Naturalists are a companion of our curious guests, providing captivating narration, pre-planned activities, and hands-on science.

Alison Watt


Alison is a naturalist, artist, writer and poet. Recently her beautifully painted and exquisitely written book about her time as a seabird researcher on Triangle Island, The Last Island, won a national award for creative nonfiction. Other nonfiction has appeared in Canadian Wildlife and her award-winning poems have been published in national journals and collected in the book Circadia.

Alison trained as a biologist at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, from which she has a BSc in Biology. She has worked as a coastal seabird researcher, naturalist, professional artist and art teacher, and tour leader on several continents. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Alison teaches courses in painting and keeping illustrated journals …a handy skill for a trip on Maple Leaf or Swell.

Each year, Alison serves as a volunteer warden at Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park. In 2008-9, Alison and her husband sailed their boat around the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia and back. Alison’s genuine interest in people and their stories, combined with her dedication to teaching natural history (“here, I’ll get you some sea urchin gonads to taste”) make her popular with guests and crew alike.

Education & Certifications

  • BSc in Biology, University of British Columbia
  • Coastal seabird researcher
  • MFA Creative Writing, University of British Columbia

Andy MacKinnon


If you are interested in the plants of the Pacific Northwest coast, chances are you’ve got “Andy’s book”. Co-editor of The Plants of Coastal B.C., Andy is a respected research ecologist who advised governments on old-growth forest research, ecosystem mapping, land use and old-growth issues, and forest conservation. He was also involved in the implementation of the historic land use plan for the Great Bear Rainforest area.

Andy, a registered professional biologist and registered professional forester, is an adjunct professor at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. Although Andy is well versed and informative on many aspects of coastal ecology, he is particularly delighted when he encounters guests whose interest extends past the ‘charismatic megafauna’ (such as bears and whales) to some of his deep passions: lichens, mosses and the delightful world of mushrooms and other fungus. He is a popular speaker at the dozens of mushroom festivals in the Pacific Northwest each fall.

Not content to confine his skill set to research and education, Andy is a member of his local village council. He is also a fine songwriter and guitar player. We are certain that his rendition of “The Coho Flash Silver All Over the Bay” was responsible for our stunning catch of a 156-lb halibut at anchor one day in Alaska.

Education & Certifications

  • PhD Science, hc, Simon Fraser University Registered Professional Biologist (College of Applied Biology)
  • Registered Professional Forester (Association of BC Forest Professionals)

Barb Beasley


Barb Beasley is a coastal ecologist with a strong background in animal behaviour and marine and rainforest ecology. Her current research projects include work in the areas of human/wildlife interactions, species at risk, and coastal amphibian populations. She is a very experienced teacher and course designer, primarily for senior university students at the famous Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island’s west coast, and Quest University. A prime directive for Barb is that her students have a lot of fun learning about the natural world.

She is an avid scuba diver, sea kayaker and hiker and lives in the west-coast town of Ucluelet, on Vancouver Island. Barb also volunteers for many nature non-profits, including sitting on the community science advisory committee for the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and acting as a founding director for the Association of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds. She is also a monitor of waterfowl, shorebirds and seabirds for Bird Studies Canada.

Education & Certifications

  • PhD Behaviour Ecology (Simon Fraser University)
  • MSc Zoology (University of Western Ontario)
  • BSc Biology (Queen’s University)
  • Wilderness First Aid
  • Marine Emergency Duties A2 (Transport Canada)
  • Marine Radio Operator Certification (Transport Canada)
  • St John’s Ambulance First Aid
  • PADI Open Water Diver
  • Pleasure Craft Operator Card (Transport Canada)

Briony Penn


Professor of Geography, writer, broadcaster, artist and museum designer, Briony’s combination of scientific inquiry, communications skills and artistry have made a difference for the wilderness places of the B.C. coast. As a leader in the B.C. conservation movement, she has helped found and guide organizations including The Land Conservancy of B.C. the Garry Oak Meadows Preservation Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

As a writer and educator, Briony combines a zany sense of humour with a talent for making everything seem interesting (even red tide) and has won awards for her writing, her weekly television show and her achievements in environmental education in general. She and her husband created exhibits for the visitor centre for Gwaii Haanas and many other organizations.

