Ayatana Experts
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The Ayatana Artists' Research Program relies on the generous information sharing of local experts. Thank you scientists, naturalists, aficionados and connoisseurs for your enthusiasm and for teaching and inspiring the Ayatana visiting artists in residence.




Lori Bennett, Nature Interpreter

Lori's love for nature was obvious to everyone!  ...  right from "babyhood"  The youngest of 4 with 9 years  between them, she grew up in a beautiful old neighborhood in Ottawa but was happiest at her beloved cottage. With no electricity or running water, a lot of her time was spent in the woods, exploring, collecting, enjoying each scent and sound, and admiring wildlife.  Her favorite past time was hand feeding the chipmunks!  The "Good 'ol Days" they were.  Adulthood found her working for Bell Canada for 14 years where she gained much knowledge in the world of business until the company started cutting back.  She attended Algonquin College and earned her certificate in home decor but ended up starting and running a horseback riding school offering birthday celebrations, summer camp and riding excursions for the next 20 years instead.    In 2012, she was asked to submit her resume to the Friends of Gatineau Park as they were looking to hire a nature interpreter.  Since then, Lori has been passionately offering guided tours to groups and the general public in the Gatineau park on various themes from animal tracking in the snow to the history of the first settlers in the Gatineau Hills.  She feels right at home.



Liv Monck-Whipp, zoologist

Liv did her BSc in Zoology at the University of Guelph, and then took off into the woods for awhile. She is interested in ways of mitigating the negative effects of human developments on wildlife, and in how animals survive in human-altered landscapes. She has worked on projects investigating nest protection for turtles, road mitigation for reptiles, and the effects of logging techniques on birds and vegetation communities. She is currently a Masters student at Carleton, studying bat communities in agricultural areas. She is hoping to discover if there are ways to arrange farmland that will benefit bats without reducing the amount of crops being grown. She also enjoys contributing to citizen science projects and creating web comics about nature and field work. 



Beth McLarty Halfkenny, Geological Technician

As Outreach Coordinator at Carleton University, I organize classroom visits, field trips and presentations, create Earth Science teaching resources and provide teacher training opportunities.  My background includes an Honours Geology degree from University of Western Ontario, summer field work with the Ontario Geological Survey, a University Research Assistantship and several years as a Geological Technician. This together with my years working as a high school Science Teaching Assistant has shaped my mission to ensure students and teachers at all levels of education have the resources they need to learn about Earth systems and processes. I am constantly looking for new ideas to improve Earth Science literacy and help motivate students, educators and community  groups to engage with the natural world and to see the links between the “stuff” in our lives and where it comes from.  My job allows me to interact with young people and I find it incredibly gratifying to see how kids  connect with science when given the opportunity to explore for themselves.  I am a member of the Canadian Geoscience Education Network, the Ottawa Gatineau Geoheritage Project and am Co-Chair of the EdGEO Canadian Earth Science Teachers Workshop Program.



Amber Westfall, Botanist

Amber Westfall is the owner of the Wild Garden, a small business in Ottawa, ON. Through plant walks, workshops and teaching courses on herbalism at the International Academy of Natural Health Sciences, she shares her passion about wild food and medicinal plants.
Amber is the caretaker of a 1/2 acre parcel of land as part of Just Food’s Start-up Farm Program. This site is in the early stages of becoming a certified organic, medicinal food forest. At this location Amber also runs a Young Herbalist's Apprenticeship program for youth, ages 8 and up. The Wild Garden provides community members with a variety of local, organic and sustainably harvested wild food and herb products such as herbal teas and wild food preserves.
Connecting people and plants in this way imparts a kind of nature connection that fosters a greater intimacy and deeper understanding of the local landscape, while encouraging stewardship, co-creative relationships and regenerative care of the spaces we inhabit.




Andrew Pelling, Biologist

Andrew Pelling is a Canada Research Chair and Professor at the University of Ottawa where he directs the Laboratory for Biophysical Manipulation, an openly curious and exploratory space where scientists, engineers and artists work in close quarters. The lab dedicated to understanding the limits of living systems and how biological entities can be controlled, manipulated and re-purposed using non-genetic and non-pharmacological means. Andrew is ultimately interested in creating functional, living, biological composites that do not naturally exist in nature.




