My main focus is to strengthen Alberta caribou, wetland and forest management, as well as supporting AWA’s wilderness priorities in northeast Alberta. I have taken part in a range of multi-sector advisory groups for conservation of wildlife habitat, water and wetlands. I was a Director of the Alberta Water Council from 2007-2019. I enjoy working at the grassroots community level encouraging well-informed and empowered public participation.
Growing up in Calgary, I spent much of my time hiking, camping, and exploring Alberta’s wilderness. I developed a passion for protecting our environment which led me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a master’s degree in Ecology at the University of Calgary. My master’s research focused on assessing the impacts of anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions on tree growth in Alberta. I believe strongly that advocating for science-based policy is an important step towards building a sustainable future and ensuring the conservation of Alberta’s biodiversity and wild spaces.
My name is Phillip Meintzer, and I was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta – on the edge of Fish Creek Provincial Park, but I have spent a portion of my career working on the east and west coasts of Canada. I have a BSc in Zoology from the University of Calgary and an MSc in Marine Biology from Memorial University of Newfoundland, with my primary academic and professional focus being fisheries conservation. I have abiding interests in science – as the process by which we learn and validate new information about our universe; education – for all people, regardless of age, race, gender or wealth, as a means for reducing ignorance and superstition in our society; and empathy – as a solution for many of the intersectional crises we currently face including climate change, biodiversity loss, and wealth inequality. I believe that science and conservation efforts need to do a better job of centering the voices of people who have largely been marginalized throughout colonial history, to ensure that conservation goals and objectives are meeting the needs of all people in an equitable manner. My personal hobbies include spending time with my loved ones, photography, reading, writing, and running.
Raised in the Canadian prairies, my curiosity for the natural world led me to complete a BSc in Ecology at the University of Calgary and a MSc at the University of Toronto. My interests are focused primarily on how environmental change affects ecological communities, recently by looking at open field and grassland species. I am fascinated by the connections between species, their interactions and the environment, and the extensive consequences that can arise from small changes to ecosystems.
Christyann Olson, BN, MScA
Interim Executive Director
I’m passionate about our society’s responsibility to ensure the health and legacy of wilderness for generations to come. I take every possible opportunity to enjoy Alberta’s wilderness and share my enthusiasm with others. Although my roots are in the Crowsnest Pass, I have lived in and explored much of Alberta including many of its wild places by foot, canoe, and occasionally by horse. More than 25 years of administrative experience in senior management and leadership roles in health care has been an asset toward my position as Executive Director of the Alberta Wilderness Association. Throughout the past 21 years and indeed in my early years as a member of the association I have worked on many conservation and wilderness protection issues. Finding great diverse opportunities to help others learn by bringing sound science and reasoned argument to conservation initiatives in Alberta has been a major goal. Working cooperatively and collaboratively throughout Alberta with members, supporters, landowners, students, elected officials, civil servants, industry, scientists and colleagues from every sector is key to my daily work and achievements with AWA. Willmore Wilderness is an area we achieved protection for with hard fought efforts to inform and educate on the value of wilderness, true roadless wilderness. At times when all other avenues have been exhausted, we have gone to court and it has meant an Emergency Protection Order for Greater Sage-grouse that is truly making a difference and more recently a Critical Habitat Order for westslope cutthroat trout that recognizes the science and work of so many outstanding individuals, scientists, conservationists and stewards who know we must do more. I believe firmly that local groups, those that live in an area must take the lead on informing and making the case for conservation and long-term protection and we can help them achieve conservation goals. Everything I do is quite simply part of a greater good that so many individuals make possible. Our team at AWA has a shared vision for a safe and healthy environment and people who care enough to make a difference. I often say I don’t want to protect the environment as much as I want to create a world where the environment doesn’t need protecting. My work is far from done.
In this time of transition and stepping away from being the Executive Director, I am remaining with the team as a consultant for a short while.
Sean Nichols B.Sc.
My focus is on developing AWA’s outreach, public engagement and community programs, including the Adventures for Wilderness, talks and hikes, and more. I also work on developing AWA’s GIS and other mapping programs, and technology infrastructure. I come to Alberta initially from Vancouver, but by way of places the world over, from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula to the rainforests of Southeast Asia. In my travels I’ve seen the best of what this world’s environmental ecosystems can offer, and the worst of what happens when they are neglected and taken for granted. I fell in love with the grasslands of southern Alberta on a bicycle trip across the country when I was 19, and am particularly concerned with ensuring they remain intact for successive generations of Albertans to enjoy.
