Board of Directors

Colin Cassin, Chair

Colin has worked in environmental conservation at the community, regional and provincial levels for more than a decade. He completed his Master of Science degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto and his Bachelor of Science in Ecological Restoration at Trent University. Colin began volunteering with the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in 2010 as a Turtle Taxi Driver and Turtle Feeder and joined the OTCC Board of Directors in 2017.

Julia Carr Wilson, Treasurer

Julia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science, and has worked in finance for over 20 years, with experience ranging from Capital Markets Equity Research, Corporate Actions, and Fund Accounting, to Risk and Regulatory Compliance. Julia is currently working in Motion Pictures and Film, as a Scenic Artist. Julia is a keen scuba diver in the Great Lakes, with a passion for protecting both freshwater and marine environment ecosystems. Julia began supporting the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre as a Volunteer Fundraiser, and began the role of Treasurer in 2019.

Brennan Caverhill, Board Member

Brennan Caverhill is a teacher, biologist, and photographer. Born and raised in the Maritimes, he attended Acadia University for his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Conservation Biology, studying Nova Scotia’s endangered Blanding’s turtle. For over a decade he worked for universities, governments, and nonprofit organizations conducting research and engaging communities in biodiversity conservation. His past work for Parks Canada, the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, the Toronto Zoo (where he met Sue!), and the Royal Ontario Museum involved a blend of science, art, and education to promote the conservation of Canada’s Species at Risk. After attending the University of Toronto for his Education degree in 2011, Brennan became a teacher. He is currently teaching Grade 7 at Bishop Macdonell Elementary School in downtown Toronto, while also running small photography and tutoring businesses. He is honoured to be working again on behalf of turtles, and those who love them, on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.

Dr. Allan Donais, Board Member

Allan graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1994. He has been in clinical practice as a small animal veterinarian caring for dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and other small furry creatures ever since. As luck would have it, Allan was introduced to Dr. Carstairs at a veterinary conference where they discussed their mutual interests in veterinary medicine and wildlife protection. Allan attended one of Dr. Carstairs amazing workshops in 2019 to gain the skills required to become a first responder for injured turtles. Since that time, he has provided first aid to many injured turtles from his home until they can be transferred to the OTCC hospital.

Dr. Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux, Board Member

Marc describes himself as a wildlife biologist and reformed capital markets banker. His interests are in human-wildlife conflicts, carnivore behaviour in small reserves and population dynamics of wildlife in urban centres. He has field sites in Kenya (at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy), where he studies carnivore behaviour, prey traps, wildlife fencing, as well as issues arising in communities living on the borders of wildlife conservancies.

He is currently a contract faculty member at York University (Glendon College) where he teaches Introduction to Biology, Ecology, and Behavioural Ecology in French and/or English. He has also developed a new course called “La vie sauvage de Toronto”, an urban ecology course for non-science majors. He is active as an urban field biologist and works closely with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) where he studies turtle demographics in urban and created wetlands as well as the effects of persistent road mortality on turtle demographics.

Julia Phillips, Board Member

Julia is the Species at Risk Ecologist at Rouge National Urban Park, where her focus is managing ecological restoration programs in the park as well as developing projects to protect and recover the 36+ Species at Risk that live there. Prior to this she held the position of Resource Management Biologist at Rouge National Urban Park. Previous to this Julia was the Adopt-a-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme Coordinator at Toronto Zoo. While there, she delivered outreach presentations to over 200 different audiences, hosted a wide variety of conservation meetings and events at the Zoo and participated in the design and implementation of research projects to identify sites for turtle wetland restoration in the Rouge River and Grand River watersheds.

Julia graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology from Guelph University and a Master of Science degree from Trent University. She has worked as a biologist in both the private and public sector and has worked as a Species at Risk (SAR) biologist at the Ministry Natural Resources developing guidelines for best land management practices to protect and conserve SAR songbird populations.

Staff Members

Dr. Sue Carstairs, Executive & Medical Director

Sue graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1987 and completed a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife at the University of Guelph prior to this. Wildlife conservation has always been her passion, and her goal has always been to utilize her veterinary skills in a project that has direct conservation impact.  She worked for many years in private practice, and founded and ran her own hospital for a short time. She then began working for charities including Toronto Humane Society, and gradually narrowed her focus exclusively to wildlife, running the Earth Rangers wildlife hospital until its closure, and then working as a wildlife veterinarian at Toronto Wildlife Centre. Sue has also taught the wildlife course to veterinary technicians at Seneca College since 2005, along with teaching a full wildlife medicine course to veterinarians and technicians from 2006 to 2016.

