Our Team:
Board of Directors

Warren Warttig


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

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.

Jaewon Kim


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 treasurer for the board, and is a member of the personnel, caregiver, and technology committees.

Therisa Lowe


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.

Darlene Banerd

Director At Large

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.

Linda Hawk

Director At Large

Linda was raised on a farm and has always loved to spend time outdoors with the dogs and cats. After a career in the public service as a busy and stressed out executive, she and her partner came to the Comox Valley to retire and enjoy doing things they never had enough time for. For Linda, this included  finding a way to help animals – something she has been looking to do since a young age.

When she saw an Ambassador bird at one of the local events, she knew MARS might be a good fit. Linda has been a volunteer wildlife caregiver since January 2022 and also did some guiding with the Visitor Centre over the spring and summer. She joined the board of directors in October 2022. While the baby racoons have become her favourite wild furry critters, she is in awe of the raptors. With a name like “Hawk”, you kind of have to be!

Lynda Hodgkinson

Director At Large

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!

Paul Jackman

Director at Large

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. Paul served as our treasurer for many years, using 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.

Ginny Simpson

Director At Large

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.

John Turner

Director At Large

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.

David Volkert

Director At Large

Retired from a 44-year career as an international exploration geologist, David became involved in MARS when he brought an injured fawn to the wildlife hospital. After attending the 2019 AGM, David was hooked and immediately volunteered as a wildlife caregiver, enrolled in and completed the Ambassador Handling Program, worked with the trail maintenance and on-site construction groups and has now obtained his certification in Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation.

David joined the MARS board in June 2021, applying his professional, board and C-suite experience, and remains immersed in caregiving and raptor handling.


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.

Melissa Steinkey

Wildlife Rehabilitator

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Melissa joined MARS as a staff member in early 2022. She interned full-time for three months before returning to help as a summer assistant in 2021.

Melissa has a Bachelor’s of Arts and Science from the University of Lethbridge where she focused in Ecology and Animal Behaviour. Initially planning to work in conservation research, she fell in love with the rehabilitation process after her internship. This passion was then strengthened after two seasonal positions with both MARS and the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation. She is soon going to begin taking courses through the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council to become a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator. Melissa has also worked extensively to educate and raise public awareness about zebra and quagga mussels, wolf conservation, and wolfdog ownership.

While Melissa is fascinated by all species and their behaviours, she is most interested in mammals and raptors, especially owls.

Isabel Morales

Wildlife Rehabilitator

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Isabel has had a love for and interest in all animals for as long as she can remember. Thinking her dream of working in wildlife conservation was impossible, she started studying psychology while working as a mental health office administrative assistant. One day, Isabel decided to google wildlife volunteer opportunities in BC and fell in love with wildlife rehabilitation. She has volunteered, interned, and worked seasonal jobs in this field ever since, while pursuing a biology degree.

Isabel has completed training in wildlife rehabilitation, wound management, and project management for wildlife conservation, and she is currently working on a course for grant writing for wildlife conservation. She feels fortunate to have worked with amazing organizations such as the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC, Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, Critter Care Wildlife Society, Marine Mammal Rescue, Ocean Wise, Vancouver Aquarium, and Vancouver Orphaned Kitten Rescue.

Isabel is originally from Mexico, but has lived in Alberta, Ontario, and the Lower Mainland of BC since 2012. Her most recent move to Vancouver Island was to pursue her dream of working at the MARS Wildlife Hospital full-time. She loves all Canadian wildlife, but some of her favourites are any felines, raccoons, beavers, jays, owls, and eagles.

Allison Morrison

Visitor Centre Manager

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Allison has been active in the non-profit sector since moving to Courtenay in 2012. She has worked in coordination/ support roles at Community Justice, Habitat for Humanity and now MARS Wildlife Rescue. She has a BA (Hon) from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Certificate in Innovation Management from MIT.  

Before retiring, Allison acted as a board member for sustainability and technology-based groups in both academia and industry such as: The World Bank; BCIT’s Industry Advisory Committee; Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission; and both the Wildlife Rescue Association; and MARS Wildlife Rescue. Now semi-retired, Allison lives in Union Bay with her dogs, goldfish, and a tortoise. 

Laurie Ulm

Office Administrator

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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!

James MacKenzie

Volunteer & Education Coordinator

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Having moved to the Comox Valley from Vancouver in 2020, James joined MARS in late 2021 as a summer staff member.  Even before his job was half over, MARS decided to keep him on in a contract position as volunteer and education coordinator. James is relishing the opportunity to spend his weekends out in Merville, meeting the public as our lead guide, coordinating visits, and welcoming new volunteers.

A keen birder and photographer in his free time, James has loved the bounty of birds to be found in the beautiful Comox Valley. He cut his chops volunteering for Wild Research in the Lower Mainland, participating in bird banding and leading guided bird walks while finishing his BA in Anthropology at UBC. Working in an environment surrounded by such passionate, knowledgeable, and kind people has made James feel very welcome in his new job and home on the Island.