It takes a diverse combination of skills to support the many facets of the Humber Arboretum. Meet the team that keeps the grounds beautiful, the land healthy, the learning exciting, the community engaged, and everything behind the scenes running smoothly.
Having a “Nature Name” is a long-standing tradition at our day camps, for kids and adults alike. Most of our staff chose their own, although a few didn’t get quite as much of a say in the matter!
To contact one of our staff members, email or call the Humber Arboretum front desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416.675.5009.
Nature name: Mountain Lion
Alix has served as director of the Humber Arboretum and Centre for Urban Ecology since 2012. She sits on Humber College’s Centre of Innovation in Health and Wellness Steering Committee, Landscape Technician Program Advisory Committee, and Sustainability Coordinating Committee. Alix co-founded Humber College’s Nature Education Group, created to enhance student skills and knowledge by enabling learning connected to the natural environment. Under Alix’s leadership, the Humber Arboretum was awarded Community Garden of the Year from the City of Toronto in 2013 and a Community Service award from Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter in 2015.
Alix has also founded and operated two businesses and a co-operative and worked as a policy advisor with the provincial government where she was awarded the ministry’s Health and Wellness Leadership award. She holds a Master’s of Arts (M.A.) in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University and a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Biology from the University of Victoria. She is the current Chair of the American Public Gardens Association’s College and University section.
Coordinator of Education, Camps, and Community Outreach
Nature name: Beaver
Jimmy has been rolling logs and feeding chickadees at the Humber Arboretum since 2005, when he started out as a nature interpreter before becoming Camp Director. A familiar face to over a decade of nature camp alumni, Jimmy now coordinates all of the Centre for Urban Ecology’s camps, school programs, adult education, and community outreach activities. In 2011 Jimmy received Humber College’s staff Community Service Award and in 2015 his team received a Community Service Award from Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter.
Before the Arb, Jimmy worked as a Stewardship Events Leader for Evergreen and has also worked with both the Hamilton and North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authorities on various watershed based projects. He has a Technologist Diploma in Ecosystem Management from Sir Sandford Fleming School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences.
A proud father of two boys, Jimmy’s passion lies in connecting people with the natural environment in the hopes that they can find as much enjoyment playing and learning outdoors as he did growing up.
Horticultural Technologist & Arborist
Nature name: Stump
Once the Captain of Canada’s Men’s Softball team, Rob now uses his leadership skills to keep things running smoothly for the Arb’s horticulture and landscaping team.
Rob first joined the Humber Arboretum in 1997 as a workstudy student while he was completing Humber College’s Urban Arboriculture Certificate. He went on to become an instructor and later the Program Coordinator for Humber College’s Horticulture Apprenticeship and Landscape Technician programs. At the Humber Arboretum he has played an instrumental role in facilitating and coordinating experiential learning course components as well as applied research and capstone projects from over seven different Humber programs.
An ISA Certified Arborist, Rob has a Horticulture Diploma from the University of Guelph. He also has a charming story of workplace romance – he met his bride-to-be through his Arboretum co-worker Talete’s bride-to-be while the women were coworkers at a Humber College daycare centre. Rob is now a proud father of two.
Scheduling and Customer Service Assistant
Nature name: Will-o'-the-wisp
Valerie is both the behind-the-scenes organizer and the front line contact at the Centre for Urban Ecology, helping school groups, camp families, learners, and visitors alike take advantage of all the Arboretum has to offer. She holds a B.A. (Honours) in Classics & English from McMaster University and a diploma in Office Administration, Executive Assistant, from Mohawk College.
Valerie enjoys learning new things, being creative, and exploring new styles of art and writing. She loves artistic and outdoor activities like sitting around a campfire, watching the lights play off of the Athenian Acropolis at night, and standing by a river while a breeze whips around her.
Event Services Representative
Nature name: Swan
Karima is a Humber College grad with her bachelors in Public Relations and a diploma in Travel and Tourism. Before joining the Arboretum in 2017 Karima had seven years of experience in the travel industry, a reflection of her passion for learning about world history, experiencing different cultures, and trying new and interesting foods. Karima is also a nature-lover with a commitment to sustainability so she’s excited she has the chance to use her knack for organization and her love of helping people at an organization like the Humber Arboretum.
Nature name: Badger
Talete has been at the Arboretum since the late 90s, maintaining the grounds and making his mark by designing and building custom projects that enhance the Arboretum experience for all visitors. From eye-catching benches to the Tree of Hope welcome mosaic, Talete’s work can be seen across the North campus site. He also assists with Humber College’s Landscape programs, helping to guide student projects constructed on the Arboretum grounds.
But it isn’t all outdoor work for Talete. He also has a passion for interior design and loves to play competitive billiards – a hobby which recently earned him a trip to a Las Vegas tournament.
Nature name: Chickadee
When Andrea began studying horticulture, her father told her to take time every day to sketch a new plant as a way of noticing the small details. Raised to have a deep love and appreciation for nature, it was a natural fit for Andrea to pursue a career in horticulture and conservation. Andrea has worked with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Credit Valley Conservation Authority in habitat restoration, naturalization and reforestation. She also has experience as a Maintenance Foreman for an ecological landscaping company.
Andrea holds an Honours Diploma in Environmental Landscape Management from Seneca College as well as a Diploma in Horticulture through the University of Guelph. She also holds a first-degree black belt in karate and has been studying for 15 years with her father, who holds a fifth-degree black belt.
Nature name: Sunshine
After earning a Masters of Horticulture in Bucharest, Romania, Valeria came to Canada in 1995 and began working in the Humber greenhouses in 2003. She has been an integral part of many of the Arboretum’s exciting research and community projects, working easily with everyone from novice students to experienced conservationists. In 2015 she received a Support Staff Distinguished Service Award from Humber College.
But just because Valeria’s digging in the dirt, that doesn’t always mean she’s got something to plant. Instead this passionate amateur geologist might be looking for another rock specimen to add to her already impressive collection.
Nature name: Minnow
A graduate of the Fine Arts Cultural Studies program at York University, Marilyn is a creative writer with a special interest in environmental education and young audiences. Along with handling social media and promotions for the Arboretum, she’s also an award-winning playwright, a middling puppeteer, and an occasional assistant to a children’s musical duo. Marilyn likes to think of herself as a slightly-above-novice birder and is often found wandering Toronto parks with binoculars, camera, and a well-worn copy of a ROM field guide in hand. Find her on Twitter, @Shumpgullion.
Senior Nature Interpreter
Nature name: Mossy
Benjamin is an artist and educator who started as a Nature Interpreter with the Humber Arboretum. He has a Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) in Sculpture/Installation from OCAD University and a Bachelor of Art (BA) in Geography: Human Environment from Concordia University. Benjamin loves sharing his passion for nature, culture, art, science, and knowledge with the wide array of young people who come to visit the arboretum.
Senior Nature Interpreter
Nature name: Redwing
Ken has the kind of love for nature that leads to proposing to your girlfriend on a viewing tower in the middle of a marsh and using a Northern harrier as your wingman, so you can get down on one knee while the bird has her distracted (she said yes).
He holds a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from York University, a certificate in Outdoor Education from Humber College (with Honours), and a Wilderness First Aid Certificate. His previous experience includes working with Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) at the Kortright Centre, Watershed on Wheels program, and the Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow program.
Ken is also a keen reader and creative writer, and the most prolific book reviewer for the Humber Arboretum’s Facebook page.