Our staff have different backgrounds but each have specialized training and post-secondary education in fields that include animal health, biology, geography, and environmental sciences. All of our staff share a common link - not only do they have a passion for wildlife but they have dedicated many hours volunteering in the field and they continue to work on professional development.
Kari Marks, BSc, MSc
Kari grew up in the small community of Saltair on Vancouver Island and graduated from the University of Victoria with a BSc in Geography. After travelling and working in Canada, Asia and Australia, she went on to complete an MSc at the University of Guelph, Ontario. Her thesis focused on tropical wetland ecology and her field research was conducted in Sulawesi, Indonesia. She then worked for 3 years as an environmental consultant based out of Hanoi, Vietnam for clients including a Swedish engineering firm, WWF and the Canadian Embassy. During this period her son was born. Upon return to Canada she and her family spent time travelling around British Columbia before moving to Stockholm, Sweden. During her 3 years in Sweden she took intensive language training, travelled to many parts of Europe, brought her daughter into the world, and continued to work part-time as an international environmental consultant on projects including national oil spill contingency plans for the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. Following this Kari and her family again returned to Canada and spent another year travelling North America before choosing the west coast as their home. Once the family was established in Saanich, Kari worked for 9 years as the Manager of the Institute for Coastal and Ocean Research at the University of Victoria before becoming the manager of BC SPCA Wild ARC. Kari maintains a passion for the natural environment and the variety of life that is found in all parts of the world, and throughout her career and her travels has been involved in many animal conservation projects.
Heather Schmitt, BA, MES
Assistant Manager (Part-time)
Heather grew up in North Saanich and graduated from the University of Victoria in 2006 with a degree in Philosophy and Environmental Studies, with a minor in English. She went on to earn a Master of Environmental Studies degree from Queen's University in 2008. Her area of study was place-based environmental politics, a topic that suited her passion for life on the West Coast. Heather's interest in animal welfare and wildlife rehabilitation is long-standing – she volunteered at Wild ARC over a decade ago as part of her high school career preparation program. After graduating from Queen's, Heather worked for two years at Toronto Wildlife Centre, staffing their busy Wildlife Hotline and working with members of the public to get help for sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals. Much as she enjoyed her time back East, the lure of the Island was strong. She moved back to Victoria in June of 2011, just in time to participate in the Wild ARC summer internship program. Heather joined Wild ARC's team as part-time Assistant Manager in February 2012.
Christina Carrieres, AHT
Senior Wildlife Rehabilitator
Christina's career with Wild ARC began as a volunteer participating in the 2005 Summer Internship Program, and she quickly became a part-time rehabilitator in 2006 to complement her studies - a Double Major in Biology and Environmental Studies (UVic). In 2008, Christina moved into a full-time role and has been Wild ARC’s Senior Wildlife Rehabilitator since 2009. She also continues to work part-time as an AHT at the Juan De Fuca Veterinary Clinic since 2008. Prior to her move to BC, she graduated from the College de Sherbrooke, QC in 2003 with an Animal Health Technologist degree and gained experience working with wildlife at the Nouveau Parc Aquarium de Quebec, training seals, polar bears and a walrus. Christina continues her professional learning by attending multiple wildlife conferences (NWRA, IWRC, WRNBC, WSC, MMS) and by taking training workshops such as the Oiled Wildlife First Responders Course, Oil Spill Response Tri-State Bird Rescue, Marine Mammal Naturalist Training, Noah’s Wish Disaster Response Training, IWRC Basic and Advanced Courses, and Chemical Immobilization of Animals. Christina also volunteers actively as board member of the Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Network of BC and Rocky Point Bird Observatory, and serves as a committee member of Oiled Wildlife Society of BC. She somehow also finds time to volunteer with Vets for Pets (veterinary services for low income families) and was a member of the Cecilia Ravine Advisory Committee (environmental restoration) for the city of Victoria in 2009-2010. For her tremendous efforts for wildlife, Christina was a WRNBC Bursary Award Recipient in 2008 and most recently was awarded a BC SPCA Staff Excellence Award in 2012.
Louise Dykslag, RAHT, Wildlife Technician
Louise began her career with wildlife in Alberta where she volunteered for the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation. In 2001, she completed the Registered Animal Health Technologist program at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology with honors. Louise honed her passion for helping injured wildlife working for the Medicine River Wildlife Centre that same year. In 2002, she moved to British Columbia where she gained experience working with orphaned grizzly bear cubs at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. Louise joined the Marmot Recovery Foundation in 2005, a captive breeding program for the Vancouver Island Marmot, where she dedicated six years to help save Canada’s most endangered mammal from extinction. During this time she also furthered her education at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, completing the Renewable Resources, Fish Wildlife and Recreation Technology Program in 2008. Louise has spent many hours volunteering at wildlife centres throughout Alberta and BC, and recently she received her Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation Certificate through the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council before joining Wild ARC in April 2011.
