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Who We Are

HOMEbreadcrumb separatorWHO WE AREbreadcrumb separatorOur Team
The staff of the Invasive Species Centre are an enthusiastic team who strive to address the threats of invasive species with diligence, passion and creativity

The Invasive Species Centre is staffed by a combination of permanent and contract staff located at the head office in Sault Ste. Marie. Together, we bring diverse expertise and experience in natural science, policy, economics, administration, communications, graphic design, and education. 

The Invasive Species Centre also benefits from the talents of interns, students and recent graduates who join the team for placements of up to one year, and from technical experts who join the Invasive Species Centre on a project-by-project basis. 

In Sault Ste. Marie, the Invasive Species Centre is co-located with the Great Lakes Forestry Centre, a world-class science facility run by Natural Resources Canada.

​Interested in joining our team? Check for job opportunities on our careers page

Contact us

Tracey Cooke

Executive Director

Through her work with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ducks Unlimited Canada and consulting in the private and not-for-profit sectors, Tracey Cooke brings expertise in partnership development and stakeholder relations. Tracey is skilled at forging and nurturing partnerships through collaboration, and is an enthusiastic communicator, facilitator and fundraiser. Her strong track record of managing complex programs with diverse partners makes Tracey uniquely qualified to lead the Invasive Species Centre as it grows existing relationships and seeks out new partners to work together on priority projects. 
Tracey holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Environment and Resources Studies from the University of Waterloo. A native of Thessalon, Ontario, she lives on the North Channel of Lake Huron with her husband and three children.

Deborah Sparks

Manager, Business Development & Communications 

Deb Sparks is the Business Development and Communications Manager for the Invasive Species Centre. Deb builds relationships, engages, and collaborates with a broad array of stakeholders and funders to protect Canada's forests and waterways from the threat of invasive species. Deb aims to spark and influence public discussion, contribute to policy developments, and transfer policy and science knowledge to the broader public. She also leads corporate initiatives with a focus on business development, finance, and information management and has managed the ISC's Asian Carp Canada program and education strategy. Before joining the Invasive Species Centre in November 2011, Deb spent five years as a teacher and draws on her Bachelor of Education from Nipissing University and Bachelor of Fine Arts from Laurentian University for the communications component of her work. Her corporate experience rests on fifteen years in the commercial, finance, and public service sectors of Canada and England. 


Dave Nisbet

Manager, Partnership & Science 

David Nisbet is the Partnership & Science Manager at the Invasive Species Centre, where his work focuses on the development and implementation of key programs including the ISC’s Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) Citizen Science Network, and the Forest Invasives program. Prior to his employment at the ISC, David worked with the Canadian Forest Service on emerald ash borer detection surveys in Southern and Central Ontario. David completed his MSc in Environmental Science at University of Guelph, where he researched the ecological impacts and management of emerald ash borer in Ontario forests. He completed his undergraduate degree at University of Toronto with a double major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Forest Conservation Science. 


       Paula Beemer

 Executive Assistant 

Paula Beemer joined the Invasive Species Centre in April 2014 as the office manager where she is responsible for the day-to-day operation and management of the office, providing front line support for the organization, maintain corporate filing systems including human resources records, financial tracking, prepare funding reports, space and facilities management, shipping and receiving, scheduling appointments and meetings involving multiple participants, managing meetings and event logistics. She coordinates all administrative requirements in support of the Board of Directors and committees, and works closely with the Executive Director and management team to ensure the company’s staffing, equipment, and organizational needs are met. She is also the Health and Safety Officer, providing support regarding tenancy arrangements and building security.



          David Dutkiewicz

           Insect Diagnostician

David previously worked at NRCan in the insect diagnostic services for 4 years assisting with several research projects including the invasive alien species survey, as well as multiple emerald ash borer surveys and trapping programs. David holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology as well as completing his Forestry Conservation Technician diploma. David completed his Masters of Science in Environmental Science through the University of Guelph, where he focused on invasive species' impacts on forest ecosystems. Currently, David heads the ISC Diagnostic Laboratory which provides insect identification services to provincial forest health programs, and other partner organizations.



Lauren Bell

Coordinator, Community Education & Outreach 

Lauren comes to the ISC from Carleton University, where she earned her Honours Degree in Environmental Studies. She runs the Early Detection Rapid Response Network, a citizen-science based project aimed at training citizens with the skills to detect, respond to, and control invasive species. In 2013, Lauren spent a study term abroad in Scotland where she discovered her passion for ecosystem and pest management. Lauren has four years of previous experience working in the environmental non-profit sector.

                     Rebecca Schroeder

    Liaison, Aquatic Invasive Species  

Rebecca is a Sault Ste. Marie native, and obtained her honours degree in Biology from Algoma University. Her previous work studying the relationship between Emerald Ash Borer related tree mortality and bird composition prompted her interest in Invasive Species. At the ISC, Rebecca runs the Asian Carp Canada program, a collaboration between the ISC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada that aims to raise awareness about the threat of Asian carps to the Great Lakes. 

Colin Cassin

Policy and Program Development Analyst 

Colin joined the ISC in 2018 with nearly 10 years of experience working to mitigate the impacts of invasive species established across Ontario and beyond. His previous employment includes roles with the Ontario Invasive Plant Council, University of Toronto and Trent University working with invasive earthworms, aquatic and terrestrial invasive plants and other taxa threatening our natural capital. In his role with the ISC, Colin supports the development of risk assessments and other projects supporting ISC’s vision of reducing the spread of invasive species in Canada. Colin is based in Peterborough where he lives with his wife and daughter. When not working on invasive species, Colin is an active volunteer with the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.  


Drew Hodgson

Communications Coordinator

Drew graduated from the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree with a specialization in Marketing. At the ISC, Drew supports the overall goals of the ISC and places valuable knowledge in the hands of managers, technicians, and the public. He is responsible for web development and generating external communications tools to engage new and existing stakeholders. 



Ayushi Shah

Policy & Program Development Coordinator


Ayushi recently graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Biology. Throughout her undergraduate career, Ayushi participated in green initiative networks where she advocated for sustainability, environmental policy changes and human and animal rights. Ayushi’s passion for invasive species arose during her thesis project where she saw the overwhelming invasion of Phragmites in a First Nation Unceded Territory and learned of its’ consequential ecological, economical and social impacts. Additionally, Ayushi has worked with a conservation authority to determine a restoration management plan, which included the removal of Garlic Mustard, Dog Strangling Vine, Buckthorn and Phragmites. Currently, as an Intern, Ayushi is dedicated to raising awareness on forest invasive species by developing content for the Forest Invasive Canada website and expanding the risk assessment database. 



Leah Hodgson

Business Development Intern


Leah graduated from Algoma University in 2017 with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Biology, and then went on to complete the Master in Science Communication program at Laurentian University. As an intern at the Invasive Species Centre, Leah will be working on corporate social media strategy and other #scicomm projects.



Mackenzie DiGasparro

Policy & Program Intern


Mackenzie graduated from the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Biology, specializing in Ecology, Evolution, and Behaviour. She gained experience in a variety of areas, working on projects involving sexual selection in drosphila, the persistence of an environmental pathogen under selection, and Canadian Species at Risk policy. As a summer student at NRCan, Mackenzie developed a passion for entomology and forest health. As an intern at the ISC, Mackenzie will be assessing the current state of knowledge for Ontario forest invasives, identifying knowledge gaps and areas for future research, as well as developing online content for Forest Invasives Canada.