Science Outreach Team
Senior Outreach Coordinator
Anna Irwin-Borg

Anna graduated from Dalhousie University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Sustainability. She has a passion for data analysis and mapping, which led her to complete a certificate in Geographic Information Science/Systems (GIS) during her time in university. Anna also loves trees and has experience with field work in the urban forest of Halifax. Anna likes to spend her free time enjoying live music, going on hikes with her dog, Newton, and eating good food. A love for learning and a curious nature was sparked in her at a young age, so Anna is excited for the opportunity to pass this enthusiasm on to kids at Nanaimo Science!

Outreach Coordinator
Amanda Friesen

Amanda graduated in 2021 with a major in biology and a minor in geography from Vancouver Island University. She is from Saskatoon but has lived most of her life in Nanaimo. Amanda has worked in a microbiology research lab and in marine wildlife conservation. She has a passion for environmental conservation and outdoor activities. In her spare time Amanda enjoys hiking, bird watching, paddle boarding, and spending time with her pets, including a chatty parrot and a giant corn snake! She is beyond excited to be working as part of the outreach team and educating curious minds about science.

Outreach Coordinator (Get BC Working)
Itzel Gonzalez Gomez

Originally from Mexico City, Itzel moved to Canada one year ago after Nanaimo stole her heart with its tranquility, greenery, and mesmerizing seaside charm.

As someone with a strong connection to the ocean, Itzel pursued her studies in Environmental Science (Baja California, Mexico), specializing in Marine Science. Itzel has taken part in outreach work where she collaborated with fishermen and advocated for wildlife conservation, and was also involved with research on climate change. She most recently worked as a Marine Mammal Observer and Passive Acoustic Monitoring Operator on a survey vessel where she spent months at sea, safeguarding marine creatures such as dolphins, turtles, and sharks.

Itzel is as active as she is adventurous – she enjoys swimming, diving, biking, hitting the gym, travel and time with her family! As a part of Nanaimo Science, Itzel is eager to ignite curiosity, share her love of science and the great outdoors, and work towards a future where science and exploration can thrive hand in hand.

Outreach Educator
Melissa Mrus

Melissa is a fourth year Education student at VIU with minors in Biology and Geography, with additional teachables in general science and social studies. Calling Ladysmith her home, Melissa enjoys spending her time outdoors looking for and identifying local plant and animal species. She also loves visiting new restaurants or cafes to try new foods, especially when sharing meals with family and friends. Melissa is passionate about the environment, biodiversity, sustainability, and the role people play within the environment. Melissa looks forward to becoming a teacher, and helping the next generations learn, love, and take care of the planet.

Executive Staff
Executive Director
Elaine Parker

Elaine graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Arts (English) in 2000. After completing graduate studies at the University of Alberta in Developmental Psychology and Curriculum Development, she found her passion working with non-profit societies, particularly with post-secondary students.

Elaine has held the position of Executive Director at the Alberta College & Technical Institute Student Executive Council; at the Graduate Students Association at the University of Alberta, and at the Graduate Student Society at Simon Fraser University.  Elaine joined Nanaimo Science as Executive Director in February 2020.

Board of Directors
Susan Shultz

Susan is owner & operator of Island Architectural Millwork Ltd., a commercial woodworking company based in Nanaimo. Susan has worked in woodworking for over 30 years, and has been responsible for designing & building sustainable LEED™ certified woodworking installations throughout North America. Susan is excited to use her creative abilities to build amazing exhibits that keep your kids (and hers) entertained and learning through hands on fun. Woodworking, design & construction have been a passion since she was 10 and she wants to see kids experience different avenues to find out what ignites their fire!

Vice Chair/Board Member
Wendy Simms

Wendy Simms has worked in the Biology Department at Vancouver Island University since 2000 and has co-curated the VIU Natural History Museum since 2008. She has a strong interest in science education and community outreach and volunteers with Science World’s Scientists and Innovators in the Schools program. She has a BSc in Ecology, an MSc in Wildlife Toxicology and is currently working on a doctorate degree in Education at the University of Calgary. Her research interest lies within the learning potential of citizen science, and the influence social networks have on environmental identity and behaviour. She has been helping develop the Nanaimo Science Citizen Science Varnish Clam Project.

Secretary/Board Member
Amy Tabata

Amy Tabata is a biologist who has worked at the Pacific Biological Station for Fisheries and Oceans Canada since 2000.  She spent many years in the Molecular Genetics group, using genetics to aid in research and applied science of fish, and now works on improving the understanding the ocean ecology of juvenile salmon.  Amy grew up exploring the beaches, and forests around Nanaimo, and now loves being on the water or amongst the trees with her own family. She values making science accessible to all, fostering curiosity and creativity, the importance of asking questions and the fun in figuring out how to find the answers.

Treasurer/Board Member
Cory Vanderhorst

Cory is a Chartered Professional Accountant and Partner with MNP LLP. He works with non-profit and public sector organizations from Victoria to Port Hardy, and takes pride in giving back to his Island community. Cory is also the past Board Chair of the Innovation Island Technology Association and a Board member for the Islands Agriculture Show Society. Cory grew up in Courtenay and currently lives in Nanoose Bay.

Board Member
Kristina Crowson

Kristina is the managing director and lead marketing strategist for Array Studios based in Nanaimo. As a natural born leader and communicator, she excels at boosting development and growth for businesses across all industries. With over 13 years of experience in solutions-based marketing, Kristina brings a strong creative background and perspective to the table. And as a Vancouver Island local and mom, she’s deeply involved and intimate with the surrounding community.