Daniel Modulevsky, Biochemist

Daniel Modulevsky achieved his undergraduate Biochemistry degree at the University of Ottawa and now is a biology master student in the Pelling Lab for Biophysical Manipulation.  His main research project involves developing 3D cell culture scaffolds.  Recently, at the Pelling Lab, they optimized a protocol to decellularize plant tissue in an attempt to use the cellulose scaffolds to culture mammalian cells.  Our recent work has been published at PLoS ONE.  Daniel has collaborated with Bioartist Tristan Matheson in the past to develop paintings based on scanning electon microscope (SEM) images of decellularized apple tissue.   



Jim des Rivières,
Photographer, moth aficionado

Jim des Rivières is a self-taught photographer and fine art printer. His stunning moth images are captured directly with high-resolution flatbed scanners, and printed on large format archival pigment-based inkjet printers. The large high-resolution prints allow the viewer to see them up close without a magnifying glass, opening up a marvelous world of intricate shapes, structures, and colours that surprise and delight viewers of all ages. The Canadian Museum of Nature's Winged Tapestries travelling exhibition includes 45 of his large moth prints, and has visited major nature museums in Ottawa, New York City, and Edmonton.



Steffan Caissie

Stef utilizes the healing power of Yoga on the mind, body and spirit by focusing on yogic breathing techniques, mantra sound healing, and yoga postures.  He enjoys flowing postures following the movement of the breath as well as held postures where he can relax and meditate.  When we settle into the most relaxed state of being it allows the amazing healing capacity of our beautiful and unique bodies to be used at maximum potential.   He enjoys the simplicity of yoga where by slowly becoming aware of your mind and body, your spiritual awareness grows as well. It is a beautiful process of accepting who you are and letting go of what does not serve your highest potential.

Stef brings a lot of personal knowledge of Chakras, energy systems and meridians that he shares in his classes. He also practices acupressure, crystal healing, Reiki and a Hawaiian form of shamanic healing as well as being a yoga teacher. Stef is also a graduate of the Rama Lotus Yoga Centre’s 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training as well as the Yin Yoga Teacher Training. He continues his studies with a specialization course on breathe. Still being new to the amazing world of yoga, he brings such a passion and exuberance that he is always willing to share. He is grateful for the opportunity to serve at Rama Lotus and the Ottawa yoga community and to lead these eager yogic spirits in an energy enhancing, relaxation inducing, unique, and enjoyable experience.


Dr. Sandra M. Barr is Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  During her 40+-year academic career she has shared her passion for Earth science with thousands of students, helping them to better understand and appreciate Earth processes and history, while seeking through her own research to better understand the details of that history herself.  Her research has a strong emphasis on studying rocks in the field, and to see them she has hiked many of the rivers, streams, and shorelines in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Dr. Barr has over 200 publications in peer-reviewed research journals, and numerous book chapters, government reports, maps, field trip guides, open-file reports, and a popular book co-authored with Martha Hild on the “Geology of Nova Scotia”.  She has presented the results of her work at conferences world-wide.  In addition to teaching and research, she has also been active as a volunteer. She is co-editor of the Atlantic Geoscience Society journal "Atlantic Geology".  In 2015, she received the Ambrose Medal of the Geological Association of Canada in recognition of her exemplary service to Canadian geoscience.



Rob Raeside grew up in Scotland, studying at Aberdeen University, before coming to Canada to complete a Masters degree at Queen’s University.  He obtained his PhD from the University of Calgary, where he worked on rocks from the mountains in central BC.  He has taught at Acadia University since 1982. His focus is on minerals, metamorphism and mountain building, and the courses he teaches match that.  Outside the classroom, he has been department head for most of the past twenty years in the Earth and Environmental Science Department, and he conducts research into the origin of the Appalachian Mountain chain, mainly in Cape Breton Island and southern Nova Scotia.  Much of his work involves microscopic examination of mineral and rocks, and he always enjoys introducing his students to the mysteries and colours of the world of mineral optics.