I come to the AWA with a background in arts administration, my previous job being with the Canadian Music Centre. A long-time AWA member, my family has a long history with the organization. I remember coming to the office in the ’80s with my father Cliff and am proud to now be able to bring my five year old daughter Karina with me to the AWA, still in the same beautiful old building and still with the same well-worn, creaky stairs. Here at the AWA it makes my heart glad to see the number of people who support the AWA and conservation in Alberta. I also guide and teach rock climbing at various places in Calgary and Canmore. In my spare time my family and I love spending time in the Alberta’s wild places, whether to climb, hike, canoe, backpack or ski. The Prairies hold a special place in my heart and nothing brings me more joy than the smell of warmed sagebrush, the song of a meadowlark and the flaming skies of a sunset over the grassland.
My name is Randi Ducharme, I am a born and raised Métis Calgarian, and I come to the AWA with an experienced accounting and bookkeeping background, and a diploma in Justice Studies. Growing up in an outgoing family we spent a lot of time travelling all over the world, but there was nothing we loved to explore more than home here in Alberta. Mountains, grasslands, wetlands, and deserts etc., we have such a beautiful province and I am honoured to be part of a team that is so passionate and dedicated to preserving our wilderness. Being a new first-time mom, my hope is for my son to be able to experience the wonders of Alberta, as well as his little ones when the time comes.
Frank Calder is a native of Edmonton where he attended school and university (Bachelor of Arts). He worked for the Alberta government until 1987, with his last seven years as head of the Alberta Public Affairs Bureau. He is a partner in the advertising and public relations firm of Calder Bateman. Frank has served on the boards of the Edmonton Opera, the Edmonton SPCA (President for two years) and others including the Citadel Theatre where he is currently the longest-serving board member. He has been honoured by the advertising community in Edmonton with its Fellowship Award for service to the community.
Jim grew up in Quebec and graduated from McGill University with a B.Sc. in 1975 and then from Queen’s University with a B.Ed. in 1976 where he focused on Outdoor Education. Jim also earned a Master’s Degree in Counselling from Antioch/New England University in 1983.
To start his career Jim worked for various Outward Bound programs and followed this with a career in mainstream social services in Calgary with Wood’s Homes, Salvation Army Children’s Village and Big Brothers & Big Sisters. In 1998 Jim received a Muttart Foundation Fellowship to write articles on Management of Non-Profit Organizations. In 2000 he worked for the Nature Conservancy of Canada and in January 2004 began the role of Manager, Western Canada Office for Queen’s University until 2013. He now does consulting with a variety of non-profit organizations.
Jim has two children, two “children-in-law”, and three wonderful grandchildren. They inspire him to ensure that they will always have the opportunity for the profound joy to be found in untrammeled Alberta Wilderness.
Clint has been practicing law in Calgary for 40 years and has extensive civil litigation experience where he has been involved in many precedent-setting cases in trial courts and appeal courts throughout Canada including the Supreme Court of Canada. He also has extensive mediation experience and regularly lectures in the field at Mount Royal University.
He resides in the Bragg Creek area where he has been involved in environmental and community activities since 1974.
Gail is an associate with Maxwell Realty and has called Edmonton home since 1961. She attended the University of Alberta and began her working career serving on many boards over the last 30 years. She is past President of the Realtors Community Foundation and has actively fundraised for many causes including AWA.
Gail and her husband have enjoyed a very active, outdoors life with their 5 children and wish for that to continue, in the future, for all Albertans.
Jamie graduated from the University of Calgary with a BSc majoring in Geography. For the past ten years she has worked at The City of Calgary. She is an active member of the social club at work, and in her free time she loves to travel, windsurf, mountain bike, cross-country ski and go indoor rock climbing.
Secretary / Treasurer
Chris grew up in the south of England where he hiked, cycled and fished in the British countryside. He moved to Calgary in the late seventies on a temporary assignment and, largely because of the access to Alberta’s wilderness, has lived there ever since. He is a retired accountant with more than 40 years of varied financial experience. Throughout his life he has been a keen hiker which has given him a very strong appreciation of the importance of wilderness and the need to protect it.
1st Vice President
Richard was born in Edmonton, Alberta. Richard was the recipient of the J. P. Crerar Scholarship from 1965 to 1973. He received the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Law from the University of Durham, England in 1977 and was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1978. In 1979 he received the degree of Master of Laws from the University of Alberta and was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1980. He is a partner of the firm Ackroyd LLP in Edmonton. He has practiced law in Alberta for over 37 years. In 2000 he was listed in The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory as a leading practitioner in the field of Environmental Law. In March 2007, he was listed as one of Canada’s Best Environmental Lawyers in the National Post’s Best Lawyers in Canada series. He has appeared in numerous hearings before various administrative tribunals. In these hearings, he has acted for landowners, NGOs and aboriginal groups who have had concerns about environmental impacts from oil & gas processing plants, wells and pipelines, oil sands developments, hazardous waste facilities, power plant applications and high-voltage transmission lines. He has also litigated a wide range of cases involving environmental issues. He has appeared before the Provincial Court of Alberta, the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories, the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, the Court of Appeal of Alberta, the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. He is a frequent speaker at legal education seminars devoted to environmental law issues. Richard joined the Board of Ecojustice in 2017. Richard devotes countless hours as a volunteer helping AWA defend Wild Alberta. In 2009 he received the Alberta Wilderness Association Wilderness Defenders Award. Richard has been a Board member of the Alberta Wilderness Association since 2000 and served as President from 2003 to 2007 and from 2011-2015.
