Staff and Consultants

Alyson Skinner, Executive Director
Alyson lives in Penticton and has been working with Stewardship in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys since 2005.  She is a Simon Fraser University graduate with a B.Sc. in Biology, concentration in Ecology. While her experience ranges from habitat enhancement, nature interpretation, program and grant management, her real passion is engaging local communities and residents in hands-on-projects. She currently is on the Executive Committee for the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program and the Steering Committee for the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program and Leadership Team for the Okanagan Wetland Strategy.  Alyson is also a volunteer co-leader of the BC Nature Kids Club where she shares her passion for nature with her two children.
Email: alyson [at]

Lia McKinnon, Stewardship Biologist
Lia joined the Stewardship Team in 2014. She has an eclectic background working with everything from native pollinators, to rattlesnakes, to burrowing owls. This a a background that fits in well with the OSSS since we work with a diverse group of species and habitats throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Lia also works with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society and is a Director on the Board for the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance.
Email: lia [at]

Valerie Blow, Stewardship Technician (South & Central Okanagan) 
Valerie has always cared deeply for natural spaces since growing up in a beautiful rural area of the Kootenays. She fell in love with the Okanagan Valley while completing her degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UBC's Okanagan campus. Valerie splits her time between Penticton and Osoyoos, where she is also the Restoration Coordinator for the Osoyoos Desert Society and works on grassland restoration, public outreach, and education.
Email valerie [at]

Jenny Freeman, Stewardship Technician (North Okanagan)
Jenny immigrated to Canada from South Africa, and has lived in the North Okanagan since 2007. Coming from a farming family, Jenny has lived and worked on export fruit farms for the last 20 years. She has a professional background in education, and environmental journalism. Jenny is passionate about supporting stewardship in our beautiful Okanagan valley. She is currently completing her MA in Education, and hopes to pursue a PhD. in Agroecology. You can contact Jenny by email at

Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, Stewardship Ecologist
Paula’s love for nature began when she was a child living in Mexico. She used to collect spiders with a Graduate student in the mountains behind her house.   Those unique moments inspired her to continue learning about and being in nature. She has a degree in ecology, and has studied Fish and Wildlife Technology and Permaculture Design. She’s been working with Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship since 2007. Her passions are for habitat enhancement, species at risk, and nature interpretation. She and her family live in Penticton. 

Jess (600x800)Jessica Hobden, Stewardship Biologist
Jess has been a stewardship biologist since 2011. She has been involved in several local programs including Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society. Jessica has really enjoyed working with so many great stewards and landowners.

Board of Directors

Sara Ashpole, Chair of the Board
Sara is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, St. Lawrence University, receiving both her undergraduate and masters degree in Zoology & Toxicology from the University of Guelph, ON.  Sara is currently completing her Ph.D. and advising graduate students exploring questions in the south Okanagan from the University of Waterloo, ON.  

Since 1999, Sara’s research has been collaborative with NGO, government, First Nation peoples, and private landowners examining cumulative impacts to amphibian, reptile, and turtle populations in the Great Lakes and the south Okanagan Valley, BC.  Projects include long term amphibian population monitoring, wetland restoration and rehabilitation, road ecology, alien vertebrate species mitigation, agricultural eco-toxicology, landowner stewardship, community outreach and education.

Mellhina Thibault, Secretary, Wildlife Habitat Steward
Mellhina believes that Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship can be a key player in facilitating this outcome for the environment and its partners. After retiring from 24 years in the post secondary system of BC Mellhina and her husband  purchased a small mixed fruit orchard in Osoyoos. Through a series of events and with the support of SOS Stewardship and Puddles for Peepers, Mellhina and her husband established a small habitat on our property for the Great Basin Spadefoot and the Tiger Salamander. She is thrilled with the opportunity to be affiliated with SOS and look forward to the continued success and educational aspects of maintaining a habitat and natural wildlife corridor on our property.

Carolina Restrepo-Tamayo, Treasurer
Carolina is currently the Coordinator for the Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystem Services and prior to that was the Coordinator for the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program. She has extensive experience in Colombia, the US, and Canada working in projects and organizations related to sustainability, environmental protection, and international marketing. She holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering and a Masters in international development with emphasis in agriculture from the University of California.

Patrick Allen, Director
Patrick’s love for the Okanagan and passion for maintaining the integrity of its ecosystems motivated him through two environmental management based master’s programs and years of work with local environmental non-profits and collaboration on regional conservation planning initiatives.   Patrick has served as coordinator for Environment Canada’s Reseau initiative to assist with sustainable planning in the Okanagan, coordinated the gathering and posting of habitat based mapping materials on the Community Mapping Network, and held roles as board member, coordinator and communications coordinator with the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program.  Currently Patrick is immersed in apples, transitioning an orchard to organic and exploring permaculture with his partner and children on their orchard in Vernon.  He is excited to be a part of the OSSS team and engage further in initiatives such as this that are actively implementing sustainability principles and achieving success in conserving, restoring and enhancing habitats in the region.

Jennifer Miles, Director
Jennifer Miles is the Water Sustainability Coordinator for the Regional District of North Okanagan.  She works with the public to help find ways to improve their water use efficiency and protect the watersheds that provide our drinking water.  In particular, Jennifer encourages residents and businesses to create landscapes adapted to the Okanagan climate, requiring little to no supplemental irrigation, which also support ecosystem functions and wildlife habitat.  While originally from Summerland, Jennifer has lived in Vernon for eight years, moving to the area following completion of her Master’s degree in Environmental Design from the University of Calgary.  She also holds a Bachelor of Science from Simon Fraser University. 

Hilary Sampson, Director

Hilary holds a B.Sc. (Ag), M.Sc. (Horticulture), and Ph.D. (Ecology). She is retired, having worked in the Okanagan in vegetable and tree fruit production, primarily advising and consulting.   Her  interests are sustainable or organic production, and soil ecology. Hilary hopes to help OSSS by understanding the interface between farm land and the natural environment, and by having worked with local farmers throughout her career.

Thank you to our partners and funders

Thank you to our partners and funders