Board of Directors
Our Board of Directors plays a vital role in the success of The Couchiching Conservancy
Together, they provide strategic direction and oversight on important issues and ensure that our work is on track and moving in the right direction. We are grateful to the entire Board, for all of their efforts and passion for the work that we do.
If you would like to get in touch with one of our Board Members, please contact Courtney Baker and she can re-direct your request.
President – Neil Gray
Neil has a B.Sc.(Univ of Guelph), M.Sc. (Warwick University, England), and Ph.D. (Univ of Western Ontario) in Biochemistry. He then went into Environmental Engineering; was an Ass. Prof. at University of Western Ontario.
After 5 years he shifted gears and went into industry, working on environmental projects (surveys, protocol development, remediation [air, land, groundwater and surface water]) for a Fortune 100 company in Canada, US and England. Throughout his industrial career (20 years) he maintained his academic connections, as an Adjunct Prof at Waterloo, Guelph, and Univ of Toronto.
For the last 9 years he has been leading a group of scientists for the Federal Government (CRA; Scientific Research and Experimental Development program for the Ontario Region); recently retired in November 2018. He has published/presented over 120 scientific papers and holds a number of patents, covering everything from bioremediation to wind turbine blade design.
He belongs to the Carden Field Naturalists, Couchiching Conservancy, Hamilton Naturalists, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Scottish Ornithology Club and the Archaeological Society of Ontario (presently serving as the Secretary for the Toronto Chapter).
Past President - Jamie Ross
Jamie Ross was a high school teacher for 30 years at Orillia District Vocational Institute (ODCVI) before retiring. He hold a biology degree from the University of Guelph and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto. An avid outdoorsman, Jamie enjoys canoeing, hiking, camping and skiing. He has volunteered for the Conservancy in various roles, working on the grassland restoration project on Bluebird Ranch, Passport to Nature and serving on a property monitoring team. He is also among the rugged few who have done the Carden Challenge on bicycle. Jamie says his proudest accomplishment is his daughter Liz McLelland, who served on the Conservancy board until 2015, when Jamie’s other proudest accomplishment, granddaughter Mary, came along.
Director – Lisa Neville
Lisa has been working with the federal government for 15 years, mainly as an aquatic biologist in various locations across the country, including British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. She studied marine biology at the University of Guelph and holds a post-graduate diploma in environmental science from Capilano University.
Passionate about environmental stewardship, Lisa immediately contacted the Conservancy to volunteer when she moved to the Severn area in 2012. She is the property leader for the Roehl Wetland Reserve, member of the T. C. Agnew Nature Reserve property team, teaches the science portion of the water quality monitoring course, and has been known to stuff an envelope or two.
Lisa enjoys tending her gardens and the 4100 tree seedlings planted at her property in Severn. She is especially excited when moose wander through, sandhill cranes visit the wetland next door, milk snakes sun themselves in her rock garden, and the whip-poor-wills’ calls wake her at 2:00 a.m.
Director – Kathy Hunt
Kathy is a freelance marketing communications specialist, happily semi-retired, following a career in public relations and marketing. She enjoyed the opportunities her freelance career provided, especially with not-for-profit and public sector organizations. Most recently she worked with Lakehead University during the opening and development of its new campus in Orillia.
She has been involved with the Couchiching Conservancy over the years, originally as a corporate member with her freelance business, KH Communications. She worked with the organization to help develop and produce the organization’s first newsletter, as well as promotional materials for special events and public awareness.
Kathy moved to Orillia with her family, husband Lance and three children, 30 years ago and loves the area, especially the opportunities for outdoor recreation. Her favourite pastime is exploring local trails, parks and waterways, preferably by canoe, kayak, rowboat, on skiis or by bicycle.
Always interested in promoting the benefits of the Orillia lifestyle, Kathy has volunteered with local festivals, the Orillia Community Development Corporation, the Terry Fox Run, and most recently as a member of the Games Organizing Committee for the 2018 Ontario Winter Games.
Director – Jane Bonsteel
Jane moved to Orillia 3 years ago and is mostly retired after a career in drinking water treatment; she is still involved in the Lake Ontario Source Water Protection Project for the Region of Peel. She volunteers with The Couchiching Conservancy as a water quality monitor and occasionally as an ambassador. She also participates in the Sundial Creek Working Group which is collaborating with the City to restore Orillia’s last cold water creek. Jane is a member of the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee and is active with Sustainable Orillia, Land and Water Sector.
Director – David A. Homer
For 25 years, David was the director of the Media Centre and cross-appointed to the Faculty of Fine Arts, teaching television production, at Toronto’s York University. During his academic tenure he also taught communications courses in the Faculties of Fine Arts and Education. When not in the classroom, David could be found in major television production facilities around North America producing and directing television documentaries for various charitable organizations. Prior to his retirement, David spent seven years in the challenging position of Assistant Vice-President (Business Operations) for the University. Upon retirement, David and his wife Bonnie, moved to their beloved property on Lake Dalrymple, just east of Orillia where he spends a great deal of his time. David, a past president of The Conservancy, served 9 years as a director.
Director – Janet Machan
Janet Machan was an elementary teacher for 30 years throughout Simcoe County. Since her
retirement in 2017, she has enjoyed work as an occasional librarian at Orillia Public Library's Family Department. She has always been a voracious reader and a patron of the arts. She and her husband, Gary, have enjoyed rural life in Oro Medonte where they've raised their two children, gardened and walked the trails. Janet and her family have been CC members for a number of years attending pie auctions, music nights and Annual General Meetings. Janet has loved the opportunity to participate in the Citizen Science program learning about species at risk and searching for whip-poor-wills on warm summer nights. She is also a volunteer member of the Passport to Nature team which gives her the opportunity to invite others to share in her love of nature.
Director – Dale Leadbeater
Dale A. Leadbeater, B. Sc., B. Ed., R.P. Bio., P. Biol., graduated from the University of Toronto, then
worked in the Botany Department where she administered the Green Plant Herbarium. A field
associate of the Royal Ontario Museum and life member of the Field Botanists of Ontario, she has
presented talks on many natural heritage topics, organized conferences and led outings as well as
teaching Ecological Land Classification. An enthusiastic supporter of Land Trusts, Dale has worked with The Couchiching Conservancy as an event leader, Advisory Council member and volunteer. Dale lives on a 200-acre Conservation Easement near Kirkfield.
Director – Bob Sullivan
Bob is a dentist who has practiced in Orillia for 30 years. As a member of the Conservancy for years, a past president and part of numerous teams and committees, his planning and management skills have been invaluable on the Board. Bob currently chairs the Heartwood Committee and serves on the Conservancy’s Investment Committee. He loves snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, canoeing, hiking and kayaking, and is a keen supporter of conserving land for future generations. He and his partner Wendy have three daughters and live in Severn Township.