Briony lectures at the University of Victoria on biodiversity, forestry issues, restoration and public education. She has developed research projects, created community mapping projects, and written hundreds of articles and essays. Her books include A Year on the Wild Side (a B.C. natural history favourite), The Kids Book of Canadian GeographyFor the Love of Nature: Solutions for Biodiversity, and The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggert Cowan.

Education & Certifications

  • Ph.D. Geography, Edinburgh University Bachelor of Arts – Geography, University of British Columbia Marine
  • Emergency Duties A2 Assistant Bear Guide (Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC)

Gaajiiaawa Linda Tollas


Gaajiiaawa Linda Tollas is of the Skedans Raven clan and lives in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii. Having lived most of her life in Haida Gwaii she’s both a seeker and sharer of ancestral knowledge, spending a fourteen-year tenure educating on Haida culture as a natural Cultural Heritage Interpreter with Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. Linda has also provided guided hikes of the forests and evening slide shows to visitors, as well as delivering educational and interactive programs to all schools in Haida Gwaii. 

Linda served as a local educator to university students from across Canada enrolled in the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society (“HGHES”) Semester Program since its inception 5 years ago.  Her enthusiasm for cedar, ethnobotany and Haida culture, and her engaging approach have always made her guided hikes of Spirit Lake a favorite of the Semester Program.

A highlight of her career with Gwaii Haanas was accompanying the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (“SHIP”) elders as they circumnavigated Moresby Island for their Haida place-naming project. Inspired with SHIP’s work, Linda retired from Gwaii Haanas in 2012, and joined SHIP to learn the Haida language.

Grant MacHutchon


Grant is one of Canada’s leading bear biologists. He has almost 3 decades of experience in wildlife research and management, most of it working with grizzly and black bears. This rare experience, combined with his skill as a naturalist and bear guide, provides Maple Leaf guests with an exceptional learning opportunity. Grant’s areas of expertise include bear and human interaction management, population ecology, and habitat ecology, classification and mapping. Recent projects include mapping important grizzly bear habitats throughout the Great Bear Rainforest for a coast-wide land use planning process and inventories of grizzly bear population size on the east slope of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta.

Grant is also at the forefront of the bear viewing industry, having developed bear management plans and best practices guides for national parks, non-profit organizations and businesses. He is vice president of the Safety in Bear Country Society, which created educational DVDs for humans living around bears, and he trains bear viewing guides for the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of B.C.

Grant was also involved in the landmark studies on coastal grizzly bears in the Khutzeymateen during the 1990s. He is an executive member of many organizations dedicated to human-bear issues, including the Trans-Border Grizzly Bear Project, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the West Kootenay Human-Bear Conflict Working Group and the International Association for Bear Research and Management. His first-hand knowledge – and slide shows – of bear behavior and habitat use illuminates the world of these intelligent, fascinating mammals for Maple Leaf’s guests. He lives with his wife and daughter in British Columbia’s Kootenay Region.

Education & Certifications

  • MSc, Wildlife Biology (Simon Fraser University)
  • BSc, Zoology (University of Manitoba)
  • Registered Professional Biologist (College of Applied Biology)
  • Diploma, Renewable Resource Management (Lethbridge College)
  • Full Bear Guide (Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC)

Jackie Hildering


Jackie, also known by many as “the Marine Detective”, is a biology teacher, cold-water diver, underwater photographer, humpback whale researcher and a widely recognized marine naturalist and naturalist trainer. After 14 years of teaching and administering international schools in the Netherlands, Jackie’s life changed acutely. In 1999 while on a trip here in BC, Jackie heard her first whale call. Immediately she knew that much of her future focus would be dedicated to life in the ocean.

Today, Jackie aims to make positive change through education. Calling North-eastern Vancouver Island home, Jackie is passionate about whales and their local habitat, the waters that surround her home. Jackie has a diverse skill set, research experience, and knowledge of both marine life and the people of Vancouver Island.

In addition to her work in the field, Jackie is a communications professional and has worked with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans including its offshore marine mammal surveys, the Save Our Salmon Foundation, and the ‘Namgis KUTERRA project. She is a director of the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS). She shares stories with our guests of the mystery, fragility and wonder of the life hidden in our cold, dark seas. Recent on-camera experience includes being featured on Animal Planet’s “Wild Obsession” series and in the BBC production “New Threat to Canada’s Humpback Whales?”. 

