Our Team:
Board of Directors

Warren Warttig

President

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Warren joined the MARS Board of Directors and began volunteering as a wildlife Caregiver in 2002, shortly after attending a MARS open house. By 2003 he became President of the Board and he hasn’t looked back since.

When he was in his teens, Warren started working in construction and forestry. Warren is a Registered Professional Biologist with the BC College of Applied Biology. He has a BSc in Biology and a Diploma in Forest Resources Management.

In 1999, Warren was presented the award for excellence in Coastal Forest Ecosystem Restoration, and in 2002 he accepted the BC Ministers Award for a society he helped found and manage based in Ucluelet. In 2011, he was granted the Bill Young Award for Excellence in Integrated Forest Resource Management, and in 2020, the Campbell River Mirror Animal Ambassador Local Hero Award.

Warren is also chair of the construction and maintenance committee for MARS and helps plan all sorts of projects from wetland restoration, to flight pens and mews.

Pearl McKenzie

Vice President

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After starting a community legal information and advocacy office in the early 1980s in North Vancouver, most of Pearl’s work life was dedicated to law reform activities to protect the rights of people. After a Snowy Owl led Pearl to MARS, she joined the board of directors in January 2006.

Growing up in a rural area, like most kids of her time, Pearl spent every possible moment outside. Just beyond the door was this fascinating and vibrant world of plants and forests filled with the sound of bird calls and insects buzzing, leaving her with a lifelong feeling of connectedness to nature and a need for wildness.

Pearl enjoys collaborating with the other volunteers in the MARS Visitor Centre to create similar “wild” adventures for today’s children and working at any task that keeps MARS running smoothly.

Paul Jackman

Treasurer

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Paul joined MARS in 2011, driven by his desire to be a part of a society that rescues and cares for animals. His wife Lynda had been involved with MARS for quite some time and her passion rubbed off on him. As treasurer, Paul uses his knowledge of accounting to carefully document all things financial. He is also a valued member of the special events committee, helping to raise much-needed funds to keep MARS running.

Jaewon Kim

Secretary

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Jae is a Comox Valley local. After spending several years working in the public sector, he is back in the Valley managing a business in waste management. He is finishing up his Bachelor’s Degree in Business, and volunteers as one of the caregivers in the MARS Wildlife Hospital. He joined the board in 2020 in order to provide a fresh outlook and insights from a business perspective. Within MARS, Jae serves as secretary for the board, and is a member of the personnel, caregiver, and technology committees.

Darlene Banerd

Director At Large

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Darlene has been with MARS since the spring of 2016. She is a retired registered nurse, currently volunteering as a wildlife caregiver at the MARS Wildlife Hospital.

Having been raised on a farm in Saskatchewan, it was instilled in her to respect and appreciate all living creatures (except grasshoppers!). Darlene feels that being part of the team at MARS has been most rewarding and in 2019 she joined the board of directors. Her role with the board is to represent the wildlife caregivers.

Lynda Hodgkinson

Director At Large

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Lynda has been an animal lover and rescuer as long as she can remember. She has been involved with MARS since 2000, when she was trained as a wildlife caregiver by MARS founder, Maj Birch. Since becoming both a member and a volunteer, she has learned much about wildlife and their habitat, how humans impact both, and what we can do to lessen the damage we cause.

As a member of the board of directors, Lynda has all aspects of MARS at heart, and as chair of the special events committee, she works with other committee members to find ways to raise the funds to carry on the day-to-day operation of our wildlife hospital. She is also administrator of the MARS Facebook page, where she does a fantastic job updating our followers and supporters on both patients and events at MARS!

Therisa Lowe

Director At Large

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Therisa’s first experience with MARS was many years ago when she was directed to the hospital by a friend for help with some ducklings that were unexpectedly in her care due to a reckless driver. Relieved that there was a refuge for these ducklings in need, and impressed with the kindness and skills of the volunteers, Therisa knew that one day she wanted to be able to give back to MARS. 

Being an avid proponent of animal rights and wildlife conservation, Therisa has always been passionate about nature and wildlife.  With 20 years of combined volunteer management experience and as a previous board member for multiple non-profit organizations, Therisa is thrilled to have the opportunity to serve with the MARS Board of Directors since 2019.

