Alumni awards

 Julia Jennings and Lindsay Kathrens with Professor Eric Higgs

Julia Jennings and Lindsay Kathrens, 2016 award recipients, with Professor Eric Higgs

Hannah Roessler with Associate Professor Brian Starzomski

Hannah Roessler, 2016 award recipient, with Associate Professor Brian Starzomski

Divest UVic students with Assistant Professor James Rowe

Divest UVic, 2015 award recipients, with Assistant Professor James Rowe

Adam Connor with Professor Valentin Schaefer photo

Adam Connor, 2015 award recipient, with Assistant Professor Valentin Schaefer

Action Hero - This award recognizes an outstanding Environmental Studies student who is an agent of change. The recipient demonstrates an ability to share skills and strategies that empower people to engage in global challenges. This award is open to current Environmental Studies students (minor or major) or recent graduates (within one year).

Community Catalyst - This award recognizes an Environmental Studies student who demonstrates outstanding School and/or community involvement. The recipient is making communities more environmentally resilient through volunteer work, charitable service and leadership. This award is open to current Environmental Studies students (minor or major) or recent graduates (within one year).

Graduate Community Leader - This award recognizes an Environmental Studies graduate student who demonstrates outstanding leadership, engagement, and community spirit as part of the graduate student experience.  The recipient demonstrates a deep engagement with the ES graduate community and perhaps beyond, and shares time, ideas, and expertise to make graduate school a better, more comfortable, more creative, and more fun place for everyone. This award is open to graduate students in the first 3 years of their MA/MSc, or first 5 years of their PhD.

Restoration Catalyst - This award is given to a current RNS Diploma or Certificate student or recent graduate of the RNS Program who has done an ER390 Special Project that has made a major contribution to restoring habitat. Their outstanding work will have demonstrated their skills in conducting biophysical inventories, engaging communities and implementing realistic restoration goals.

Walking the Talk - This award recognizes an Environmental Studies alumnus who is a leader and inspiration to others through their commitment and contributions to socio-ecological transformation. The award is open to alumni of the Undergraduate, Graduate, and the Restoration of Natural Systems diploma or certificate programs.

Action Hero: Thomas Cinnamon

cinnamon action heroThomas Cinnamon is a dedicated community leader and volunteer. He has been involved in community projects fostering environmental and community resilience on multiple levels; such as, ecological restoration projects alongside the Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Ecological Restoration Volunteer Network. Work with the HAT includes restoration of habitat for endangered Western Painted Turtle and local bat populations. Thomas took part in ecological restoration on Galiano Island at the Trincomali Nature Sanctuary and participated in the first lower-island Park Warden conference held in Nanaimo, B.C. Thomas learned about the role and responsibilities of Park Wardens on the lower Island and shared his experiences from working as a park attendant with Parks Canada in the Pacific Rim Park.

At UVic Thomas has been involved in restoration projects with the Ecological Restoration Volunteer Network (ERVN) conducting invasive English ivy pulls in Cunningham Woods and planting Spring Gold and other plants at Fort Rodd Hill. He led a restoration event through a collaboration with ERVN and the UVic Parks Club in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to restore sand dune ecosystems.

Thomas has made meaningful connections and contributions to the gardening community at UVic and the broader community. In 2017 he enrolled in the ES Permaculture Design field course on Cortez Island honing collaborative learning, permaculture design, and building community-garden spaces skills. Thomas shared these skills by volunteering at the Campus Community Garden spearheading a garden-bed project by designing and building a raised garden bed constructed with recycled wood for gardeners in need of wheelchair accessible garden plots.

Thomas enrolled in the Red Fish School of Change field school paddling around the Gulf and San Juan Islands, camping and sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for this coast and its creatures with his colleagues and other community members in Solidarity for the Salish Sea. Thomas continues to demonstrate outstanding school and community involvement striving to make communities environmentally resilient through his leadership, volunteer work, and environmental stewardship.