Troy Blondin, AHT
Troy’s comprehensive education and experience in wildlife rehabilitation and animal care has been building for 20 years. Before completing a Diploma in Animal Sciences and a Veterinarian Health Technologist Apprenticeship in his hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, Troy studied a variety of subjects from chemical engineering and biochemistry, to social work and psychology. As an Animal Health Technician, Troy began volunteering at the Toronto Wildlife Centre in 1992, which led to his position at the TWC as Release Program Coordinator over the next 2 years. A move to British Columbia led Troy to work for several years at the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC in Burnaby, as a Wildlife Care Technician and later as Team Leader. Troy then went on to spend 2 years as the Senior Rehabilitator at Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre on Saltspring Island, gaining valuable experience treating marine mammals before joining Wild ARC as Senior Wildlife Rehabilitator from 2004 to 2006. Taking a new direction, Troy began working in the roofing industry in late 2006 and completed the Red Seal certfication in Roofing and Damp waterproofing at RCABC in Langley in 2010. In summer 2012, Troy rejoined the Wild ARC team as full-time rehabilitator with a very useful new skill set!
Wildlife Rehabilitator (part-time)
Katie’s passion for wildlife began when she was very young, growing up in the country in northern Alberta, spending most of her time outside in the fields and forests. Her parents and grandfather are avid naturalists, inspiring Katie to understand the natural environment. She gained a deeper appreciation for wildlife when she started volunteering at Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society while attending University of Calgary, studying Zoology. She became a CWRS staff member and discovered she wanted to make wildlife rehabilitation a life-long career. To achieve this, Katie started her Animal Health Technologist degree at Olds College while continuing to work at both CWRS and Medicine River Wildlife Center in northern Alberta as the Animal Care Coordinator. After graduation, she worked with exotic animals to enhance her knowledge of avian and small mammal medicine. To enhance her triage and emergency response skills, she also worked as an ER tech at Western Veterinary Specialist and Emergency Center. Katie then trained as veterinary surgical nurse in both orthopedics and oncology and was on her way to becoming certified in this speciality, but then realized it was too far from her passion, working with wildlife. Katie worked as an RAHT in Nelson BC, gaining more experience with anesthesia and was a member of Jaltemba Animal Rescue in Mexico. All of this experience brought her closer to the goal of focusing on wildlife rehabilitation, which was achieved by joining Wild ARC in spring 2013. She plans to complete the IWRC Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation Certificate in the near future and continue her education in this field.
Wallis Moore Reid
Wildlife Rehabilitator (summer staff)
Wallis began her career with wildlife as a volunteer for the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC. In 2006, after joining the team at WRA as summer staff, she quickly realized her passion for rehabilitating wildlife could lead to a long and fulfilling relationship with the field. Wallis completed all offered International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council courses and continued to gain indispensable, practical experience caring for wildlife. In 2010, her curiosity lead her to travel across the United States in search of a more broad perspective on rehabilitation practices. The journey spanned over two seasons in which Wallis volunteered for several organisations, such as the Wildlife Center of Virginia and Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. In that time, she also completed an internship at International Bird Rescue Los Angeles, where her fascination for aquatic birds, especially pollution-affected individuals, was able to develop into skill she could bring back to BC. In spring 2013, Wallis was added to Wild ARC’s team of rehabilitators. Her interest in wildlife extends as a volunteer for the BC Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program and Hummingbird Monitoring Network, and as a committee member of the Oiled Wildlife Society of BC.
Heather Afford, BAg
Wildlife Rehabilitator (Casual)
Heather’s appreciation and love for wildlife began at a very early age, growing up on Saltspring Island and the Saanich Peninsula, as her family spent summers sailing and exploring along the coast. In 2004, after graduating from high school, Heather spent a summer volunteering at Wild ARC. Her experience as a volunteer stayed with her as she pursued a degree in Animal Biology and Welfare at the University of British Columbia, receiving a degree in Agroecology in April 2009. Heather gained valuable knowledge and skills volunteering at the Vancouver 24Hr Emergency Veterinary Clinic and working for the UBC Animal Welfare Program at the Dairy Education and Research Center in Agassiz, BC. Supported by a National Research Scholarship, Heather studied the effects of starter and forage allowance on rumination time in young dairy calves. Heather returned to Wild ARC in the summer of 2009 to participate in the 2 month internship program and was hired as a casual rehabilitator in August 2009. That same month Heather received her Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation Certificate and in June 2010 successfully completed her Registered Laboratory Animal Technician Certificate while working as a UVic Animal Health Technician. Heather now works at a local veterinary clinic while providing casual rehabilitator coverage.