Terry-Lee Bourgeois-King, Potter


Terry-Lee spent countless hours creating and drawing as a child. She attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, now called NSCAD University from 1989 until 1995. Her primary area of study was painting and drawing. In Terry-Lee’s final year, her attention turned to pottery and she was completely enamored with the malleable three dimensional form that also embodies all the wonderful elements of painting; such as colour, texture and line.

Terry-Lee still considers herself a painter but, after over a decade, she continues to be more than a little side-tracked with Ceramics. She can be found in her studio creating one of a kind wheel thrown and hand-formed pots. She strives to marry pleasing forms with colour and texture in every pot. Her unique glazes sparkle over the 3 dimensional form in the natural light. Terry-Lee delights in creating new and exciting glaze colours, interesting surfaces and forms. She offers up a medley of pots from functional humble bowls to vases that will bring individuality and soul to one’s home.

Ruth E. Newell is a graduate of both Acadia University (Wolfville, NS) and the University of Guelph (Guelph, Ontario) where she has received degrees in biology and botany. Since graduating, she has worked for over thirty years at Acadia University as the Curator of the E.C. Smith Herbarium (part of the Irving Biodiversity Collection, in the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre). This position involves taking care of a collection of over 200,000 dried botanical specimens including flowering plants, ferns and fern allies, mosses, lichens and liverworts and fungi. This invaluable collection documents the past and current wild flora of the Acadian Forest Region and is utilized by researchers, students, artists, professional botanists and many others. Ruth is keenly interested in wild plants and their preservation and is currently a member of several rare plant recovery teams, and the Nova Scotia Species at Risk Working Group. She has recently co-authored (together with Marian C Munro and Nicolas M. Hill) Nova Scotia’s first e-flora entitled Nova Scotia Plants (  This document is a comprehensive guide to Nova Scotia’s wild flora.


Laura Astwood is a creator and performer of original theatre works.
As the Artistic Director of the Ottawa Stilt Union, she wrote and directed Beowulf andThe Girl Who Was Eaten By The Dark and directed This Is A Very Old Story/C’est une vieille histoire. In June 2010 she collaborated with 5 other artists in the creation and performance of Six: At Home, a site-specific work at the Laurier House during the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Laura appeared in the NAC’s Snow Show 2007, East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon, playing the Bear and the North Wind. She spent seven winters, from 1997 to 2003, with British Columbia’s Caravan Farm Theatre, developing her skills as a snow-stilter in their annual outdoor Christmas sleigh-ride shows, playing the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol, Rolf the Ganger in The Feathered Cloak and The Dark Witch and the White Witch in The Winter Rose.


Erika Revesz, Chemist

Erika is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa studying the solubility of ferric arsenate and other arsenical iron oxides under the influence of bacteria found in mine wastes and tailings. She is assisting the Scanning Electron Microscope and the Electron Microprobe at the Advanced Research Complex under the supervision of Glenn Poirier, Manager of the Electron Microprobe Laboratory at the Canadian Museum of Nature/University of Ottawa. She is a former research scientist for JDS Uniphase where she did research with optical fibers and related advanced materials. Previously, she represented Canada at international kayak races. She is interested in kayaking, cross-country skiing and time-trialing on bicycles.


Carol Holmes-Kerr, Potter

Carol came to clay in an attempt to find balance while she was working as a nurse and counsellor in Sarnia, Ontario.  She took her first pottery course at Lambton College in 1999 and after completing all of the courses in the continuing education ceramics program, she went on to take courses and workshops from such notable ceramic artists as Les Manning, Robert Tetu, Angelo Di Petta, Tony Clennell, Richard Gill, Chris Snedden and Steven Hill.  She has a special interest in raku and alternative firing.  She continues to take courses and attend workshops in her quest to improve her skills and technique.
Carol was a member of the London Potters Guild for several years and is the former president of the Sarnia Lambton Potters Guild and of the Ottawa Guild of Potters and a former board member of FUSION – The Ontario Clay and Glass Association. In 2009 she joined Gladstone Clayworks Pottery Co-op where she practices her craft with 25 other potters.  She teaches hand building and throwing classes to adults hoping that her love of clay is reflected in the knowledge and enthusiasm she brings to her students.