You can follow Jackie’s blog for updates on whales, the ocean, education and just about anything else that has to do with our coastal waters.

Education & Certifications

  • 2010 – Vancouver Aquarium’s Murray A. Newman Award for Excellence in Aquatic Conservation
  • 2010 – Recognition from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for contribution to the preservation to the enhancement of the salmonid resource of Northern Vancouver Island, BC and helping to ensure a better future for all Canadians
  • Marine Emergency Duties A2

John Gladstone

Naturalist, Haida Guide

Bio to come

Education & Certifications

    Jolie Shea


    Jolie Shea is a naturalist, writer, adventure guide, artist, and educator. People who love exploring the coast by boat know her from her beautiful, emotionally resonant articles in the popular Pacific Yachting magazine.

    Jolie grew up on the beaches of central Vancouver Island, and sailing the Salish Sea with her parents. As a young adult, she was a long-time park naturalist for BC Parks, fostering a love for nature in both adults and children. Jolie is a very experienced kayak guide and has guided remote wilderness expeditions in British Columbia and Belize, where she and her husband Greg Shea were hired in the 1990s to scout new routes, including through a dangerous cave system.

    She and Greg (a captain for Maple Leaf Adventures) have explored Alaska and British Columbia on their 29-foot sloop, first as a couple and then with their two children and dog, Solandar. Jolie lives with her family on Quadra Island, BC, where she is a teacher and manages a busy household with children, chickens, dog and extensive wild acreage and gardens.

    Mark Hobson


    Best known as one of the coast’s most celebrated artists, Mark Hobson is also a trained biologist, former park ranger and high school teacher. His love of nature and of people has enthralled Maple Leaf guests for decades. Mark lives in Tofino, B.C. and has painted professionally for just over 20 years. His paintings of the wildlife and landscapes of the B.C. coast are created in a remote float house studio surrounded by the natural beauty of Clayoquot Sound. His work has won international awards and has been featured in shows as far afield as Europe and Hong Kong. The National Geographic Society included his work in a display at their headquarters in Washington D.C. in 2002 and his designs have graced 3 coins produced by the Royal Canadian Mint.

    In 2003, 2005 and 2010 his underwater paintings won the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s stamp competition and appeared on B.C. saltwater fishing licences. A fascination with the natural world and overseas travel has combined with his leading tours to places such as the Galapagos, Costa Rica and the Arctic. A strong advocate for wilderness, Mark has been involved in several environmental campaigns and in the donation of hundreds of images to conservation efforts around the world.

    Mark is also a fine guitar and mandolin player who delights in singing sea shanties on board Maple Leaf. As if that weren’t enough, Mark often gives us his extraordinary watercolour lessons!

    Mary Morris


    Mary is a coastal marine biologist and ecologist who has always been at home along the shores of the BC and Alaska coastal temperate rainforest. For 20 years she has been part of a massive project to document and classify every inch of the coastline of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska to the Arctic coast. That’s over 100,000 kilometres of coastline! Mary was also involved in the rediscovery (or, perhaps more properly said, the wider culture’s discovery of something already locally known) of an important archaeological feature here: First Nations clam gardens.

    She is also a scientific and popular writer and her primary reader Between the Tides (UBC Faculty of Education) was recently translated into Haida for use in the Haida Gwaii school system. Her deep knowledge of marine ecosystems and her enthusiasm and warmth with people make Mary a fascinating person to travel the coast with.

    Mary has been exploring the coast since she was a child. She lived for 15 years on Haida Gwaii, where she ran a small nature tour company and travelled extensively in Gwaii Haanas by small boat and kayak. She now lives in Victoria and spends a large portion of each year exploring the coast with her husband on their private boat. As a naturalist, she is a generalist, able to interpret a wide range of habitats and species.

    “My passion is being on the water and seeing the shoreline, the intertidal zone and all the interconnections of life there,” she says. “The best thing about being on Maple Leaf trips is being able to share that with others, too.”

