the City of New Westminster. She has an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan and a BFA from Concordia University. Biliana also has an active art practice focusing on issues of diaspora and social identity.

Chad Townsend R

Chad Townsend

February 24, 9:15 – 10:15 am | Incorporating Biodiversity into Urban Parks

Chad has lived and worked in Vancouver since 2019. Prior to this, he was based in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and has had the good fortune to work in a variety of other countries including Ireland, Germany, Bolivia, and Finland. He holds a Masters of Ecology, and is a Member of the Canadian Institute of Planners.

Christine Mcleod

Christine McLeod

February 22, 1:00 – 2:00 pm | The Lasting Lessons of Leading in Pandemic Times

Christine is the Founder of Everyday Leaders. Most recently, she has also started a new venture called Rising Villages, which provides one day retreats in Squamish, BC for work gatherings and youth alike. She is a passionate and engaged leader in her community whose glass is always half full. Her possibility-filled vision for what personal leadership, thriving workplaces and resilient community looks like, inspires everyone around her to do their best. Christine is a change maker, a visionary, and inspiring developer of people. The intersection of her passion, skillset and purpose is to connect others to themselves, others and their community.

Darren Peterson

Darren Peteron

February 22, 10:30 – 11:30 amInnovations in Operations and Park Activation

Darren is an experienced recreation professional who has made it his life's work to advocate for community recreation in Vancouver so residents can be active for life and live their best. Away from work, Darren likes to stay active by playing ice hockey, softball and golf.

Doug Merry R

Doug Merry

February 24, 9:15 – 10:15 am | Incorporating Biodiversity into Urban Parks

Doug is the Acting Manager of the Parks Planning, Research and Design Section with the City of Surrey.

Doug Wournell

Doug Wournell

February 22, 9:15  10:15 am | Trends in Synthetic Turf

Doug, Architect AIBC, is a practicing Sport Architect who has completed hundreds of sport and recreation projects in Canada and the US over the past 28 years, including over 115 synthetic turf field projects. Doug sits on the IAKS Experts Circle for synthetic turf and is a member of the Synthetic Turf Council and the American Sport Builders Association.

Dylan Eyers R

Dylan Eyers

February 24, 11:45 – 12:45 pm | Managing Park Visitor Capacity in Parks Serving the Metro Vancouver Area

Dylan Eyers is the Section Head for BC Parks throughout the Lower Mainland. He started his career as a Park Ranger in the Carmanah Valley some 25 years ago. Throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to manage provincial parks in the Gulf Islands and on the Sunshine Coast. For the past 10 years, Dylan has led the operations for the busiest parks in the BC Parks system.

Grace Augustinowicz

Grace Augustinowicz

Wednesday, February 23, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Panel: The Evolution of Equitable Community Spaces and Gardens

Grace comes from a long history of community outreach and development. She graduated from the Sustainable Agriculture Program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and completed her Masters in Soil Science at the University of British Columbia. Over the last 7 years, Grace has worked as a research associate for the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at KPU. In her free time, Grace loves to put on her rubber boots, be out in her garden and connect with the land and the community.

 Ian Lai

Ian Lai

Wednesday, February 23, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Panel: The Evolution of Equitable Community Spaces and Gardens

Ian is a chef educator, beekeeper, yogi, and rock climber. He lives and works in Richmond and brings with him 15 years of environmental education and project management experience. He has a background in teaching in diverse and inclusive spaces and is committed to building a resilient community. Ian loves collaborating and building strategic partnerships to bring joy and meaning to food. Ian has lived in South Africa and Japan and continues to travel the world seeking out new adventures.

Johanna Moretto R

Johanna Moretto

February 23, 9:15 – 10:15 amFabricated Soils as a Tool in Landscape Restoration

Johanna is a Biosolids Project Coordinator and Professional Biologist at Metro Vancouver. Johanna has over 20 years’ experience working in the environmental field. In her role at Metro Vancouver, Johanna uses biosolids products as a tool to restore degraded landscapes back to self-sustaining ecosystems that are resilient to climate change, development pressures and invasive species encroachment.

Karen Pyne

Karen Pyne

February 23, 9:15 – 10:15 amFabricated Soils as a Tool in Landscape Restoration

Karen is a Residuals Project Coordinator at Metro Vancouver and an Applied Science Technologist. Karen has worked in the environmental field for the last 25 years in various industries from an environmental lab to environmental consulting, and then at Metro Vancouver as an Officer in the Environmental Regulation and Enforcement group. Karen’s current position at Metro Vancouver enables her to use her environmental background and experience to find beneficial uses for Metro Vancouver’s residuals produced from their different wastewater treatment plants and drinking water treatment plant.

Kristin Buhr Photo 2020

Kristin Buhr

February 22, 1:00 – 2:00 pm | Promoting Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace

Dr. Kristin Buhr is a Registered Psychologist and Director at the North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic ( She specializes in the evidence-based treatment of anxiety and mood problems in adolescents and adults, and regularly provides educational workshops on mental health issues. Dr. Buhr is a lead consultant for Anxiety Canada, where she has developed numerous self-help resources for adults, parents, children and teens coping with anxiety problems, including My Anxiety Plan (MAP), an on-line anxiety management course, and MindShift CBT, a comprehensive anxiety management app. She is also the co-author of The Worry Workbook: CBT Skills to Overcome Worry and Anxiety by Facing the Fear of Uncertainty.

