Dr. Aerin Jacob is a conservation scientist at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), a joint US-Canada non-profit organization working to connect and protect habitat so people and nature can thrive. Her research includes species at risk, ecology, land-use planning, and the role of science in law and policy. Aerin serves on the board of MakeWay and is active in science communication and policy engagement.
Shailyn Drukis lives in the Yukon Territory where she works as a fish and wildlife planner. Shailyn has a particular interest in the role that protected and conserved areas can play in protecting biodiversity, especially with respect to landscape connectivity. She is also passionate about intergenerational conservation policy and connecting people to nature and is one of the founders of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network – a network that she helped to establish through the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations. Shailyn recently wrapped up her term as a youth member of the Canadian Committee for IUCN Board of Directors, and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Youth Advisory Group. Now that she is out-ageing youth opportunities (though she still feels young at heart), she has been focusing her energy towards conservation efforts in the Yukon. Shailyn loves to be out trail running, hiking, and camping in the beautiful mountains that surround her.
Being a judge of the Starfish Canada Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 Program is actually one of the hardest things because every single person nominated is doing incredible work for our planet and their community. When I judge this program, I am left feeling inspired and hopeful for our planet’s future.
Kirsten is based in Whitehorse, Yukon where she is completing her PhD in arctic biogeography (Memorial University) and is a Conservation Biologist at Yukon Conservation Society. Kirsten has been researching in the North for the past 8 years and is passionate about conserving the large and important landscapes of the region. Kirsten completed her MSc at Wilfrid Laurier University and her BSc at University of Ottawa. Kirsten was Top 25 Winner in 2019. Outside of work, Kirsten can be found skiing, road biking, or reading a good book.
I think the Starfish has a really wonderful habit of helping young people who are new to the environmental movement find their own way of contributing. Whether it is through the volunteer opportunities that they offer, or through the platforms that they give to emerging young environmentalists and their homegrown efforts. The environmental “industry” in Canada is really small and so very quickly, everyone knows everyone or is connected to someone who knows you. Through the Starfish, I learn about and meet fresh faces and that is really exciting.
As a previous Top 25 Under 25 winner, the Starfish was the confidence booster that let me know that my way of connecting with the environment wasn’t wrong. I am often asked why I love nature so much. I am your stereotypical cityboy: I like concrete buildings, fashion is always on my mind when I am picking out my clothes, and I am constantly keeping my social media up-to-date. However, I have always loved the outdoors. I know every municipal park in Calgary and Montréal; I have visited Banff multiple times; I have hiked a large part of the Bruce Trail; and I have gone fishing in Yellowknife.
Regardless of this love for nature and the outdoors, when I was a teenager, I stopped going outside. I just never saw people who looked like me outdoors. I never saw black people outside portrayed in a positive light. It was always in documentaries and in depictions of African traditional living, but never in a recreational context. I never saw people who thought about the outdoors like me; young people who were into technology and found ways of having positive meaningful experiences outdoors while remaining connected. So I said to myself…. the outdoors and nature just aren’t for me. All of this changed when I went to university. As our final exam, one of my professors asked the class to change the world (That’s it…. No big deal). So I decided to take a leap of faith and really integrate who I was into this project. I organised an Adam and Eve themed photoshoot with a couple of friends where everyone was in a park using technology. I wanted to show a reintegration of humanity and nature in a modern-day context. I submitted these photos to the United Nations and a few weeks later, I found out the UN had published them on their website and that I had been named one of the Top 25 Environmentalists in Canada Under 25 by the Starfish. This recognition gave me the confidence to realise that my vision was not wrong, that my way of connecting with nature was not wrong, and that I too, belonged outdoors. I have since dedicated myself to making green spaces inviting for everyone.
The Top 25 under 25 award is like a push for the winners to realise that they are doing some good work and that they should continue to be active in environmental spaces, and the award has increased in notoriety where it will open some doors and present some interesting opportunities to do incredible things.