Kevin, Musician, Teacher, Energy worker



Ridgeley Williams, Geologist

Since retiring as a museum scientist, Ridgeley Williams has enjoyed cooking and eating traditional European and Mediterranean foods as well as following interests in local history (for example, transcribing C19th Welsh census records) and family history (tracing the life of a serial-bigamist gt-great uncle). He was educated at the Universities of Exeter, U.K., and Ottawa, Canada, and led fossil-collecting expeditions to the High Arctic. He became Chief Curator of Mineral Sciences and Assistant Director of the National Museum of Natural Sciences (now called the Canadian Museum of Nature). Responsibility for exhibit production & education programmes highlighted the need for better information on how learning and communication actually takes place in museums and galleries. He helped establish and was President of the Visitor Studies Association, which sponsored research and published results of exhibit evaluations, science literacy levels, and studies of visitor behaviour in informal-learning environments.




John- Philip, Stone Carver

Algonquin College Heritage Institute, Perth, Canada
Heritage & Traditional Masonry, 2002-2004


North-West Tower, East Block, Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
West Block, Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Library of Parliament, Parliament of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Victoria Memorial Museum Building, Ottawa, Canada
Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, Regina, Canada
Préfecture de Police, Ile de France, Paris, France
Palais-Royal, Paris, France
Cathedral Church of St. James, Toronto, Canada
Legislative Building of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
Old City Hall, Toronto, Canada

Co-founder of the Smith and Barber Sculpture Atelier.



Danny Barber, Stone Carver

Danny Barber studied Applied Architectural Stonework & Conservation as well as Stonemasonry in England. He is co-founder of the Smith and Barber Sculpture Atelier and has worked on many monuments and buildings in the Ottawa area including the Parliament Buildings and Rideau Hall.



David Lamb, Stone Carver

David studied stonemasonry at York Technical College and the University of Gloucestershire, building conservation at the West Dean College and restoration carving at The Orton Trust in England.

He acted as head stone cutter at York Minster Cathedral, and Shop Foreman at Gloucester Cathedral.

He now is the shop forman at the Smith and Barber Studio where he is currently restoring parts of the Canadian Parliament buildings.



John Felicè Ceprano,
physicist and land artist

John Felicè Ceprano, began the site specific installation the Art of Balance at the Remic Rapids in Ottawa, Canada. The balanced natural rock sculptures have since been installed every year.

 John sponsors performance artists and events including international stone balancing festivals. He promotes the region’s environmental tourism, ecological awareness & Canadian heritage.



David Seburn, herpetologist

David Seburn has been an ecological consultant specializing in the conservation of amphibians and reptiles and species at risk for 20 years.  He has conducted surveys and demographic studies on a variety of species including the Blanding’s Turtle, Spotted Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle, Five-lined Skink and Western Chorus Frog.  He has prepared recovery strategies, management plans, COSEWIC status reports and survey protocols for numerous species at risk.  Over the years, he has authored or co-authored 8 peer-reviewed scientific papers on amphibians and reptiles.  He has shared his passion for amphibians and reptiles by making presentations to many school classes and naturalist groups.    

Laura Astwood is a creator and performer of original theatre works.
As the Artistic Director of the Ottawa Stilt Union, she wrote and directed Beowulf andThe Girl Who Was Eaten By The Dark and directed This Is A Very Old Story/C’est une vieille histoire. In June 2010 she collaborated with 5 other artists in the creation and performance of Six: At Home, a site-specific work at the Laurier House during the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Laura appeared in the NAC’s Snow Show 2007, East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon, playing the Bear and the North Wind. She spent seven winters, from 1997 to 2003, with British Columbia’s Caravan Farm Theatre, developing her skills as a snow-stilter in their annual outdoor Christmas sleigh-ride shows, playing the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol, Rolf the Ganger in The Feathered Cloak and The Dark Witch and the White Witch in The Winter Rose.