One of her more recent awards was being named to the Order Of Ontario, the province’s highest honour! Dr. Carstairs is also a member of the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialty Group (TFTSG)*, and has received the J.R. Dymond Public Service Award, the Environmental Excellence Stewardship Award, the Silver Salamander award in recognition of her commitment to the conservation of Ontario’s turtles, and so much more!

Sue feels very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take on the role as Executive and Medical Director of the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre since 2009. The direct conservation impact, combined with the ability to fully utilize her veterinary skills, makes this role her dream job. Sue also feels privileged to work with an equally passionate team of professionals.

*The Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialty Group (TFTSG) is one of a large number of Specialist Groups and Task Forces that constitute the working network of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC). Membership is by invitation, and there are 322 members currently, across 54 nations. IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. It is organized into 6 commissions; one of which is the species survival commission. The TFTSG provides expertise and science-based recommendations with conservation relevance covering all species of freshwater and terrestrial turtles and tortoises. It is the recognized global authority and official IUCN Red List authority for the determination of global threat levels for these species.

Dr. Kristen Janke, Veterinarian

Dr. Kristen Janke is a small animal veterinarian with a lifelong love of reptiles. She spent her childhood flipping rocks in search of the scaly creatures hiding beneath, and continued that passion as a snake researcher early in her career. After spending many years as an outdoor educator and teacher, she became a veterinarian so she could devote her time to the well-being of animals. She discovered the OTCC as a veterinary student, and has spent time here each year since. Turtles are very special patients, and she has a particular fondness of the misunderstood snapping turtle. She loves the challenge of caring for each individual, and contributing to the conservation of wild populations with every successful release.

Kristen and her husband share their home with Thumper and Moe (2 saucy Siamese cats) and an old dog named Bug who loves to join in on hiking and paddling excursions throughout Ontario.

Dr. Janke has been helping out at OTCC for some time now, starting even before she was in vet school! She is going to be devoting more time to the turtles moving forward and we couldn’t be happier!

Dr. Chris Dutton, Veterinarian

Chris is a veterinarian who has specialized in zoo and wildlife medicine for 25 years. This has included positions as Head Veterinarian at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in Jersey, UK, as a Resident in Zoological Medicine at the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri, USA, and, for the last 17 years, as a veterinarian at the Toronto Zoo, culminating in being their Head of Veterinary Services. During this time he completed a Master of Science degree in Wild Animal Health at the London Zoo, and became a diplomat in both the European and American Colleges of Zoological Medicine. He has lectured to students, presented at international conferences, and published scientific papers and book chapters. In November 2019, he started his own Zoo and Wildlife Veterinary Consultancy company, and is currently working as an Avian & Exotic Animal Specialist Veterinarian at the Ontario Veterinary College, and as a Wildlife Veterinarian at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, where he is extremely proud to be making a positive contribution to the native turtle populations of Ontario; he feels that this is truly one of the most satisfying highlights of his long career.

Dr. Pauline Delnatte, Veterinarian

Dr. Pauline Delnatte is a veterinarian who has specialized in zoo, exotics, and wildlife medicine for 15 years. Pauline obtained her DVM degree in France, completed an internship in exotic pet medicine and bird of prey rehabilitation at the University of Montreal, then a residency in zoological medicine and pathology offered jointly by the University of Guelph and the Toronto Zoo. She worked at the University of Montreal for 2 years sharing her time between wildlife pathology and clinical activities at the Québec aquarium and the Granby Zoo. She then returned to Ontario and spent seven years as staff veterinarian at the Toronto Zoo, caring for a wide variety of species. She currently works for the Provincial Animal Welfare Services helping non-domestic species in need. She is a Diplomate of both the American and European Colleges of Zoological Medicine, and an adjunct faculty for the departments of Pathobiology and Clinical Studies at the University of Guelph. Pauline always had a soft spot for reptiles and a lifelong love for conservation and thus, in her spare time, she is delighted to work at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre to be part of the amazing team dedicated to help rehabilitating injured wild turtles and saving the world one turtle at a time!

Lisa Browning, Education Coordinator

Lisa has a Bachelor of Science degree from Trent University in Biology and Environmental Science, and an Ecosystem Management Technology diploma from Fleming College. While completing her undergraduate degree, Lisa was introduced to the world of turtles by volunteering at the OTCC as a cleaner. During her summers, she worked with Christina Davy’s research lab, where she searched for turtles in wetlands and monitored the sky for bats. She joined the OTCC field team in 2020, to track Blanding’s turtles for the headstart program, and was lucky enough to work with Wendy on the education program as well. During 2021, Lisa joined the Adopt-A-Pond program at the Toronto Zoo, where she monitored turtle and snake populations in the Rouge National Urban Park. Having returned to the OTCC in 2022 as Education Coordinator, Lisa feels very fortunate to have had amazing mentors along the way and is passionate about sharing her love for turtles with those she meets!