Community Catalyst: Mike Graeme

graeme community catalystMike has been behind the Environmental Studies Student Association ESSA since January 2015. He has been involved with the planning of many of ESSA's events and activities and is integral with the Essence publication. Essence is a zine (and was a newspaper in the past) where students share art, poems, photography, and writing which address environmental and social issues, or support students in self care. It creates community and gives space for expression. Mike is the backbone, heart, and brain of Essence, which becomes apparent when you realize that Essence, normally published once a semester, did not come to fruition the semester that Mike was in Ecuador on exchange.

On top of a full course load (and volunteering with Community Cabbage 2-3 times a week!), he finds the time to put in hours of editing, emailing, laying out the newspaper or glueing together the zine, and encouraging people to submit their work as many are very shy about having their work published. For the past few years Mike has been the one to hold meetings, and even if no one else showed up he would work for many hours on his own. This year especially, Mike has stepped up to the plate as the driving force behind ESSA as a whole, and has been behind getting it rolling. Mike is extremely generous with his time and efforts and possesses an impressive work ethic.

Graduate Community Leader Award: Julie Fortin

forting graduate leaderJulie has demonstrated above and beyond leadership in the graduate student community at UVic since the beginning of her Master's program as both the Environmental Studies Student Representative, and as Director of Services on the executive board for the Graduate Student Council. She has been the head of the Graduate Students' Society (GSS) events committee which organizes fun activities for graduate students and their families such as trivia nights, bingo, field trips, ice cream days and countless other events with great success. Her commitment to the graduate student council and to the students in the School of Environmental Studies has provided grad students with opportunities they may have otherwise not known about; such as, information about travel grants available on campus, updates on GSS projects, i.e. the student-supervisor code of conduct and sexualized violence policy, and creating a fun and informational video for grad students about the services included in their athletics fee to name just a few.

Julie has also nearly single-handedly organized writing group for Group ENVI, the ES grad student events group, every week for the last two years. She is always a joy to have at events and brings a smile and lots of energy no matter what the activity. Her contributions have significantly improved student experiences and brings the ES community together.

Restoration Catalyst Award: Marlo Shaw

shaw restoration catalystMarlo Shaw conducted her ER390 project in 2016 Patagonia Steppe Restoration in Parque Patagonia, Chile. In Chile she worked with a small team of volunteers to actively restore grassland habitat in the Northern Patagonia region of Chile, handling livestock, removing fences, and removing invasive species.

In 2015 Marlo worked at the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary as a Restoration Technician and Volunteer Coordinator where she supervised volunteers to restore the grassland habitat and the wetlands around the lake. At the University of Victoria, Marlo has been active with sustainable food systems, promoting edible landscapes, complementing the work of Adam Huggins and Hyeone Park. She organized a talk on Fresh Ways to Imagine Food Security that featured local professionals, knowledge holders, and student groups. Marlo is passionate about ecological restoration and food security. She eagerly engages with local and international communities to promote ecologically sensitive and socially responsible food security. She is committed to working both at a policy level and on the ground, shovel in hand, side by side with community members. Marlo is an inspiration to her fellow students!

Walking the Talk Alumni Award: Oliver Brandes

brandes walk the talkOliver Brandes is a graduate of the Restoration of Natural Systems Program that he completed while also a student in the Faculty of Law.

Oliver has spent the past 15 years single handedly putting water sustainability on the environmental management and governance agenda in BC and Canada. He is the Director of the Water Sustainability Project at the Polis Project in the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria, and author of numerous publications on topics ranging from a 'soft path' for water use in urban areas to watershed governance with all levels of government and First Nations.

Oliver’s partnership approach to getting things done has resulted in an ecosystem-based focus in the new provincial Water Sustainability Act, a coalition of funders dedicated to funding water projects, and innovative pilot projects throughout BC. His legacy is also seen in the wide range of organizations who now employ former students and staff of the Water Sustainability Project. Usually way ahead of the provincial policy agenda, Oliver masterfully brings together thought leaders and change agents to place water at the centre of decision-making.