Paul Gregory, meteorologist and shamanic practitioner

Paul Gregory understands that weather is the expression of the emotions of the atmosphere and the Planet. He began his career as a weather observer in the Arctic and the Prairies measuring cloud types and heights, temperatures and winds on the surface of the earth and in the upper atmosphere by releasing measuring instruments on balloons. He looks to the weather as healer of the energies of the earth and acts as an interpreter learning from the weather spirits and teaching us how to use these energies to balance and harmonize our own inner climates.

sky diving


David Williamson, pilot, skydiver

David Williamson is a professional skydiver and owner of the Atlantic School of Skydiving. Having made close to 8000 jumps since 1975 David focuses on keeping skydiving active in Nova Scotia. He provides introductory training and progression to advanced skydiver levels. David also takes much pleasure in providing tandem skydiving opportunities for those wishing to experience a freefall skydive. Since skydiving is seasonal in Nova Scotia, David finds winter training and work opportunities in many southern countries.


Dave Debay, pilot

David Debay is a pilot and flying instructor at the Debert Flight Center. He has a clear understanding of meteorology and is a member of the Truro flying Club.  He helps aspiring pilots to get their feet off the ground by teaching introductory flight lessons.


Larry Bogan, physicist, naturalist

Larry Bogan, a retired physics and astronomy Professor enjoys sharing his knowledge. He presents through the Minas Astronomy Group, the Blomidon Naturalist Siciety and other local community institutions. He and his wife Alyson Bogan have turned their land into a monarch butterfly way station  where they offer information sessions to interested parties to understand the plight of the monarch. They offer caterpillars and milkweed specimen to anyone interested in helping the cause.


Tom Cosman, beekeeper

In 1977 Tom Cosman saw some bee hives in the neighbour’s backyard. “You’d better not let your bees hurt my baby girl,” he said “Or else!”

“You’re overreacting,” said his wife, Mary Ann Whidden, when she got home from work. The next day she gave Tom a book: The Joys of Bee keeping by Richard Taylor. After reading it, Tom was hooked.

Tom and Mary Ann’s 1500 honeybee colonies now pollinate commercial fruit farms across the province. Cosman and Whidden Honey is available in most markets in Nova Scotia.




Chris Mansky, geologist

Chris Mansky, curator of the Blue Beach Fossil Museum & Research Center had a passion for fossils from childhood. He spent many years building his collection from the West Coast of Canada, but in 1995 found his way to the Eastern shores of Nova Scotia (Blue Beach, Kings County). A self taught citizen-paleontologist, Chris was intrigued to have a chance to find trace fossils and bones of the first creatures ever, to move out of water and walk on land 350 000 000 years ago, the tetrapods.  He spent the first three years of his time at Blue Beach wondering if he'd ever find the illusive bones or footprints; then he did and since has amassed the largest and most important track collections of this time period, the Lower Carboniferous.  Thirteen years ago, Chris and his partner, Sonja Wood set up the small home-based museum on their property to allow Local, National and International Visitors the chance to see some of the amazing collection gathered from the shoreline. Their mission is to build a new fossil institute at Blue Beach in order to house the ever-growing collection of world-class fossils and to host the ever-growing number of people who enjoy this amazing location on the head-waters of the Bay of Fundy.



Alfred Boudreau, kite flyer

Alfred Boudreau is an accomplished four line, two line and Rakkaku kite flyer who has been involved in kitting since 2002. He has built many kites himself. He is an avid volunteer at the Dieppe International kite festival and has been invited to fly at Tohu (International Circus School in Montréal), Saint-Honoré and the Internatinal kite festival in Dieppe, France. He and his wife Linda enjoy showing kids how to build their first kites.



