Board of Directors

Ellen Schwartzel

Action Committee, Lecture Committee

A graceful Sassafras tree shaded my bedroom window while growing up in Toronto’s west end. So it’s perhaps not surprising that I ended up with two degrees in botany from the University of Toronto. My career put me mostly behind a desk, though. I worked for non-profits and the Ontario government in environmental advocacy. From 1995 onwards I advised several Environmental Commissioners at Queen’s Park, where the tangled, thorny paths of environmental policy became familiar terrain. I have long admired TFN’s fine work. I especially appreciate the wisdom of TFN’s mission: to connect people with nature in Toronto

Jason Ramsay-Brown

TFN Archives, Stewardship & Citizen Science Committee

Jason wrote and photographed Toronto’s Ravines and Urban Forests (Lorimer, 2015; Second edition, 2020) and has been very active in Toronto’s stewardship community for many years, including service on the Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve Stewardship Team, Beechwood Wetland Stewardship Team, and as a Planting Captain with the City of Toronto’s Community Stewardship Program. He is a member of the Ontario chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration, Field Botanists of Ontario, and the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.

Zunaid Khan

Promotions & Outreach Committee

Nature photographer and Naturalist based in Toronto, Canada. Born in South Africa, moved to Canada in 1979. Worked in the technology industry for a number of years before deciding to pursue an interest in photography and nature. Spending a great deal of time hiking in and around the Toronto area, learning about the natural world and studying wildlife behaviour, which is the driving force behind my work, has lead to a need to become more involved in nature conservation. Educating people about nature, enabling them to understand what we need protect, conserve and restore has become one of the primary motivations behind my photography.

Bob Kortright


Love of birds and conservation of natural resources was in Bob’s family – Bob’s grandfather Frank (1887-1972) authored Ducks, Geese & Swans of North America (1942), and founded the Sportsmen’s Show (1947).  The Kortright Centre for Conservation was named after Frank by TRC (Toronto Region Conservation) in gratitude for the support of the Sportsmen’s Shows for TRC conservation projects, including $150,000 toward the construction of the Kortright Centre. Bob has been watching birds and reading the publications of Ontario Nature and Nature Canada since elementary school. He joined Long Point Bird Observatory before it spawned Bird Studies Canada in the 1990s.

After the Toronto Bird Observatory and Toronto Region Conservation established the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station – TTPBRS), Bob volunteered there in 2004-5.  This led to some years on the board of the Toronto Bird Observatory.  In 2006 Bob joined the boards of the TFN and the Toronto Ornithological Club. In 2009, after becoming VP of TFN, Bob retired from his career in nuclear waste management, accounting, project evaluation, and financial information systems, to spend more time on and in nature.

After Bob started leading bird walks, he decided to improve his knowledge of plants to have more to talk about between birds. Later he joined the Mycological Society of Toronto (MST), and Toronto Entomologists Association (TEA) to improve his knowledge in these areas.

Bob contributed to 2 of the booklets in the Toronto Biodiversity Series: Birds and Butterflies of Toronto.  Bob is torn between a desire to contribute to solutions to the world’s problems and a desire to spend his time learning, particularly about the wonderful intricacies of the workings of nature.

Anne Purvis

Junior Naturalists

Anne grew up in Cambridge, Ontario, and had many chances to enjoy nature backpacking on the Bruce Trail with girlfriends, and car camping around Canada with her family. Anne always loved birds and wildflowers and remembers gathering May apples as a child to make May Apple jelly. She studied Biology at the University of Toronto in the 1970’s. After she married Jim, Anne received a small inheritance from an uncle in California. She and Jim bought a 180 acre piece of land in Percy Reach in Northumberland County for the purpose of ‘owning our own Pt Pelee’. For thirty years, they camped there with their six children. They have also done tree-planting, marsh-monitoring, managing invasives, and kept species inventories. Anne has worked for Scientists in School for the last ten years, doing life science workshops for public school kids.