2017 Award Photos

Action Hero: Julia Jennings and Lindsay Kathrens

Julia Jennings (4th year BA ENVI/GEOG 2017) and Lindsay Kathrens (BA ENVI/GEOG 2016) exemplify so well the kind of change makers that we aspire to cultivate in our undergraduate program: thoughtful, creative, meticulous, persistent, and effective.

Over the last two years they have risen as leaders in protecting and restoring UVic campus ecosystems. Lindsay was a Coordinator of the Ecological Restoration Volunteer Network from 2015/16 and Julia was the previous Coordinator from 2014/15. They helped to provide a regular venue for students and community volunteers to manage invasive species. In Spring 2016, they helped develop a proposal (with Val Schaefer, Rhonda Rose (Facilities Management), and others) for the new Campus Sustainability Fund, which would build a concerted plan to tackle invasive species. The proposal was successful, and the two of them have worked during the summer on a comprehensive report due in October. They have also developed 10 area management plans that make it easier for instructors to use in their courses to engage students in the removal of invasive species during class time.

Both Lindsay and Julia were heavily involved in uvision, a project to provide a comprehensive student perspective on campus planning. They made critical and constructive interventions in the 2015 Campus Planning Process, and were involved in roundtable discussions, policy briefs, and mobilization of student engagement. They motivated and led a significant and critical report into proposals for relaxing development restrictions on Cunningham Woods. Their report was extensive, well-grounded, and ultimately successful in moderating incursions into this forest patch.

Some of you may have spotted Julia and Lindsay in their informal office at the Munchie Bar in SUB, where they held meetings and advanced the work of ecological stewardship. They were deeply enmeshed in organizations and activities that have made a significant difference in the life of UVic, and their vision and dedication to UVic ecosystems to create momentum for significant and long-lasting change.

Jennings and Kathrens

Community Catalyst: Community Cabbage - Jemma Sallay-Carrington and Keiro Blyth

In 2015 The University of Victoria Sustainability Project (UVSP) established an alternative UVic club called The Community Cabbage. The Cabbage aims to reduce food waste and provide education about the flaws in Canada’s food system. The mandate of the club is to create connections with grocery stores so edible food is donated to the Community Cabbage, rather than being thrown out. Last semester, the Cabbage began serving free food to an average of 100 students outside the MacLaurin Building most Fridays at lunch. The group’s 15 members would clean, prepare, and cook sorted food in their homes before bringing the meals to campus.

The club plans to prepare donated food in a similar fashion until a relationship with an on-campus kitchen is established. The Cabbage continues to serve vegan meals and inform people eating the food where the ingredients come from.

The club formed during UVic’s sixth Environmental Roundtable meeting on the basis of reducing food waste. The Cabbage was inspired by other Canadian universities with similar successful clubs.

The UVic Community Cabbage is a group dedicated to discussing food security and sovereignty issues through sharing food.

Sallay-Carrington Keiro Blyth

Restoration Catalyst Award: Jenny Hebb

jenny_hebbJenny Hebb conducted her ER390 project in 2015 - Portage Park Restoration Project Management Plan. She continued the work begun two years earlier by another Restoration Catalyst Award recipient, Amanda Evans. Her revised management plan expanded the understanding of the Garry Oak Ecosystem in Portage Park and developed a framework for public engagement and stewardship.

Jenny also lead the way for a number of students in the RNS Program to become involved in research into novel approaches for students to become involved in more advanced techniques. She was my Research Assistant for a project that explored the use of mites as indicators of a threshold where urban ecosystems have moved beyond ornamental landscapes and formed functioning communities. She also took over an experiment that explored the use of mycrorrhizae in remediating a site contaminated by ash from a municipal incinerator in Powell River.

Jenny helped other students with their ER390 projects. Recently she enabled Mattie Sawatzky conduct an impressive invasive species removal at Burnside Corner in View Royal, helping her design and conduct the work.