Mathieu Gregoire, marine biologist, astronomer

My fascination with aquatic life began early when I received my first aquarium as a gift for my 8th birthday.  Since then I've developed a passion for aquarium-keeping which ultimately led me to enroll at Acadia.  I graduated with a B.Sc. in biology in 2013 after taking nearly every available marine or ecology related course.  Since graduation I have begun my own research as a part of an M.Sc. in Marine Biology.  My research involves the monitoring and evaluation of fish passage on fish ladders near the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border, and I hope to graduate in the spring of 2015.  
During my first semester I decided to enroll in an Astronomy course as an elective.  I was hooked immediately.  I excelled in the course and was asked if I would be willing to work as a Teaching Assistant the following year.  This fall will be the 5th straight year that I hold the position.


Jim Wolford in Blomidon Provincial Park



Jim Wolford, biologist

I am a retired university biology instructor from Acadia University, retired 1995, and before that I taught at the University of Alberta, Edmonton (1963 to 1975).  I have a Master’s degree in Biology from Univ. of Alberta, 1966, where I studied herons in southern cattail marshes.  My interests are diverse, from bacteria to whales (a biodiversity freak) but am especially interested in chimney swifts, local bald eagles, amphibians and reptiles, pond life, importance of extensive, representative, protected lands and their biodiversity, etc.  

I was born in 1941 and raised until 21 in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, USA.



photos of Jim by Andy Dean


Janis Williams



Janis Williams, yogi

Janis has been practicing Hatha and Ashtanga yoga for over ten years. She has taught for three years within the school system, to police recruits, professional athletes and those needing to rehabilitate from injuries. She loves teaching every style, makes sure her students have fun and aims to leave people feeling better than how she finds them.



innr sun yoga


This rig is made to hold a small camera or his larger SLR Canon T4i. He ties the rig to the kite line about 100 feet below the kite.


Yvon Haché, aerial photographer

Passionate for kites and photography, Yvon Haché began building kites in 2003 and started using them for aerial photography in 2004 with a camera rig that he built. Being an electronic engineer, he likes playing with electronic circuits and microcontrollers to control his camera.  He built 4 different camera rigs so far and he's currently working on a fifth one to improve stability, add functionality and reduce weight.
Many of his aerial pictures have made the headlines in local newspapers and on television with Peter Coade and Kalin Mitchell on CBC weather reports.  
Yvon has been a kite flyer at the Dieppe international kite festival since 2004.  Since then, he built and experimented with different kind of kites to improve stability in different wind range for his camera and also to participate in kite creation contests.  He uses a technique called appliquee for his graphics on his kites which consist of pieces of different colors of fabrics sewed together.
In 2012, Yvon won first place at the Dieppe International Kite festival kite creation contest with his Olympic Maxi-Dopero and he won 2nd place in 2013 for his kite with a view of the Solar System from the moon.
Yvon is currently secretary/treasurer of the Dieppe kite club Sky-Lines and he participates/teaches kite building with the kite club members.



yvonYvon Haché won 2nd prize with this kite in the 2013 Dieppe International Kite festival kite creation contest.



Stephanie Williams, art historian

I am a lapsed silver smith now retired from teaching visual art to elementary and secondary students and at the Faculty of Education, Ottawa University.

My teaching practice focussed on encouraging problem solving and creativity through visual art and the integration of the arts with other disciplines such as media literacy.

Since retirement I have put my art history degree to use as a docent at the National Gallery of Canada, and the art exhibits at the Canadian War Museumgiving frequent public talks and conducting tours.

I have joined several community theatre groups and designed & built costumes & props as well as producing 5 operas. I am president of a competitive women’s barbershop chorus.


Alexis Williams

Photo by Cara Cole


Alexis Williams, ameteur mycologist and artist

Alexis Williams is an artist, amateur mycologist and the director of the Ayatana Artist Researh Program. She hosts guided tours through forests where participants are invited to step off the path to make decisions with intuition and experience the forest from new perspectives. She finds giving biology lessons from an artist’s point of view to be a natural way to facilitate an experience where her audience’s perceptions are permanently altered by making them alert and appreciative of things they had previously seen but neglected to notice.

She gives workshops on mushroom foraging and on sterile tech for DIY mushroom cultivation.  She is particularly interested in bioluminescence, myco-heterotrophs (mushrooms that parasitize other mushrooms), symbiotic relationships and composite organisms. Alexis is devoted to sharing her passion for biology.