Julie Reimer is a PhD Candidate at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Her research explores marine spatial planning as a pathway to ocean conservation and sustainability goals. She has been involved with environmental organizations across Canada and recognized as a leader in organizational governance, evidence-based conservation advocacy, and science communication. She served as Chair of The Starfish Board of Directors from 2019-2021 and currently serves as President of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation (SCCF), Regional Director of SCCF-Atlantic Chapter, and represents Canada as All-Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassador.
The Top 25 Program creates a much-needed space to celebrate the efforts, passions, and achievements of young people who are leading change in Canada and beyond. It is an honour to judge this program and a privilege to learn about the incredible work being done by people who are dedicated to a healthier, more sustainable, and brighter future. What’s most exciting about the program is the diversity of initiatives! Each nominee has taken their own unique path to the issues they care about, and this program gives a small glimpse into the vast array of approaches to solving problem and creating change. It’s exciting!
Samia is an electrical engineer with demonstrated experience in sustainable energy, electricity grids, and engineering design. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, Samia is committed to bridging her two passions, sustainability and engineering, to integrate environmental stewardship into engineering projects. Samia is currently working for SaskPower, where she is designing transmission stations. Samia supports equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives in her community. She currently volunteers with two non-profit organizations and serves as a member of the IEEE PES HAC Project Design committee to assist youth in conducting humanitarian technology and sustainable development activities.”
Julie-Lynn is a Forest Conservation Specialist with the PEI Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action in the Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division. In this role, she coordinates the PEI Forested Landscape Priority Place for Species at Risk Initiative. Julie-Lynn has a BSc (2011) from St. Francis Xavier University and an MSc in Environment and Management (2020) from Royal Roads University. Outside of work and volunteering, Julie-Lynn is an artist, hiker, and iNaturalist enthusiast.
I am in the first year of a Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta. My research will examine nutritional quality of prey species of albacore tuna in the Northeast Pacific and provide data for a trait-based predictive foodweb model. I completed an interdisciplinary undergraduate honours degree in Environmental Biology at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). A highlight during my undergrad was attending the Korean Arctic Academy and sharing research on the role of the Cumberland Sound indigenous community in protecting Cumberland Sound beluga. Another was volunteering on biodiversity projects at a pre-congress and sharing my Antarctic and Arctic experiences with Students on Ice at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Congress in Hawaii. My USask lab research included assessing persistent effects on shorebirds of in ovo exposure to contamination and temperature stress, using GIS to identify opportunities for grain farmers to increase ecosystem services, and processing fish bone samples from Viking middens to monitor climate changes.
Sarah Newton (they/them) hails from Whitehorse Yukon and has spent their career working towards reconciliation and environmental protection primarily as the Lands Manager for Liard First Nation and in the non profit sector to advance indigenous tourism. Sarah is an avid paddler, hiker, boarder and outdoor enthusiast, who also enjoys processing land harvested foods and tanning moose hides.
Jason Pang (he/him/his) is currently a 3rd-year student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) studying his Bachelor of Science in Global Resource Systems. Within his studies, Jason specializes in corporate sustainability and the Pacific Rim region. He is passionate about educating new immigrants on climate-related issues such as energy conservation, waste diversion, and the science behind global warming. In 2018, Jason was named as one of Canada’s Top 25 Under 25 Environmentalists by The Starfish.
Currently, Jason is the AVP Sustainability for Alma Mater Society, the student union for UBC. He sits on various climate action-related committees such as UBC’s 2030 Climate Action Plan and the University Climate Emergency Fund. His main focus is to calculate the organization’s GHG Inventory and develop ways to create a 5-year GHG Reduction & Management Plan.
Infatuated with the oceans, the land and the environment, Curtis Onaczyszyn grew up in Woodstock, Ontario, and retains the charm of a small-town boy with dreams to change the world. He is both a dreamer and a doer, constantly swimming in a sea of ideas, seeking ways to bring them to life.
Curtis graduated with honors from Mohawk’s environment technician program.