    Education & Certifications

    • Masters of Science in Biology (University of British Columbia)
    • Registered Professional Biologist (College of Applied Biology)
    • Marine Emergency Duties A2 (Transport Canada)
    • Marine First Aid (Transport Canada)
    • Bear Guide (Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC)

    Mike Jackson


    Mike is a naturalist, author and science teacher. His book, Galapagos: A Natural History, has been a best-selling guide to the Galapagos Islands for nearly 30 years. High school students he’s taken on trips to the famous islands have been delighted by the autograph-signing superstar that their self-effacing teacher is there.

    Mike moved to the west coast in 1986 and has been fascinated by coastal and marine natural history. Amongst other subjects, he teaches physics, geology, biology, earth science, environmental science, marine science, and astronomy at St. Michaels University School in Victoria, BC.

    He brings all of these talents to his trips with Maple Leaf Adventures, engaging guests with star-gazing evenings, lectures on rainbows, and many other unexpected topics. “I enjoy nature and science and really want to share it with others,” says Michael. “I appreciate the logic of physics, am fascinated by geology and the marine environment, and feel environmental education is essential.”

    Mike trained as a biologist at Cambridge University and as an environmental scientist at the University of Calgary before becoming a teacher. In addition to field studies in the Galapagos Islands, Mike also studied birds of prey in Kenya. He is an avid sea kayaker and has paddled most of the way around Vancouver Island. He is on the executive of the BC Association of Physics Teachers, a volunteer with the local Coast Guard Auxiliary, and is president of a local sea kayaking club. 

    He has led natural history tours in the Galapagos, the Andes and the Amazon basin of Ecuador and Peru, Gwaii Haanas East Africa, and Iceland. Mike lives in Victoria and looks forward to showing you the natural beauty of our coast.

    Education & Certifications

    • BA (Cambridge)
    • MA (Cambridge)
    • MEDes (University of Calgary)
    • Assistant Bear Viewing Guide (Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC)
    • Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (Transport Canada) 
    • Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching – Certificate of Achievement (2003)
    • Emergency Wilderness First Aid
    • Sea Kayak Guide Alliance of BC, Level 2 guide
    • Paddle Canada level 4 skills kayaker and Level 1 and rolling instructor

    Misty MacDuffee


    Coastal biologist Misty MacDuffee was recently asked by eco-clothing store Hemp & Company what put her on the path of sustainability. Here’s what she said: “When I was in grade 6 (way back in about 1974), I learned about how moths in industrial England changed from dominantly white to dominantly black, due to the English landscape being covered in soot. This affected predation by birds on coloured moths. I never forgot the forces of both humans and natural selection.” Her answer encapsulates the marvellous synthesis of wonder, scientific rigour, and engagement in the big questions of our time that Misty brings to her role as a naturalist.

    In her day job, Misty is an award-winning scientist and program director for Raincoast Conservation Foundation. She envisions and conducts primary research, about which she publishes academic and popular papers. She works on government and multi-disciplinary NGO committees to develop policies and regulations for our natural world. She advocates for changes such as allocating salmon quotas for the wildlife, who need salmon to survive, and the cessation of the grizzly bear trophy hunt, and she envisions and manages the direction of part of Raincoast’s very well-respected scientific research program.

    Misty has become to be known as the “Salmon Goddess” for her passion for wild salmon and also for the expertise she has developed in salmonid ecology. She has an inspiring dedication to advocating for these fantastic fish. Misty has quite a long history with the schooner Maple Leaf and Maple Leaf Adventures. She first worked aboard as a cook and deckhand in the late 1980s, and then, when the Maple Leaf helped Raincoast raise awareness about the Great Bear Rainforest in the 1990s, she was back aboard again as a conservationist and scientist. This history, and her years observing changes on the coast, brings a great perspective to her trips with Maple Leaf guests.

    Education & Certifications

    • BSc, Biology (University of Victoria)
    • Marine Emergency Duties A2 (Transport Canada)

    Severn Cullis-Suzuki


    Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been studying ecology and society since she was small—from fishing for smelt on the seawall in Vancouver to visiting communities from the coast to the Amazon. Born into an activist family, she started speaking out for intergenerational justice as a child, culminating in a powerful speech at the UN Earth Summit in Rio, which garnered worldwide attention. Severn received a BSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (Yale), and an MSc in Ethnobotany (University of Victoria) for which she studied with Kwakwaka’wakw elders on the Pacific Northwest coast.