Lynn Miller

Volunteer Coordinator

Lynn started her love of nature while discovering the pond life at her Uncle’s farm near London, ON, and the desire to learn more has never left her. She has been on the TFN board of directors since 2009 and initiated the move into social media. She is also a Wildlife Care volunteer at the Toronto Wildlife Centre and enjoys looking after and handling the animals she is responsible for – particularly bats!

Kayoko Smith

Walks & Outings Committee

A professional floral designer who worked in the floral industry, I am coming from the opposite end of the pole to join the field naturalists. After joining TFN in 2010, I started to rediscover Toronto and its natural heritage – ravines, bluffs, beeches, lost mashes and lost rivers. Every outing I caught myself repeating “I have never been here before”. Without dedicated TFN walk leaders, my rediscovery of Toronto would not have happened. The beauty of native flowers, bees, butterflies and warblers announces the arrival of new seasons. I am humbled by the power of nature. Everything in nature is connected, and observing nature will slowly reveal to us its secret connections.

Currently, I am a board member of a historical society and in charge of the herb garden and the heritage cabin. For TFN, I have led walks and volunteered at the Jim Baillie Nature Reserve. I am a member of Toronto Ornithological Club and Toronto Botanical Garden, and have volunteered with Toronto’s Community Stewardship Program at the Brick Works and the Nordheimer ravine.

James Eckenwalder

Newsletter Committee

Associate professor emeritus of plant systematics at the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, and author of Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. James was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, and received a BA in botany from Reed College, and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Fatima Abrar

At large

As an accountant turned web developer, I spend most of my time indoors behind a screen. As an introvert, I find nature to be a healing agent. I love the small, beautiful pockets in Toronto where the racket of the city fades into the background and I can immerse myself in the symphony of the woods (forest, ravine, etc).  I want to do my part to preserve and nurture these spaces (if possible, expand them). There is a connection between nature and humans which we never fully appreciate. At TFN, I can appreciate this connection.

Diana Wilson

At large

Diana Wilson has been working to connect people to the GTA’s beautiful natural spaces for 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Education from Queen’s University with a specialization in Outdoor and Experiential Education and currently manages the Albion Hills Field Centre, an environmental education centre, for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. She is a facilitator of the Young Conservation Professionals, a province-wide program for people looking to develop leadership skills for the environmental sector. She is passionate about getting out on the trails, and vegetable and native plant gardening. Diana is working on turning her near-urban backyard in Brampton into an oasis for wildlife in the city. She is the mother of chubby little baby, Theodore, and is looking forward to sharing the joys of nature with him.

Donata Frank

At large

As a child, the riverbanks of London, Ontario were playgrounds for us, and the woods were a place to marvel at fireflies. As an adult, I spent a lot of time in parks around Ontario, but my academic training in the physical sciences never took me outside of the lab. During all of those years, I would not have been able to describe the state of the flora and fauna around me or their relationships. Joining the TFN in 2013 has been an inspiring experience as I have gradually learned about the connections in the natural world on the guided walks and from guest speakers in the monthly lectures. I became a steward at the Todmorden Wildflower Preserve, where I learned about invasive species and ecological restoration. Participating in TFN monitoring events at Cottonwood Flats revealed how a space can evolve back to a more natural state with a little help from humans. Doing this work has been a labor of love, and the sound of merry songbirds has been the biggest reward.

Jessica Iraci

At large

Jessica grew up in Buffalo, New York and always had an affinity for the outdoors whether it was exploring wetlands near the St. Lawrence River or abandoned fields around her home. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2005 with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Environmental Science and in 2011 with a Masters of Forest Science. Since then, Jessica joined the City of Toronto in 2012 as a Forestry Data Collector with a focus on integrated pest management and forest threats. Jessica went on to manage the City’s Community Stewardship Program and has extensive experience in community engagement. Presently, Jessica is a Natural Environment Specialist with a focus on natural environment restoration projects in Toronto’s ravines, policy and planning, and volunteer programming. She is married to Mike Halferty who also works for the City and they hope to instill their love for nature in their son, Ansel.

Jessica is also an artist and painter and has been involved in many successful communication projects and social media campaigns with the City. Jessica focuses on natural and urban environments in her work and is greatly influenced by her experiences in Toronto’s ravines.