Walking the Talk Alumni Award: Hannah Roessler

Hannah Roessler, a recent graduate of the ES graduate program, has been a tireless promoter of local food systems, and engagement with them. She has worked with multiple First Nations to enhance their access to local foods, to work with them to develop programs to share this information, and to teach it herself. She has also been a popular lecturer in undergraduate ES courses including Ethnobotany and Permaculture, the latter of which she has developed and co-taught novel field courses on Cortes Island. She is active in teaching throughout Victoria and Vancouver island from the middle and high-school levels to university students and community members. Her energy and enthusiasm are boundless, and she does excellent work as a leader in the local food community and beyond.

Hannah Roessler

2016 Award Photos

Action Hero: Divest UVic (Christina Price, Malkolm Boothroyd, Ida Jorgenson, and Tristan Ryan)

Divest UVic has helped organize and win both a Faculty and Student resolution in support of fossil fuel divestment and putting our campus on the leading edge of this worldwide movement.  Many current students and recent graduates have played leadership roles in this campaign.
Students with Divest UVic approached ES faculty Jessica Dempsey and James Rowe and encouraged and supported them in organizing fellow faculty members.  ES faculty continue to learn a tremendous amount from the new generation of community organizers who populate the campaign.
There are limits to what can be taught in the classroom environment. The Divestment campaign is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about the dynamics of political change first-hand, processing these lessons together.  In this respect Divest UVic has helped support the kind of teaching we do in ES by offering up a real-world political laboratory for students to learn in.
No Canadian University has divested yet, but because of the tireless, astute, and fierce efforts of Divest UVic, our university may yet live up to its branding and take its position at the edge.

divest reps

Community Catalyst: Miranda Maslany

maslanyDuring Miranda’s remarkable undergraduate career at UVic (double major ES and Sociology, with a minor in Business), she was involved in almost every environmental organization on campus, including the UVic Sustainability Project, Common Energy, the Ecological Restoration Volunteer Network, is a founder of UVert, and major contributor to UVision (a vision for a more sustainable campus plan). She was Student Sustainability Champion in 2014, and ES Co-op Student of the Year in 2012.  She was a Communications Intern with the David Suzuki Foundation focused on the Blue Dot Tour, and is presently a Community Mapping Intern with UVic’s Community Mapping Collaboratory.  Miranda has made UVic a better place through building capacity in a variety of sustainability organizations and showing what deep volunteerism can achieve.

Restoration Catalyst: Adam Connor

connorAdam has worked with the Restoration Volunteer Network at the University of Victoria for several years and served as one of its Volunteer Coordinators, a Work Study position sponsored through the Restoration of Natural Systems Program.  When help was needed from students on numerous environmental projects and whenever someone wasn’t available, others often would say: “try Adam.” He has a reputation for being keen and eager to participate in restoration work.

Adam conducted his ER390 project in 2015. It was on the Elkhorn Slough Restoration Project: Restoration of endangered California grassland ecosystems in Moss Landing at the confluence of the Pajaro River and Monterey Bay. He partnered with the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. He worked with government and the Foundation balancing stakeholder engagement and a volunteer workforce to complete the replanting of native grass species at two unique sites.

Adam took several courses in the Diploma in Ecological Restoration. He shone in the ER338 Selected Topics course on Environmental Policy. He was very engaged with the material and saw that a better understanding of environmental policy would be useful in being more effective in his future projects.

Adam also took several field courses through the School of Environmental Studies, such as: the Biodiversity and Conservation of Coastal BC at the Hakai Beach Institute and Advanced Principles and Practices in Ecological Restoration at the Galiano Conservancy. Through the Restoration of Natural Systems Program he took the Restoration of Marine Ecosystems.

Adam recently became the Part-time Assistant for the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team Society. GOERT has recently undergone some major changes and it was clear that he was eager to help out and was ready to face the challenges needed to address for the future of the Society.

Adam supports and inspires his colleagues and the restoration community and exemplifies the spirit of the Restoration Catalyst Award.