    She believes strongly in interdisciplinary and intercultural collaboration and continues to speak and write worldwide about it, including as a special advisor to the UN’s Secretary General. She has published several books and hosted several TV series. Severn lives on Haida Gwaii, with her husband and two sons. She is studying the Skidegate dialect of the endangered Haida language with elders. She is an Earth Charter International councillor, and a board member of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society. She has been trained since the age of 17 by a Haida elder, giving her great insight to share with you. 

    Sherry Kirkvold


    Sherry is a geographer, naturalist and writer who has worked in national, provincial and regional parks, and as the interpretation specialist for BC Parks.

    She has run her own business in the field of interpretation, worked with the Vancouver and Royal British Columbia Museums and, in her 35 years on the west coast, has explored it extensively.

    She is the principal author of Carmanah: Artistic Visions of an Ancient Rainforest, the art book that helped raise awareness and eventually protect the Carmanah Valley and editor of Canada’s Raincoast at Risk: Art for an Oil Free Coast, the art book that helped raise awareness of the need to protect the Great Bear Rainforest from tar sands supertankers.

    Sherry has instructed on ecotourism and interpretation at several colleges, including the Sooke Adventure Tourism School, Camosun College, and Capilano College.

    A great teacher to the young and the not-so-young (will we ever forget how whales hear now that Sherry has had us listen to oven racks?), Sherry has brought several traditions to Maple Leaf, including South African gumboot dancing (optional, of course) and humming to slugs.

    Sherry is also a musician and photographer with a passion for travel and leads tours around the world.

    Education & Certifications

    • BSc, Geography and Environmental Science (University of Calgary)
    • Assistant Bear Viewing Guide (Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC)
    • Marine Emergency Duties A2 (Transport Canada)
    • Additional coursework in Botany (University of Victoria)
    • Marine Biology course (Vancouver Aquarium)
    • Marine Radio Operator Certificate (Transport Canada)
    • PCOC – Pleasure Craft Operator Certificate (Transport Canada)
    • Wilderness First Aid (Alert First Aid)

    Fiona Hamersley Chambers


    Fiona Hamersly Chambers could pick and brew you a wild herb tea while creating a basket using native fibres and weaving techniques, as you, she and a group of Oxford dons discussed carbon sequestration in the Kyoto Protocol. This multi-talented academic, author, instructor, gardener/farmer and ethnobotanist is also an enthusiastic naturalist.

    Fiona was born in Vancouver, B.C. She grew up in two First Nations communities here on the coast – the Ditidaht First Nation at Nitnat Lake and the Coast Salish community on Penelakut Island (formerly Kuper Island) – as well as in North Vancouver and the UK. Her love of the outdoors and nature began at an early age while living in the bush in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and travelling extensively with her family, both along the BC coast and abroad.

    Fiona has lectured since 1999 at the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies and has degrees from UVic, the University of Calgary (in co-management of forest resources with Métis communities in northern Saskatchewan), and Oxford University (an MSc in Environmental Change and Management).

    She is currently at work on her PhD under the direction of renowned ethnobotanist Nancy Turner. Fiona also teaches at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre and Pacific Rim College. Among other academic work, she has co-authored a book chapter for the Smithsonian Institution with Nancy Turner, and a number of field guides: Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada (this with another Maple Leaf naturalist, Andy MacKinnon!), Wild Berries of BCWild Berries of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and Wild Berries of Ontario.

    Fiona currently lives outside Victoria, B.C. where she owns and operates Metchosin Farm, a small organic plant nursery and seed company. Two rambunctious boys, milk goats, chickens, pigs and the rest of the farm menagerie keep her busy and happy. Her friendly and adventurous spirit guides Maple Leaf Adventure’s guests to discover unexpected wonders in the coast’s natural world.

    Education & Certifications

    • PhD candidate, Environmental Studies (University of Victoria)
    • MA, Environmental Design (University of Calgary)
    • MA (University of Oxford)
    • BA, French and Environmental Studies (University of Victoria)
    • Assistant Bear Viewing Guide (Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC)
    • Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (Transport Canada)
    • Marine Emergency Duties A3 (Transport Canada)

    About Maple Leaf Adventures

    Since 1986, we have offered eco-expeditions among the fjords and archipelagos of the BC and Alaska coastline, aboard luxury expedition yachts that are small enough to navigate its coves and narrow straits.

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