Our organization exists to monitor and preserve the health of local ecosystems, and to provide educational programs that foster a greater understanding of the natural environment.

Our organization exists to monitor and preserve the health of local ecosystems, and to provide educational programs that foster a greater understanding of the natural environment.

Our organization exists to monitor and preserve the health of local ecosystems, and to provide educational programs that foster a greater understanding of the natural environment.

Friends of Cortes Island Society

Friends of Cortes Island Society (FOCI) is a charitable organization that has been active for over 25 years.

Our organization exists to monitor and preserve the health of local ecosystems, and to provide educational programs that foster a greater understanding of the natural environment. Through all of our projects, we work to promote environmental integrity through community responsibility. As a charitable society, our purposes are:

• To identify environmentally sensitive areas, particularly on Cortes and neighbouring islands.
• To monitor and protect wildlife and the safeguarding of its natural habitat.
• To promote the protection of the forests, lakes, streams and critical watersheds and the enhancement of fish stocks where appropriate.
• To promote the study and preservation of the cultural heritage and historical landmarks of the area.
• To provide educational programs that relate to ecological understanding and appreciation of the environment.

Charity information

Charity #: 13338 2889 RR0001  – Society #S-002 6477 reg. July 27, 1990

Meet our Executive Director, Program Coordinators and Board of Directors

Helen Hall

Helen Hall

Executive Director

Helen is responsible for the overall management of FOCI, which includes financial planning, fundraising, and developing and supporting FOCI’s environmental and educational programs and activities. 

Helen has lived on Cortes for three years, and is a recent arrival from the UK, where she worked as an ecologist and environmental manager.  She treasures the wildness and fabulous natural open space on Cortes, and loves to be out in nature, whether it’s exploring the beach or hiking in the forest.

Sam Gibb

Sam Gibb

Park Ranger

Sam grew up exploring the hills of Scotland by mountain bike, gaining a love for the outdoors, a respect for the work that keeps trails alive, and an appreciation for waterproof clothing. Since 2014, he has been helping keep Cortes Island trails clear.

He’s happiest in the woods, and joined the Friend of Cortes Island team in 2023 to help keep the islands regional parks and trails safe and accessible.

Alex Bernier

Alex Bernier

Park Ranger

Alex works enjoys working in the parks and trails, keeping everything in good shape by raking and cutting back vegetation, and building and repairing board walks, ladders and bridges, as well as creating new trails. 

He loves working in the forest; it keeps him connected to nature, as well as fit and healthy.  He also helps keeping Cortes wild and natural by protecting our forest and wilderness, and promotes a healthy lifestyle for locals and others too!

Christine & Cec Robinson

Christine & Cec Robinson

Stream Stewardship Coordinators

Christine has been a long-time teacher & naturalist on Cortes, and oversees salmon enhancement programmes with students, raising coho eggs and releasing them into Cortes creeks. She has a love of wild things and wild places, and sees the critical importance of healthy forests supporting healthy streams supporting healthy fish.

Cec’s favourite place in the world is the cool, green, overgrown edge of a healthy stream. When four years old, he fell in love with the first little trout that he saw living there, and the fish have been teaching him about themselves ever since.

Beatrix Baxter

Beatrix Baxter

Graphic Designer/Video Producer

Beatrix (they/she) has been working on the FOCI team since 2015 as a graphic designer and video producer, which includes making signs, posters, newsletters, brochures, and the occasional documentary. When not clacking around on the computer, they like to be hanging out on hot rocks like a lizard or growing/finding food in the wilds of Whaletown.

Beatrix comes from Land Back, disability justice, emergent strategy praxis, and tries to bring this into the work she creates with FOCI. 

Sabina Leader Mense

Sabina Leader Mense

Marine Stewardship Coordinator

Sabina is a professional biologist trained in the marine sciences, who wholeheartedly concurs with Arthur C. Clarke when he wrote, “How inappropriate to call this Planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean.” She is a dedicated environmental educator who travels the far reaches of the world ocean promoting awareness and knowledge of the marine environment through education.

Sabina coordinates the FOCI Marine Stewardship Initiative, which takes a comprehensive look at Cortes Island’s marine ecosystems, bringing them into the community arena through citizen science research and long-term environmental monitoring programs.

Rex Weyler

Rex Weyler

Lake Stewardship Coordinator

Rex Weyler is an ecologist, writer, and teacher on Cortes Island. Rex is reviewing lake data and report from the Ministry of Environment BC, and is preparing a report on the health of the lake, using both historical and the most current data.

He is researching various modes of bio-remediation for the lake, including using native plants along the shoreline. He will help conduct community discussion regarding septic fields, livestock fields, and fertilizer use around the lake, to protect the lake from nutrient and bacteria runoff.

Gina Trzesicka

Gina Trzesicka

Lake Volunteer Coordinator

Gina came to Cortes in 2010 and loves the island.  She hopes the wonderful nature and quiet life on our island never change.

Gina wears two hats for FOCI!  She coordinates the lake monitoring volunteers and updates the FOCI website content.