Dana Lipka, Wildlife Technician
Wildlife Rehabilitator (Casual)
Dana's compassion for wildlife and environmental awareness developed while growing up in rural Alberta. She spent her childhood in rubber boots observing and identifying various species of invertebrates, mammals and songbirds. She went on to become a Biological Sciences Renewable Resources/Wildlife Technician from NAIT and completed her IWRC basic skills/animal necropsy certification. She has been a dedicated volunteer over the years working with Fish & Wildlife Agencies on amphibian monitoring projects during her summers, as well as for Medicine River Wildlife Centre, Valley Zoo and various vet clinics. Dana has worked as an Ecological Field Assistant for the University of Alberta doing productivity surveys of amphibians, waterfowl and songbirds on grazed and deferred wetlands. She became a Wildlife Rehabilitator at Medicine River Wildlife Centre for three years before settling down to start her family. She had opportunity to travel abroad to Europe before making Sooke her home in 2005. Dana became a volunteer and casual rehabilitator at Wild ARC in 2006. With a brief move away, she is back on the island with her family of three girls. Now with time to dedicate to our island wildlife, she hopes to broaden her experience learning and working alongside a great team of staff and volunteers at Wild ARC.
Meghan Helgesen, BSc
Wildlife Rehabilitator (Casual)
Born and raised on Southern Vancouver Island, Meghan developed a keen interest in animals at an early age growing up with many pets and livestock. Meghan graduated from Belmont Secondary School in 2005, and soon after began working at a veterinary hospital as a veterinary assistant, where she continues to work part-time. Seeking a career in veterinary medicine, Meghan attended the University of Victoria, and graduated with a science degree in June 2010 majoring in biology and anthropology. During her time at UVic, she spent her summers traveling through Western Europe and assisting in an archaeological study surveying burial cairns on Southern Vancouver Island. Meghan began volunteering at Wild ARC in 2009, where she became very interested in the uniqueness of wildlife care. She completed the summer internship program in the summer of 2010, and was hired as a Junior Wildlife Rehabilitator for the summer of 2011, becoming a casual Wildlife Rehabilitator in 2012.
Junior Wildlife Rehabilitator (Casual and summer staff)
Karra grew up on the Lower Mainland and moved to Victoria in 2009 to pursue a Biology degree at the University of Victoria. For the past four years, she has taken broad and balanced course work in sciences and arts, and will finish her program in spring 2013. Karra's first experience with Wild ARC was as a participant in the summer 2012 internship program. She transitioned quickly into her role as Junior Wildlife Rehabilitator in July 2012 as soon as the internship ended. In November 2012, she completed the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council's Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation course. Karra also works at a local veterinary clinic as a vet assistant, and is the co-president of the UVIC pre-veterinary club.
Sara Dubois, BSc, MSc
BC SPCA Manager of Wildlife Services
As manager of Wild ARC from 2004-2008, Sara continues to provide oversight to the facility but works in a provincial wildlife role at the BC SPCA head office in Vancouver. Sara works part-time for the BC SPCA while completing her PhD for January 2014 at the University of British Columbia’s Animal Welfare Program.
Melanie Gordon, BSc, RAHT - currently on maternity leave
Melanie grew up in Victoria and graduated from the University of Victoria in 2005 with a BSc in Biology. During the summer of 2000 she volunteered at Wild ARC and four years later participated in Wild ARC’s summer internship program. Since her experience as an intern, Melanie has progressed her knowledge of wild animal care by completing the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council Basic Skills and Wound Management courses as well as completing an oil spill training certificate with Tri-State Bird Rescue. Travelling abroad to Costa Rica, Thailand, Greece, Australia, and South Africa has provided Melanie with several opportunities to volunteer with various wild animal care organizations. Melanie joined the Wild ARC staff team in the summer of 2008 and continued in summer 2009 as a casual rehabilitator while enrolled in the Thompson Rivers University Animal Health Technology program in Kamloops, BC. Melanie received the Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC Bursary Award in early 2010, then graduated with top honours from Thompson Rivers in June and returned to Wild ARC as a full-time year-round staff member that same summer. To finish off her busy 2010 year Melanie took part in Vet Nurses in the Wild in South Africa. After a busy 2011 working at Wild ARC, Melanie will be on leave starting in summer 2012 to welcome her own new addition.