Cliff is an avid naturalist and a professional biologist. After extensive experience with Alberta Parks he set up his own environmental consultancy in 1978 where he continues to represent landowners in regulatory processes and conduct field research on species at risk, environmentally significant areas, and wetlands. Canadians best know him for his love and knowledge of grassland and parkland ecosystems in Alberta. Cliff served on the AWA Board as a Director, first elected in 1981, and two stints as AWA President between 1991 and 2003. He currently serves on advisory or governing bodies of International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Forest Stewardship Council Canada, Great (formerly Northern) Plains Conservation Network, Milk River Management Society, National Grasslands Task Force, Transboundary Grassland Partnership, and the North America Regional Support Group for the International Year of Rangelands & Pastoralists. He has served on the boards of Nature Canada, Prairie Conservation Forum, Environmental Law Centre, Alberta Ecotrust, and Friends of the Oldman River. In addition to his grassland work, he has been heavily involved in northern ecosystem protection through his work as a member of the Standards Development Group of Forest Stewardship Council Canada as well as serving on the Alberta Caribou Committee, Wainwright Dunes Management Committee, Bistcho Lake Task Force, and the Hay-Zama Committee. He helped twin the Dalai Lake National Nature Reserve in Inner Mongolia with the Hay-Zama Wildland Park in Alberta. He was awarded the James B. Harkin Medal by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Douglas H. Pimlott Award by Nature Canada for his long service and dedication to nature protection. Cliff received the Alberta Wilderness Defenders Award in 2004.
Brian received his BA, LLB, and LLM from the University of Alberta. Brian practiced law in Edmonton then Calgary for eight years before taking on a full time position as the Director of Indigenous Leadership training programs at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. He has published on Indigenous issues such as treaties, economic development, leadership, governance and management. He is currently a PhD student in law and society at the University of Victoria and is teaching law at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law. Brian is Cree and a member of the Sucker Creek First Nation in north central Alberta, in Treaty 8 territory. For his community work, Brian received a traditional Blackfoot name from a Siksika Elder – Apahto’ Kii which means Pine as in pine tree.
Originally from Vancouver Island, Nathaniel moved to Alberta to pursue a degree in piano performance at the University of Lethbridge. After working in music for over a decade, he switched gears and is now in his final year of a law degree at the University of Calgary. Nathaniel hopes to pursue environmental law and is particularly interested in using his degree to protect species at risk.
He loves to explore the less popular areas of Alberta in the grasslands and foothills. Although he loves going for long hikes, he often doesn’t make it too far if there are any birds to be seen.
Nathaniel began volunteering at AWA in 2017. In that time, he has done everything from painting the office steps, tending to the garden, losing pounds of sweat dressed as the AWA mascot Smoky, and contributing his skills in social media to numerous AWA initiatives. He hopes to contribute his newly acquired legal skills whenever they’re needed.
Nathaniel also volunteers with the Weaselhead Preservation Society, Birds Canada, and Seeds of Diversity and is passionate about doing his part to protect Alberta’s wilderness.
Board Member Emeritus
Vivian Pharis grew up in Canada’s north, coming south in the 1960’s to attend the University of Calgary, gaining degrees in biology and education. After ten years of teaching high school, she studied four years at the Alberta College of Art. Vivian has been active with the AWA since its inception and has served on its board of directors since 1984, including seven years as president. She and her husband Dick have traveled through many of the world’s wilder places but always return to Alberta’s prairies and eastern slopes. They have roamed Alberta’s mountains for 40 years on foot and horseback, between the Montana boarder and the Kakwa, north of Willmore Wilderness Park. Vivian has worked tirelessly for more than 25 years to maintain the Bighorn Historic Trail for hikers and equestrian riders. She became a board member emeritus in 2015. Vivian was awarded AWA’s Wilderness Defenders Award in 2005.In 2015, she and two neighbours near Cochrane began the Big Hill Creek Preservation Society to study and protect the Big Hill Creek’s watershed. She remains an active part of this new conservation initiative and mentors staff, always mindful of the corporate history of AWA and the work done throughout Alberta.