You are here: Home » About Us » Advisory Council

Advisory Council

History and Purpose:  The Council was formed in 2016 to help achieve multiple goals. These include engaging experts in birds, plants, and other fauna and flora on the Conservancy’s behalf, boosting the Conservancy’s profile in the GTA, and helping further expand our profile in the region. Other important objectives are to help increase the Conservancy’s fundraising outreach and results with foundations and individuals, and to undertake selected research as appropriate to assist Conservancy initiatives.


Members of the Advisory Council (AC):

  • offer increased linkages and profile in the region, in the GTA, and in the university community;
  • help broaden and deepen the already considerable resources of the Conservancy from its staff, board, and volunteers; and
  • have already demonstrated significant benefits as the AC has boosted the following areas:
  • Outreach– AC members have
    • Added to or boosted the Conservancy’s relationships with universities, government and non-profit conservation entities and programs
    • Made the featured presentations at the fall 2017 and 2018 Toronto events
      • Identifying and explaining unique flora of the Alvar,
      • Highlighting birding in the Carden Alvar; and
      • Offering a landowner’s perspective on working with the Conservancy on an easement
  • Shared expertise and time as well as inspired Conservancy members’ engagement by leading Passport to Nature events in 2017 and 2018 to explore wilderness of the Carden Alvar and Washago region.
  • Fundraising – the AC
    • was instrumental in attracting:
      • $26,000 in renewed grants from two foundations in 2018
      • $150,000 from two foundations in 2017 in support of the Black River Wildlands acquisition
      • $16,000 from a new foundation supporter in the summer of 2017 and
      • Assisted in renewing $10,000 from a foundation in 2016;
    • Donated $25,000 in 2017 to the Black River Wildlands acquisition campaign; and
    • Provided boosts to fundraising in 2016 and 2018 with a $5,000 challenge gift if we added 25 new monthly donors – we successfully met these challenges!

Advisory Council Members:


James K. Stewart, Co-Chair

James (Jason) Stewart has been extensively involved in fundraising and other volunteer work for charities since the 1980s, and in helping conservation causes for many years. Jason is the former volunteer president of a major Canadian health research foundation and of a Canadian charity supporting conservation and community development of a leading wildlife conservancy in East Africa. He is a board member of Earth Rangers, the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), and The Youssef-Warren Foundation. In business, Jason has worked in financial markets, policy and research since the early 1980s.


Doug VartyDoug Varty, Co-Chair

Doug was an audit partner with KPMG and spent his 32+ year professional career with the firm in the GTA.  Giving back to the community has always been central to Doug’s personal and professional life and over the years he has been involved in many charities and NPO’s. He is currently a Board member (Ontario) of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Chairs their Leaders in Conservation program. New to the Couchiching area, Doug and his wife Charon have become supporters of the CC and have been involved in the Citizen Science program.  Doug is active in many capacities with his alma mater including sitting on the University of Toronto Mississauga Governing Council.  More locally he is on the Board of the Soldiers Memorial Hospital Foundation Board and the Audit and Finance Committee of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka.  In his spare time, he does freelance business and financial consulting.

Bob Sullivan

Robert Sullivan

Bob is a dentist who has practiced in Orillia for over 30 years. He has served on numerous boards and committees locally and provincially associated with his profession. Currently he is serving in his 10th year on the board of directors of the Conservancy and is a past president of the organization. He acts as chairman of the investment committee and also is a member of the past presidents Heartwood Fund committee. A keen interest in environmental awareness and land protection are the reason his planning and management skills have been invaluable on the Board. He and his wife Wendy are proud parents of 3 children and 5 grandchildren.




jean-ironJean Iron

Jean of Toronto was president of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) from 1995 to 2004 and editor of OFO News for 14 years. Jean received the Distinguished Ornithologist Award in 2016, and the Toronto Ornithological Club granted her Honorary Life Membership. She represented OFO on a team with The Nature Conservancy of Canada and The Couchiching Conservancy to purchase the Cameron and Windmill Ranches, leading to the establishment of Carden Alvar Provincial Park. A retired school principal, Jean now volunteers for Canadian Wildlife Service doing shorebird surveys on James Bay, and works as a guide for Quest Nature Tours.

Richard JohnstonDr. Richard Johnston

Wendy and Richard moved here in 1974  when he finished his specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology at McMaster. They fell in love immediately with the beautiful natural surroundings of North Simcoe and the beautiful people who have such a strong sense of community and volunteerism. Richard has served a number of Boards, some which were related to his profession and others related to the community including the Board of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as Board chair of St Paul’s United church. Richard feels that The Couchiching Conservancy has an outstanding reputation that it should rightly be very proud of and he is very pleased to be joining this very dedicated, knowledgeable group of community volunteers.

Ellen Larsen

Almost 30 years ago Ellen found a weekend property in Carden and subsequently became aware of the amazing geological and biological diversity she had stumbled into. Upon retirement from the University of Toronto, Ellen had been spending almost all her time in the country as an amateur naturalist, and has long supported the work of the Couchiching Conservancy.  In addition to the Carden Field Naturalists and Kawartha Field Naturalists she is also a member of the Brodie Club in Toronto.

Although her professional research was in the genetics, development and evolutionary biology of fruit flies, Ellen currently devotes most of her efforts to various aspects of local lichen biology and sex variation in the semi-aquatic Arrowhead plant.



Bill Swinimer

William(Bill) Swinimer moved to Orillia with his family in 1972 where he was just appointed manager of Scotiabank. After a career that included founding his own company, Uniplast Industries, Bill joined some Charitable Boards that included Soldiers Memorial Hospital for 3 years, The Hospital Foundation for 6 years and currently the Community Foundation of Orillia and area. Everyone in his family is, and always was, lovers of nature and supporters of the environment.  He and his wife  Sue have three children and 7 grandchildren.


DagmarDagmar Teubner

Dagmar brings a passion for conservation and the environment together with an important additional skills set to the AC. She adds to the already considerable expertise and experience of our membership. Dagmar provided the following when I asked for a brief description of her professional background and of her passion for conservation:

“While I live and breathe commercial real estate development, relying on my skills as a lawyer and CA/CPA, I have a continuous love for our wonderful planet and all that lives and grows upon it.  In my own small way, I do all that can be done to preserve and protect the marvels, big and small, that the Earth has to offer.”

Dale Leadbeater

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 lives on a 200-acre Conservation Easement near Kirkfield.


Michael Drescher

 Michael Drescher is Associate Professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. He holds an MSc from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands) and a PhD from the University of Wageningen (Netherlands). Trained in forest ecology and animal behaviour science, he now focuses much of his research on regional conservation planning and private land conservation. A native of Germany, he has spent many years in the Netherlands and South Africa before emigrating to Canada. Michael is concerned about the wise and sustainable use of natural resources, acknowledging the importance of economic, social and environmental dimensions. Michael has provided professional advice to various organizations including Carolinian Canada, the Hamilton Conservation Authority, the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and the Smart Prosperity Institute.