Lauren Sim 2

Lauren Sim

February 23, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Panel: The Evoltuion of Equitable Community Spaces and Gardens

Lauren grew up in Surrey, and currently resides in Langley, BC. She is currently a Community Services Coordinator with the City of Surrey Parks Division. Lauren began building her career with the City of Surrey in 2002 within Recreation. Working extensively in youth and community development for 20 years, she transferred her passion for community over to Park Partnerships and Landscape Operations in 2019. Lauren has been boots-on-the-ground working with Community Gardens to better understand best practice and the level of support needed in various communities across Surrey. She holds a bachelors degree in General Studies with two minors; Sociology and Communications Studies, which have served her very well in her new role with community gardens.

 Magnus Sinclair

Magnus Sinclair

Wednesday, February 23, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Panel: The Evolution of Equitable Community Spaces and Gardens

Magnus Sinclair is the Coordinator of Parks Programs for the City of Richmond where he works to connect residents and community groups with the parks and open spaces throughout Richmond. Through his work he has had the opportunity to collaborate with community partners, non-profit organizations, volunteers, businesses and other stakeholders to offer innovative and creative programs to the public. He has been involved in a number of projects including the development of community gardens, the establishment of food hubs, and the integration of virtual play into park space and has also coordinated major park openings, and worked to develop a number of policies which provide community support and access to parks and open spaces across Richmond.

Mandy Hadfield

Mandy Hadfield

February 23, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Panel: The Evoltuion of Equitable Community Spaces and Gardens

Mandy lives in Surrey, BC and is currently a Park Operations Coordinator with the City of Surrey and has worked in the Parks & Recreation industry for 24 years. She has a degree in Human Kinetics and Recreation as well as a diploma in Recreation, Facilities Management. For the last six years, Mandy’s focus has been on community development and engagement focusing on volunteer opportunities, community gardens, local events, and park programming. Mandy has a strong connection to the Surrey community and through her work, enjoys the opportunity to positively impact the lives of people locally.

Mike Redpath

Mike Redpath

February 24, 11:45  12:45 pm | Managing Park Visitor Capacity in Parks Serving the Metro Vancouver Area

Mike has a passion for the outdoors and has had the privilege to work with many others to advance parks initiatives from concept to reality. Mike worked with the City of Richmond, British Columbia for 27 years, leading an award-winning team of Parks professionals that planned, developed and protected parks and open spaces and natural areas.

Mike is currently the Director of Regional Parks for Metro Vancouver with a mandate to protect the Regional Park system and connect the region's 2.7 million residents across 23 municipalities to it. Mike is a current Director on the BCRPA Board and also a liaison to the Pacific Parkland Foundation.

Starters Leafs

Nikki Higgs

February 22, 10:30 – 11:30 amInnovations in Operations and Park Activation

Nikki is a Park Operations Coordinator in the Parks Division – City of Surrey. She holds a Bachelors of Science from Simon Fraser University, and started with the City 13 years ago supporting community development through park programing and volunteer engagement. After several transitions within Parks, including managing contracted maintenance services, Nikki now utilizes her combined experiences to support park facility maintenance and security services, with a focus on community and sport user group needs.

Robert Gifford

Robert Gifford

• February 22, 1:00 – 2:00 pm | What's Holding You Back? Climate Change and the Dragons of Inaction

Robert was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. An environmental psychologist who is Professor of Psychology and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, he is also a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the International Association of Applied Psychology, and has received a Career Award from the Environmental Design Research Association. Professor Gifford is the author of about 150 refereed publications and book chapters and five editions of Environmental Psychology: Principles and Practice. He was also the editor of the book Research Methods for Environmental Psychology. Professor Gifford was the Chief Editor of the Journal of Environmental Psychology for 14 years, and has served as President of the Environmental Psychology division of the International Association of Applied Psychology, the American Psychological Association’s Population and Environment Division, and the Canadian Psychological Association’s environmental psychology section.

Stephanie Mak

Stephanie Mak

Wednesday, February 23, 10:30 – 11:30 am | Panel: The Evolution of Equitable Community Spaces and Gardens

Steph is the Urban Agriculture Coordinator and coordinates our Fruit Recovery Program, while supporting our Community Gardens and Community Seed Library programs. She graduated from UBC with a BA in Political Science and was driven to build equitable food systems. She has spent the last four years in the non-profit and private sectors while honing her organic farming skills on Salt Spring Island, Toronto, Japan, and the Okanagan.

Sylvia Grace Borda

Sylvia Grace Borda

February 24, 10:30 11:30 am | Community and Environmental Practices in Public Art

Sylvia is a speaker, published author, and teacher with more than a decade of applying art and design as positive agents for social change. Sylvia brings to centre stage her expertise and transformative ideas in advancing climate action. Sylvia has spoken at the British Council’s ‘Absorbing Modernity’ Venice Biennale, Scotland’s Venice Biennale events at Glasgow’s Lighthouse ‘Recasting Modernism seminar’, and Web 2.O conservation at International Union for the Congress of Nature (UN Forum 2016). Most recently she was awarded a Creative Climate Commission, British Council to lead a series of landscape arts projects to illustrate how climate arts can create significant environmental change. In Canada she presented a summary of these ideas at the national Adaptations Canada Conference (2020) speaking about the arts as a conduit to chronicle, reflect and action the cultural preservation of regional and natural environments. She is the founder of C.A.R.E. (Climate Arts for Resilient Environments) with her sister, Ann, as co-founder.

Cindy Cheng R

Zhaohua (Cindy) Cheng

February 23, 11:45 – 12:45 pm | Urban Forest Policies for Climate Resilience

Zhaohua is a PhD candidate in urban forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She has over five years of experience in community and youth engagement, climate change adaptation, student advising and engagement, and project management. Her PhD research focuses on exploring urban forest-based solutions for climate resilience and urban livability. Besides her PhD, she is a researcher at the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) and the coordinator of the Bachelor of Urban Forestry Program at UBC.

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