April DeJong, Fieldwork Coordinator

April grew up on a river, where she had the opportunity to witness Northern Map turtles nesting on her property and Common Snapping turtles swimming past her dock, thus her love for turtles blossomed. While attending Trent University in 2018, April began volunteering with the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) cleaning turtle enclosures. April was hired on as a field technician in 2019 with the OTCC, and this is the year she fell in love with the OTCC’s field site and all of the turtles it supports! In 2020 and 2021 April acted as field team lead, leading a team of 3 technicians at the OTCC’s field site for our long-term Blanding’s turtle study. As of 2022 April’s title is Research Coordinator, where her main role is to oversee the field program and compile data for the OTCN.

Justine Hewitt, RVT

Justine joined the Turtle Team in January of 2022. She became smitten with turtles while working at a veterinary hospital that acted as a First Responder to OTCC. When we advertised for a full time technician, she knew this was for her! Justine brings a wealth of experience, and always has a smile on her face. Justine had the happy news in 2022 that she was expecting her first child, and left for a parental leave in the spring of 2023, but we look forward to seeing her back in 2024! Justine lives on a working farm some distance from OTCC, so is always kept very busy!

Jess Holdcroft, Administrator

Jess brought an injured turtle to the OTCC in 2019, was inspired by the work being done, and never left! She first joined as a volunteer feeder and turtle taxi driver and then became the Office Administrator in May 2020. Growing up, Jess could be found exploring the lakes and forests around Peterborough. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Queens University. She began her career as as an exhibit developer at Science North, where she developed a passion for Science Communication. More recently she started a technology company along with her fiancée, where she learned the administrative side of running a business. As the Administrator at OTCC, Jess enjoys combining her varied experiences – keeping things organized behind the scenes, using technology to keep things running smoothly, and communicating with the public about turtles and their conservation.

Jess is passionate about turtles, conservation, and all things wildlife. She is thrilled to work alongside this amazing team and to contribute to the meaningful work done here at the OTCC.

Tracey Murfin, Grant Manager

Tracey has over 35 years of experience working in not-for-profit organizations specifically Children’s Mental Health. She has held both front-line and management positions and brings many skills specific to writing and developing programs, which makes her a good fit for the Grant Manager position. Tracey received a Social Service Worker Diploma from Fleming and attended the BA Social Development Studies Program through the University of Waterloo. Her passion for nature and photography has provided her with many hours of pleasure watching and photographing snapping turtles hatch near the family cottage. When she retired recently, her first task was to volunteer feeding turtles at OTCC. This has led her to the Grant Manager position.

Kate O’Day, Hotline Coordinator

Kate has held a variety of roles at OTCC, from volunteer to summer student, to (almost) full time employee. Kate was a student when she first started at OTCC, and juggled a student schedule as well as OTCC work. Her main role has evolved over the years, and her chief task now is as hotline coordinator. She trains and oversees the summer hotline staff, as well. This job is probably the most challenging at OTCC, since it involves organizing all the admissions and releases. This is no small feat, since we admit about 2,000 turtles a year, and release about 3,000! That’s a lot of organizing, and a LOT of phone calls! In the off-season, Kate ensures that all the admission records are entered, and helps with data entry as well as helping wherever needed.

Joanne O’Heron, Membership Coordinator

Joanne graduated from St. Lawrence College’s Veterinary Technician Program in 1987 and worked for Agriculture Canada for a number of years before deciding to dedicate her time to raising a family. In 2010, Joanne brought an injured painted turtle to the centre and immediately knew she wanted to be a part of this amazing organization. She began to volunteer with turtle care and feeding, became a turtle taxi driver, assisted with outreach and educational events and became OTCC’s Membership Coordinator. In 2017 Joanne began working at the centre part time as an Administrator.  When Joanne is not at the centre, she operates a small cleaning/home maintenance business and is a volunteer firefighter.