Ginny Simpson

Director At Large

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Ginny has been volunteering with MARS since 2019, and a member of the board of directors since 2020.

Having grown up in a large family, Ginny was often kicked outside to play along with her siblings and told not to come back until dinner was ready. Along the way she developed a love of the outdoors and all the beauty it held. It also helped that every orphaned or injured animal, whether domesticated or wild, would gravitate to her front door step, where her mom would care for them.

Once retired and back on the West Coast, becoming a MARS volunteer seemed like a natural fit. She can be found at MARS, guiding, providing virtual tours, or gathering information for the weekly Life on MARS hospital updates. Presently she is spending a lot of quality time with the albino crows, helping to prepare and train them to become ambassadors for MARS.

Jan Smith

Director At Large

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Jan is a self-declared nature nerd who began guiding at the MARS Visitor Centre in the fall of 2019. She has since joined the team working to restore the MARS property to safe, viable habitat. You’ll find her planting native species, building brush and rock piles for insects, frogs, snakes, and birds, and chatting with anyone who loves wildlife. Jan is a new board member as of 2020, and is currently training to be an ambassador bird handler.

John Turner

Director At Large

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John is a marine engineer by trade, and has a very interesting history, including working as a fisheries conservation officer and with the Coast Guard. After his retirement in 2007, his love of wild animals spurred him to begin volunteering as a wildlife caregiver, where he started out helping MARS founder Maj Birch care for the birds. Maj saw that John was adept at troubleshooting and fixing various household problems, so his focus quickly became repair and maintenance of the enclosures and wildlife hospital.

In 2009, John joined the board of directors, and when MARS moved to its new location in Merville in 2017, he took on the role of property caretaker, overseeing the security and maintenance of our property. On top of these duties, John continues to help out with construction projects, transports, and fundraising events, such as our annual MARS Open House and garage sales.

Staff

Gylaine Andersen

Manager of Wildlife Rehabilitation

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Gyl joined us as the manager of wildlife rehabilitation in early 2019. She oversees the rehabilitation program, including daily operations of the MARS Wildlife Hospital and the coordination and training of the rehab volunteers.

Gyl has a BSc in Animal Biology and a Diploma in Veterinary Technology. She is a Registered Veterinary Technician and is certified as a Wildlife Rehabilitator through the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Gyl has a strong background in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, including eight years at the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC, and brings additional skills developed while working in laboratory facilities, research, and animal hospitals in the Lower Mainland.

While Gyl adores all animals, she has a special place in her heart for the smaller creatures, such as songbirds and bats.

Kiersten Shyian

Assistant Manager of Wildlife Rehabilitation

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Kiersten has been a staff member at MARS since the spring of 2017. She relocated from Edmonton to the beautiful Comox Valley immediately after graduating from the University of Alberta.

Kiersten has a technical diploma in Biological Sciences – Renewable Resources from NAIT, a BSc in Environmental and Conservation Sciences, and a Certificate in Animal Care Aide from NIC. She has also completed many of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council courses and is currently working towards officially becoming a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator.

Kiersten loves animals of all kinds, but has a special interest in raptors, and is head of the Ambassador Program at MARS, with hawks and eagles being her favourites. She enjoys travelling, especially with the prospect of volunteering and visiting other wildlife rescue centres, including centres in BC, Alberta, Texas, and Costa Rica.

Diane Weir

Manager of the Visitor Centre

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Diane has been fortunate to have been involved with MARS for many years and in many roles–as a founding board member, a rescue assistant, a baby feeder, and laundry folder–to name a few. As MARS grew from recieving a few cases a year to hundreds, the need to educate the community has grown as well. Having gained many years of retail and tourism experience, the opportunity to manage the MARS Visitor Centre was a role Diane welcomed, and looks forward to doing for many years.

Laurie Ulm

Office Administrator and Volunteer Coordinator

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Laurie started volunteering with MARS as a wildlife caregiver in 2005. She has taken many courses related to wildlife rehabilitation and avian biology from Cornell University, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association. She has even helped out with special events, fundraising, and volunteer coordination.

In 2016, Laurie became a staff member in the role of office administrator and volunteer coordinator for special events, which she continues to this day. She has a great love of all things furry and feathered. Laurie runs a home-based boarding business for parrots, Too Crazy Birdy Hotel, and she fosters and rehomes parrots of all kinds!