Walk the Talk: Morris Lamrock

lamrock_broomMorris majored in Environmental Studies and Geography and during his last year he did a year-long directed studies researching issues and concerns of family farms in Canada as well the needs of small scale organic farmers in BC.  Out of his research came a number of significant initiatives:

1.  In 1989 Morris initiated the Stewards of Irreplaceable Land (SOIL).  This is an apprenticeship program that connects people wishing to go into organic farming with practical and hands-on learning experiences.  He ran this program for six years – it is now national in scope.

2. While he was studying at UVic he was given access to land just outside of Victoria in the Highlands.  This was the Kindwood Farm belonging to Bob and Nancy McMinn. Morris was to remain here for 12 years – time in which he put together a French intensive Biodynamic system of raised bed market gardens – linked in with the first organic group in Canada – the Islands Organic Producers Association. This was long before organics and permaculture became “cool”.

3. Morris the founder and driving force behind the creation of the Moss Street Market.  It is now in its 24th season with over 90 vendors.  It provides local and organic farm produce, local foods, handmade crafts, and artisan clothing – all from the Victoria region.

Morris currently resides in the Yukon where he has been immersed in conservation education connected with the Yukon Department of Environment.  His ongoing passion is about encouraging others to recognize our interdependence and learning to act and behave in accordance with this.

2015 Awards photos


Adam Connor, 2015 award recipient, with Assistant Professor Valentin Schaefer


Divest UVic members: Malkolm Boothroyd, Christina Price, Ida Jorgenson, and Tristan Ryan with Assistant Professor James Rowe


Morris Lamrock, 2015 award recipient, with Assistant Professor Duncan Taylor


Miranda Maslany, 2015 award recipient, with Professor Eric Higgs





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Action Hero - Kelsey Mech

alumi_mech_kelsye_2014Kelsey Mech recently graduated from UVic. In her final year she was Chairperson of the University of Victoria Students' Society. Kelsey was also an instrumental force behind Divest UVic which garnered over 2000 signatures in support of divestment and facilitated faculty organizing on the divestment issue. Based on Kelsey's successes at UVic she has been hired as the National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and is now helping support and coordinate the over 30 divestment campaigns being run across Canada, organizing conferences to mobilize youth to take action on climate change, and ensuring Canadian youth have a voice in international climate negotiations.

Kelsey's passion for environmentalism comes from her time spent traveling with her family on their sailboat around Mexico, Central and South America for much of her childhood. She was exposed to rampant environmental destruction, the effects of climate change, and the social injustices inherent to the climate crisis. Now, Kelsey is committed to organizing around climate justice and mobilizing youth to take action. She also serves on the Board of Directors of RAVEN, an organization dedicated to raising funds for First Nations litigation against resource extraction industry expansion on traditional territories.

Kelsey was recently nominated by The Starfish as a top 25 environmentalist under 25 (coming in at #5).

Community Catalyst - Peter Gibbs

alumni_gibbs_peter_2014Peter Gibbs maintains an A+ GPA while being a driving force behind Divest UVic, and also working as an organizer for the Dogwood Initiative. Peter is a lead organizer for Divest UVic and is a central reason why the student and faculty campaigns at UVic are leading campaigns across the country (featured in Maclean’s, Huffington Post, Tyee, Vancouver Observer). Peter has worked assiduously to share his organizing skills with his fellow students and with Faculty. Faculty organizers with UVic Faculty for Divestment have benefitted considerably from Peter's community organizing acumen. He is a leader among both students and faculty and is a true community leader.

Peter grew up in Victoria, and lived on campus as both of his parents were UVic students.  He spent 17 consecutive summers going to a summer camp in Sooke, Camp Thunderbird, from the age of 10 to 27 (the last ten years as a staff member). Camp was where he learned to love nature, playing in the forest, kayaking, hiking and catching newts from canoes. In his fourth year as a staff member, he got a job running environmental programs for the kids.

In his favourite activity, he would read them The Lorax by Dr. Seuss and ask what they thought it meant. Kids of all ages knew exactly what it meant, what our environmental problems were, and had lots of ideas on how to solve them. Peter realized that of all the things the kids said needed to be done, he wasn't doing most of them.