Isa Prophet, Volunteer Coordinator

Isa is an enthusiastic and dedicated conservationist and environmentalist. She has always had a love for wildlife and in particular reptiles and amphibians. When she isn’t at the centre she is usually out enjoying all that Ontario’s lakes and trails have to offer. Isa went to Fleming College where she obtained her Early Childhood Education diploma and then Trent University for her Bachelors of Science with Honours in Biology. She is an avid volunteer herself, dedicating her time to a number of worthy causes including the Canadian Herpetological Society, Kawartha Land Trust, and Elder Dog Canada. She also participates in Durham Colleges Animal Care Program Advisory Committee. She started as a volunteer for the OTCC as a turtle taxi driver, then turtle care in 2018. In 2019 she took on a role as Education Liaison and that transitioned into becoming  Volunteer Coordinator. Working so closely with the volunteers and getting to know them is one of her favorite parts of the position. The other is being so closely involved with every facet of the work we do! From education, social media, fundraising, placements, data, and so much more – every day is different! Meeting so many like-minded individuals who are passionate about turtles and their conservation is a fulfilling and uplifting experience that she loves to share with others!

Becca Withers, RVT

Rebecca (Becca) has a very long history with OTCC, dating right back to 2009! Becca was the very first veterinary technician who helped OTCC, back before we had the funds to pay for any staff! Becca was such a help and came in every day to do treatments for an entire season – as a volunteer! Sadly, she did eventually have to leave to go to a paid position.  Fast forward to 2023 and her path crossed again with Dr. Sue Carstairs, and they were able to catch up. At the time, we were looking to hire another veterinary technician, and Dr. Carstairs invited her to apply…and that is how Becca came to be a valued member of the OTCC team once more! A wonderful ‘full circle’ story. Outside of turtles, Becca’s passions are many, including being a very talented artist.

2023 Summer Staff

Animal Care Technicians

Ashley Wilkes, Jessica Shrubb, Julia Derue, Teah Wilkes

Education Assistants

Tetra Maclean, Kelsey Scott

Field Technicians

Ayanna Cane, Jenna Wilson, Sofia Esquivel

Hotline Coordinators

Madeline Sauve, Selena Kirkland

Veterinary Technicians

Chennal Wiedemann, Kaitlin Arana-Belo, Kyra McKenzie

Seasonal Staff

Britney Krzeminski, RVT

Britney graduated with High Honours from the Veterinary Technician program at Seneca College in 2015, and became a Registered Veterinary Technician shortly after. Prior to this, she achieved an Honours Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Animal Biology from the University of Guelph in 2013. Britney has worked for the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre since 2014, when she was hired on as a student veterinary technician. From her first days at the center Britney was hooked. Britney’s favorite parts of her job are seeing turtles that she has helped to care for be returned to the wild, as well as seeing the eggs incubated at the center hatch into adorable babies. In addition to working at OTCC, Britney is a full-time RVT at Omemee Veterinary Hospital. Britney has always had a passion for all types of animals, largely thanks to her upbringing on a 100 acre farm near Norwood Ontario, where the household always had a wide variety of pets. Britney currently shares her home with her husband Peter as well as their two cats, Charlotte and Marcus.

Eva Lehvonen, RVT

Eva graduated from the Veterinary Technician program with Honours from Seneca College in 2009. She also completed the Advanced Wildlife Technician course and was inspired to learn more about wildlife conservation and in particular, turtle medicine. She has 7 years of experience working with a wide variety of research animals including rodents, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Eva has worked as a Registered Veterinary Technician in a small animal hospital since 2010. Being raised in the Peterborough area, it was a dream to complete her educational placement at the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre. Taught by Dr. Carstairs, Eva has been providing veterinary treatment to turtle patients since 2009. From cleaning tanks to nursing injured turtles, working alongside other dedicated staff, caring for hatchlings and ultimately rehabilitating turtles for return to the wild, she has fully enjoyed being a part of every turtle season. Eva feels very lucky to be able to positively impact the Ontario turtle population in such a rewarding environment.

Maureen Lilley, RVT

Maureen has been providing emergency care and medical treatments to Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre’s patients since 2009. A graduate from the Veterinary Technician Program at St. Lawrence College in 1999, it was during her time as a student that she fell in love with wildlife medicine after completing an internship at the New England Wildlife Center in Massachusetts. During her career in veterinary medicine, Maureen has worked with many species of animals – from cats and dogs to salamanders, turtles, owls, loons, and even lions and bears. With over ten years experience in wildlife medicine and rehabilitation, Maureen has worked and volunteered with many wildlife organizations such as Earth Rangers, Toronto Wildlife Centre, and Wildlife Preservation Canada. Maureen enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion for wildlife by lecturing at conferences designed for veterinary students and wildlife professionals; and she also regularly facilitates avian and reptile medicine workshops. Maureen feels very fortunate to work with such a dedicated team devoted to protecting Ontario’s turtle populations.