Charlie Russell – We’re very pleased to welcome Charlie Russell, the well known naturalist, filmmaker, author and bear behaviour expert, to the Maple Leaf team. Charlie will be leading a Great Bear Rainforest trip on the Maple Leaf this fall, in September 2011.

Charlie, whom you may know from the BBC films Bear Man of Kamchatka and Edge of Eden, or from his books Spirit Bear, Grizzly Heart and Grizzly Seasons, did some of the first work to publicize the spirit bears of Princess Royal Island, in the mid-1990s. He later spent 11 years living with grizzly bears in Kamchatka, both wild bears and rescued cubs whom he reintroduced into the wild. Charlie’s belief, proven out by his research, is that bears have been misjudged and mistreated by humans in western culture for a long time, and that when we stop persecuting them (and behave intelligently), we can peacefully co-exist.

This may ring true for those of you who have travelled with us in the Great Bear Rainforest in recent years, and have seen how the bears have blessed us with their presence once trophy hunting was stopped in their valleys. To learn more about our Great Bear Rainforest tours, visit the trip description page.

Jackie Hildering – Congratulations to Jackie Hildering, who some of you may know from our Whales & Totems trips in the Broughton Archipelago.

The Vancouver Aquarium is awarding her the 2010 Ralph A. Newman Award for Excellence in Aquatic Conservation. Previous recipients of this award include Dr. Alexandra Morton, the Honourable John Fraser and Rick Hansen. Jackie was nominated for the work she has done as the Communications Director for Save Our Salmon foundation, as well as for her work in educating people of all ages about our marine world.

You may also have heard of her initiative with the Humpback Comeback project, in a national competition to raise $25,000 for studies of humpback whale entanglements in fishing gear on our coast. Hooray, Jackie!

Valerie Sheppard

Valerie joined Maple Leaf Adventures in the fall of 2010 as our Business Operations Manager, bringing with her a passion for and a commitment to sustainability and ethics in tourism.

She looks after the administration and operations of the business and the supply and administration of our adventures.

Valerie has over 10 years experience in the tourism industry, working in the for-profit and the not-for-profit sectors, as well as for government.  In addition to her practical experience in the tourism industry, she has an undergraduate degree in tourism planning and development and a graduate degree in recreation and leisure studies, both from Brock University, Ontario.

She has published in academic tourism journals and textbooks in the field of tourism ethics and sustainability, and teaches a class in tourism ethics at the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Royal Roads University, Victoria.

You can read more about Valerie in her crew bio.