For the next couple of years he made many lifestyle changes to affect change, ultimately jumping into politics by volunteering for the Green party in a couple of elections and the 2009 BC electoral reform referendum. He put in hundreds of hours, but each effort was a spectacular failure: no change happened. He was very disheartened with electoral politics.  Five years later, he's found a sense of empowerment and solidarity working with community organizers across the province to stop oil tanker traffic expansion, and with a group of committed students, faculty and staff working to divest UVic of fossil fuels.  He feels now that the communities he is working with are equal to the challenges we are facing.

Restoration Catalyst - Amanda Evans

Amanda Evans conducted her ER390 project in 2013. It was an Ecological Restoration Plan for Portage Park: Recommendations for Restoration and Community Engagement. She earlier became involved with the Town of View Royal while organizing volunteers to remove invasive species, primarily Daphne Laurel, from Burnside Corners. As a result of that project she worked closely with Council. They were impressed with her work and suggested that she become involved with Portage Park. The Management Plan for Burnside Corners had been done by the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team with Amanda contributing while on a Co-op Work term.

Amanda undertook the initial development of the Portage Park Ecological Restoration Plan as an ER390 project. The report led to her being hired by the Town of View Royal as a part-time Volunteer Coordinator to implement the recommendations of her ER390 plan. Amanda subsequently undertook more restoration projects as part of her responsibilities.

Amanda was the first Volunteer Coordinator of the University of Victoria’s Restoration Volunteer Network, a Work Study position sponsored through the Restoration of Natural Systems Program. She mentored subsequent Volunteer Coordinators of the RVN and was very involved in engaging ES and RNS students in ecological restoration projects, both on campus and in the wider community. She was recently hired as the Program Manager for the recently formed Greater Victoria Green Team to restore habitat through environmental stewardship in the region.

Walk the Talk - Ashley Akins

Ashli Akins initiated the Mosqoy Foundation in Peru in 2006.  This humanitarian achievement is making its mark in the revitalization of Quechua communities and culture, both in terms of local employment opportunities as well as in the promotion and furthering of traditional indigenous textile skills and products. Linked to this Ms. Akins has also been able to set up an educational youth fund that sponsors upwards of 20 students each year to study at a technical institute in Cusco.  What Ashley Akins has accomplished has become an inspiration for many of our students.  Frequently she continues to be asked to speak to classes in the School of Environmental Studies on issues such as ethnoecology, indigenous human rights, fair-trade consumption and awareness, and Quechua cultural traditions and values. She has already spoken on these subjects to over 5000 university students across North America.

In 2009 Ms. Akins graduated from the University of Victoria with a B.A. This was with a double major in Latin American Studies and Environmental Studies with a minor in journalism and writing. She has twice been the recipient of the University of Victoria President Award (2007 and 2008) as well as winning both the Derrick and Gwen Mallard Scholarship for Environmental Protection and the Vicky Husband Scholarship for outstanding contributions in environmental volunteer work. She was also the recipient of the Langley Arts Council Creative Writing Scholarship in 2003 and wrote extensively for the University of Victoria Student Society newspaper and local Victoria journals and magazines.

More recently she was the recipient of the CFUW 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Commemorative Award as well as the UVic 50 Alumni Who Have Made a Difference Award.

Last year she was awarded a Master’s Degree in International Human Rights Law.  She will be embarking on a Ph.D. at UBC in Law and Anthropology under the supervision of Dr. Wade Davis.

2014 Awards photos

Kelsey Mech, 2014 award recipient, with Professor James Rowe

Kelsey Mech, 2014 award recipient, with Assistant Professor James Rowe

 Peter Gibbs, 2014 award recipient, with Professor Jessica Dempsey

Peter Gibbs, 2014 award recipient, with Assistant Professor Jessica Dempsey

 Amanda Evans, 2014 award recipient, with Professor Valentin Schaefer

Amanda Evans, 2014 award recipient, with Assistant Professor Valentin Schaefer

 Ashli Akins, 2014 award recipient, with Professor Duncan Taylor

Ashli Akins, 2014 award recipient, with Assistant Professor Duncan Taylor

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