Soma Feldmar

Soma Feldmar

FOCI Office Assistant

Soma first came to Cortes with her family in 1982, as a nine year-old. Finally, a year and a half ago, almost 40 years later, she was able to move here. Life on Cortes has always made more sense to her, as it is closer to the earth and more in harmony with nature than city life. 

As FOCI’s new Office Assistant, Soma, who has a PhD in English, is excited to support our important work and learn as much as she can about the preservation and conservation of Cortes Island’s beautiful ecosystems and natural environment. 

Max Thaysen

Max Thaysen

President

Max Thaysen immigrated to Cortes Island from Vancouver in 2007. He has been elected to the board of FOCI since 2009, and been appointed president since 2012. 

Max has committed himself to many activities that increase the resilience of the biosphere of Cortes and reduce his own ecological footprint and that of the community. Since studying human impacts in 2001 at University of Victoria, he has reduced his own carbon footprint to an estimated 2.5t CO2e/year, well below the national average of between 15-23 tCO2e/year per capita.

Autumn Barrett-Morgan

Autumn Barrett-Morgan

Director

Autumn has revered the natural world since she was a young lass. Her passion and connection to the Earth have deepened since she graduated as an Ecosystem Management Technician. Major focuses of hers are species at risk, native and medicinal plants, wildlife/animal rehabilitation and ecological monitoring/restoration.

Autumn continues to deepen her awareness of the ecosystems around her in her daily life and yearns to do this honourably and with reciprocity. She is called to do this work so that future generations – plants, animals, and humans alike – will be able to live in the unceded Coast Salish territories, in a good way, for many generations to come.

Mike Moore

Mike Moore

Director

For much of the last 30 years most of Mike’s time has been spent out on the water around Cortes Island, or under it. In his role as a naturalist, he has introduced many hundreds of visitors to the Cortes community and the island’s ecosystems. In his work as a diver, he gets to witness firsthand the increased boat traffic and underwater sound levels, pollution, the good and bad impacts of aquaculture, and he just gets time to spend with the animals out on the water. This gives Mike a three-dimensional perspective of Cortes that few others get to see.

Mike is interested in working towards maintaining a healthy environment for all of the beings that make Cortes and the surrounding waters their home.

Maya Buckner

Maya Buckner

Director

Maya has called Cortes Island home for much of her life. She was raised on Linnaea Farm, and this early life experience embedded a deep sense of place and connection to the natural world in her, which she has carried forward throughout her life.

Maya left Cortes to attend the University of Victoria, graduating in 2017 with a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies. This education gave her the lens of science to deepen her passion for learning about, and from, ecological systems.

Returning home to Cortes after the completion of her degree, Maya spent several years working on the ocean which cultivated a fascination with marine and intertidal environments. Currently, Maya’s professional life has given her the opportunity to develop skills in Planning and gain experience working with Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

At home, Maya is an avid gardener, birder, and hiker, taking any opportunity she has to get out into the forest, or onto the water on and around Cortes. Maya looks forward to putting her diverse experience and love of Cortes Island to work as a new member of the FOCI board.

Tecuana Cliffton-Wooldridge

Tecuana Cliffton-Wooldridge

Director

Tecuana is a passionate outdoors person who was born and raised on Cortes Island. Currently serving as the interim Campus Director at Hollyhock, Tecuana is deeply connected to the natural world and is particularly interested in the intersection between climate conservation and economic viability. She is also dedicated to building mutually beneficial relationships and operating respectfully in traditional ancestral First Nation territories.

With lived experience in the field, Tecuana is a growing voice in the conversation around sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Josh Bannister

Josh Bannister

Director

Josh Bannister is passionate about activism and protecting the natural environment. He has volunteered and worked with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) protecting endangered marine species and is now focusing his knowledge of activism on the marine environment and love of nature. On Cortes Island he is here to help Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) in their mission to conserve and protect our beautiful island.

Josh is new to FOCI and is excited to learn and be involved in FOCI ongoing projects and in getting more people involved in volunteering and supporting FOCI in any way that they can. Josh is passionate about expanding awareness of the overarching environmental challenges we are confronted with today and empowering people to get their hands dirty and get involved; do the work that is required to make a difference and at the same time have fun doing it.

Lorne Jacobson

Lorne Jacobson

Director

A lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Lorne has extensively kayaked the Salish Sea and the coast of British Columbia. As such, he has observed the environmental devastation caused by humans and understands the need to protect and conserve Cortes Island. In 2022, Lorne and his wife Monika Hoffmann became volunteer assistants for the Hakai Institute’s Sentinels of Change project, in partnership with FOCI, monitoring Dungeness Crab megalopae. In 2023, Jacobson and Hoffmann became the Volunteer Coordinators for this project and later added the monitoring of the invasive European Green Crab, administered by the DFO, to their responsibilities.

His family first came to Cortes in 1967 when his parents acquired a modest dirt-floored cabin in Cortes Bay. He and his wife live in Cortes Bay with their cat Nick on the unseeded traditional territories of the Khahoose, Tla’amin and Homalco Nations and are grateful to call this place home.

X