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.

Ryan Harvey

Ryan Harvey

Parks and Trails Coordinator

Ryan has been doing parks work for over 13 years on Cortes.  He loves working outside and helping all ages to enjoy our great big beautiful Cortes.

Ryan maintains trails and works to remove dangers and hazards, as well as build new trails, and repair bridges and boardwalks.  Ryan maintains Carrington Bay Park and the Gnat, Moon, Seascape and Hayes beach access trails.  He also coordinates teams of volunteers to help care for our parks.

Alex Bernier

Alex Bernier

Kw’as Park Coordinator

Alex works in K’was Park keeping the trails open and 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.  It also helps keeping Cortes wild and natural by protecting our forest and wilderness, and promotes a healthy lifestyle for locals and others too!

Laura Ellingsen

Laura Ellingsen

Cortes Island School (CIS) Sustainability Education Coordinator

Laura loves to garden and introduce children of all ages to ecology through the yearly cycles of food gardens. She has designed the program to foster the creative study of ecosystem dynamics and cycles, food production and sustainability, and a love of learning and the natural world. 

Over the last six years she has worked with the students and teachers to design, develop, and maintain the gardens in their yearly cycles, look closely at the ecology embedded within the garden and study the relationships between human-made natural systems and those of nature.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Miranda Cross

Miranda Cross

Director

Miranda Cross is a Wetland Restoration Specialist living on Cortes Island, BC. Miranda graduated from University of Victoria with a BSc. in Biology and Environmental Studies. She also earned a diploma in Organic Land Care, as well as two Permaculture Design Certificates.

Miranda has operated an ecologically based landscape design and consultation business for nine years and in 2020 evolved her business to focus on wetland restoration. As a volunteer director on the FOCI board, Miranda is interested in working as part of the team on Human Resources, Ecological Monitoring, Restoration, and Educational Programs.

Kai Harvey

Kai Harvey

Director

Kai grew up on Cortes and has always had a deep love and appreciation for the natural world. Through her childhood playing in the forest and fostering deep connections with the ecology of the island, she has become an advocate for ecological stewardship. After spending a year travelling, she went to Quest University in Squamish to study humans’ connections with ecology and community-based conservation.

Kai owns and operates the local kayaking tourism business, Cortes Kayaks, and is a strong advocate for the role of education in conservation. 

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.

Sobhana Dilani Hippola

Sobhana Dilani Hippola

Director

The salty waters and mossy forests of Cortes Island hold a special place in Sobhana’s heart. She bows her head to the rich history and cultural heritage of Coast Salish Territory and feels truly privileged to live here and help steward these sacred islands.

As a certified Forest Therapy Guide, Sobhana works in partnership with the forest to help people from all walks of life to awaken to deeper levels of healing, insight, and well-being through the Japanese inspired practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku).

Having left behind a diplomatic career that focused on environmental governance at a global scale, Sobhana now serves as a Senior Policy Advisor with Islands Trust – a unique special-purpose government entrusted with preserving and protecting over 450 islands and their surrounding waters in the Salish Sea. She feels grateful for opportunities to enact meaningful change at the local level and to help preserve and protect these rare, biodiverse, and enchanting island ecosystems.

Arlene Tomkins

Arlene Tomkins

Director

Arlene grew up on the east coast of Canada and has lived near the ocean most of her life. She came to the west coast in the early 80s to complete graduate studies at UBC and never left. While on a camping trip in 1990 she discovered Cortes and finally realized her dream to live here full time three years ago.

Arlene is a retired salmon biologist. Her career included positions with the BC Ministry of Environment as the Vancouver Island Fisheries Inventory Specialist and with the DFO at the Pacific Biological Station as head of the Salmon Assessment Program. Her professional interests focus on maintaining biodiversity through monitoring and protecting local fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. Currently, she is participating with FOCI to identify and monitor forage fish spawning beaches on Cortes.

Her other interests include gardening as she tries to produce vegetables out of rocks. But her favourite activity is paddling, either kayak, dragon boat, or outrigger. She feels you are never too old to play in the water.

Richard Andrews

Richard Andrews

Director

Since moving to Cortes in 2003, Richard has spent perhaps too much time building structures for people. He is always curious about how to live in harmony with our local ecosystems, is a big fan of local food and healthy forests, and sees most things through a permaculture lens. 

Before coming to Cortes he worked in non-profit project management for projects promoting commuter cycling in Vancouver and pedal technology in Guatemala, with a mandate to develop durable self-financing projects with combined social and environmental benefits. 

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