Board Member
Farbod Hagigi

Biography to come!

Board Member
Sarah Albery

Sarah has almost 20 years of experience in business and account management – focusing on helping organizations with strategic planning, organizational effectiveness, as well as technology strategy and implementations.
Having recently relocated to Nanaimo with her family, Sarah is keen contribute to local organizations and support programs that provide accessible opportunities to kids in the community.

Former Board Members
Co-Founder, Former President
Sue Durnin

During a rainy winter day on Vancouver Island, Sue dreamed of an educational, hands-on place where she could take her kids to help them better understand the world around them. From this dream, the roots of the Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society took hold. Sue has worked as an environmental consultant in British Columbia for over 15 years, with multiple industries important to this province including forestry and mining, and has first-hand knowledge on the many environmental issues in BC.

Co-Founder and Former Executive Director
Liz DeMattia

Liz is an ecologist with more than 15 years experience conducting ecological research and developing environmental outreach for community-based conservation programs. Liz first began developing outreach programs for the Centre for Environmental Education at Duke University, where she developed projects for inner city youth, undergraduates and adult education. As Program Dean at the School for Field Studies, Liz managed the educational and research programs as well as developed environmental community outreach programs for five international research centres. While in BC, Liz worked as a university instructor at UVIC and VI and served as the Executive Director of Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society, which she co-founded. She recently moved back to the east coast but is continuing to lend her support and considerable knowledge to Nanaimo Science as a board member.

Former Board Member/President
Tod Gilbert

Tod is a mechanical engineer and President at an innovative local air compressor manufacturing company (VMAC). He loves to share his passion for science and technology with anyone who will listen. Tod is a certified Professional Engineer and completed his Master’s degree in Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queen’s University in 2005, where he also managed the Formula SAE race car team. In 2014, he completed his Master of Business Administration from Royal Roads University.

Former Board Member
Mel Sheng

Mel graduated from UBC in 1978 with a BSc., and has over 30 years of experience working for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as a Resource Restoration Biologist. During his career, Mel has worked with the Salmon Enhancement Branch providing biological support to hatcheries, public involvement groups and Community Economic Develop Program hatcheries. Mel has been responsible for identify, designing and constructing habitat restoration projects like fishways, spawning channels, side-channels and water storage facilities etc. in B.C. for the last 31 years. His area of responsibility is currently Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Central Coast of B.C. In the past, he has have also provide habitat restoration support to the Upper Fraser, Thompson-Okanagan and Yukon.

Former Board Member
Aaryn Kay

Aaryn has been engaged in environmental education and sustainability demonstration for more than a decade. As the Director of Community Outreach at Duke’s Centre for Environmental Education, she applied her strong foundation in ecology and education to environmental education programmatic development, green event implementation, and educational curricula design for teachers, K-12 students, graduate students, and volunteers. She has also taught sustainable best practices to hundreds of land managers and volunteers, a graduate-level course in environmental education, high school environmental science and biology courses, and community-wide sustainability programs. Aaryn is currently a grants specialist in Boulder, CO.

Former Board Member
Bill Pennell

Bill Pennell has a PhD in biological oceanography from McGill University and has had a 30 year teaching career in the areas of fisheries, aquaculture, and marine sciences. He has also been active in developing fisheries and aquaculture programs and research facilities in BC and in several tropical countries, and he has worked extensively with First Nations communities in BC. He now divides his time among work at VIU (Research Associate with the Centre for Shellfish Research), private consulting, and photography.

Former Board Member
Joe Cristiano

Joe has 25 years’ experience in the cooperative system, with his career being primarily with Coastal Community Credit Union, and primarily in marketing. As Chief Community and Marketing Officer he leads a team that delivers advertising and promotions, communications, product development, marketing research and analysis, and community engagement programs. He achieved his Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master of Business Administration in Montreal. He is very active in the credit union system, including both provincial and national committees, and has been involved in a variety of local community groups over the years. Joe is excited to bring his experience in marketing, business, leadership, and governance to help Nanaimo Science be as successful as possible.

Former Board Member
Allison Chang

Allison completed her Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry degrees at the University of Waterloo. She is currently practicing with FYidoctors in Nanaimo.

Former Board Member
Sarah Dhillon
Nanaimo Science has been an integral part of the Dhillon family’s move to Nanaimo in 2017.  Having lived in a few different provinces and territories since the kids were small, the Dhillons are always thrilled to find engaging community programs and discovered Nanaimo Science through the Science in the Park program. 
As a Certified Financial Planner professional and a graduate of the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Commerce, Sarah has many years of experience in working with clients to achieve their financial goals. She has also actively volunteered to promote financial literacy in her community by running seminars for young families in Yellowknife and presenting programs for Junior Achievement BC within local Nanaimo high schools. 
Former Board Member
Lily Foster

Lily considers herself to be a social advocate, having spent the last decade volunteering with a Parent Advisory Council and working at non-profits to connect people from all walks of life. She is excited to next apply her life experience to help strengthen education programs at Nanaimo Science.

In another life, Lily had a career in public health doing HIV and hepatitis research; she holds a BSc in molecular biology and MSc in Public Health Epidemiology. Lily’s family includes a spouse who works at VIU and two boys in elementary and high school; they are relatively new to Nanaimo and taking every opportunity to explore all that island life has to offer.

Hey Parents!

Nanaimo Science offers a wide range of activities aimed at children from infancy to Grade 7.  Check out our school break camps, Pro-D day camps and workshops, and Homeschool supports!