While at Mohawk, Curtis was one of forty candidates selected out of 800 applicants for the Ocean Wise Ocean Bridge program. These experiences lead Curtis to co-founded Project Snorkel, a project aimed to improve watersheds and enhance the relationship between the local communities of Southwestern Ontario and their waterways via stewardship and outdoor recreation. From the results of Curtis’s work, he was awarded with Mohawk’s Alumni Award and has recently been nominated for the Colleges Ontario Premier Award. Curtis’s passion for the environment shines through as do his actions. He is one of Canada’s young leaders of today, ready to trailblaze into tomorrow.
In his spare time, he enjoys playing sports, caravaning and exploring the wonderful country he calls home.
Kirstin is a lawyer in the public sector with a strong background in public policy, species at risk conservation and community programming. She obtained her JD degree from the University of Windsor where she was the vice president of her Environmental Law Society and an active member of the Black Law Students Association. She also carries a Master in Environmental Studies from York University as well as a Honours Bachelors of Science with a major in Biology from McMaster University. She has worked and volunteered for many environmental not for profit organizations in Canada, and in Costa Rica, and is a past three time starfish Top 25 under 25 award winner. In her spare time you can find her trying out new recipes, swimming, and playing with her two cats
Sebastian Muermann is a Program Officer at the McCall MacBain Foundation in Montréal, where he works to deliver several scholarship and leadership development programs. He is a multi-disciplinary community organizer, originally from British Columbia, but now based in Québec.
Sebastian spent five years in the public service, across three federal departments, leading to a role as a Senior Economic Analyst in Strategic Policy at Global Affairs. Sebastian is an MPP graduate in the inaugural cohort of the Max Bell School at McGill University, and completed a bilingual Honours Degree in Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Ottawa as a Loran Scholar. He is passionate about global education, mentorship, and youth empowerment. He was a previous Vice-Curator of the Montreal Global Shapers Hub, with a focus on local/global projects in climate as well as equity and inclusion.
The Top25 program is a recognition of the young people in Canada that will undoubtedly have the most to tackle in the climate crisis. It is an ever-growing and evolving community, comprised of people who inspire, lead, and make change.
Mike Jensen (he/him) is an informal science educator living and working on Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation, also known as Winnipeg, Manitoba. For the past 25+ years, he has been developing and delivering educational programs to visitors of all ages at the Manitoba Museum, and loves sharing his passion for astronomy, the environment and science in general. In 2009, Mike began volunteering as a staff educator with Students On Ice. This organization is dedicated to bringing youth to the Arctic and Antarctic on ship-based expeditions to learn about environmental, social and political challenges facing those regions. To date, he has experienced 11 expeditions to the Arctic. In 2012, Mike was named a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Rebecca Clapperton Law
Rebecca Clapperton Law is an established leader in the community, crown agency and association sectors. Currently, she serves as Executive Director of NatureKids BC a province-wide network of community-led intergenerational environmental discovery clubs. Recently, she has served as Chief Operating Officer of Reconciliation Canada. As a Certified Association Executive, her Executive Director roles have included Family Services of Greater Vancouver Foundation and Community Volunteer Connections. Prior to these, she enjoyed several senior leadership roles within BC Hydro including human resources, Indigenous relations, communications. Her focus is strengthening the well-being of teams, workplaces, and communities through enhancing clarity of direction and widening the circle to include new perspectives.
Rebecca has had a longstanding commitment to not-for-profit board governance and has served as volunteer director and executive on multiple community Boards including S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Social Services, Minerva Foundation of BC, Leadership Vancouver, Mount Pleasant Family Centre, Canadian Club and as Regional Chair of the BC Committee for the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.
Jesse is a Science Communicator from St. Catharines working to connect scientists and explorers with the public through digital and live events across Canada. He is the VP of Education at Exploring By The Seat of Your Pants where he’s coordinated and hosted over 1000 live broadcast programs. He is the founder of Science Literacy Week – a national science festival held across Canada every September and run through NSERC in the federal government. He also produced The Story Collider podcast in Toronto for three years, helping showcase the human side of science. Finally, he is a Royal Canadian Geographical Society Fellow and a member of the Explorers Club.
Erin has been studying the implementation of circular economy business models since 2018 and works to empower people to start their own. By working directly with small businesses and community members at Impact Zero, she pilots projects to prove the business case for environmental and social sustainability.