Regional Board of Directors
The BC Region is guided by a dynamic board of professionals, whose expertise touches on all aspects of our conservation work. These highly respected individuals volunteer their time to assist the Nature Conservancy of Canada in making the best decisions for conservation in British Columbia.
Lesley Bentley grew up in West Vancouver, spending her summers sailing the BC coast. As an adult she became an avid hiker, boater and nature traveller.
Professionally, Lesley began work at the CBC as a radio producer for a BC-based current affairs shows. Later she moved into the volunteer sector, where she has been a board member of the Vancouver Museum, St. John’s Vancouver Anglican Church and St. George’s School, serving as board chair for three years. Most recently, she has climbed in the Purcell Mountains and hiked the Nootka Island Trail.
Kai Chan is a professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. He led the pathways and solutions chapter of the recent UN biodiversity report (the IPBES Global Assessment) and has published over 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals. As an interdisciplinary sustainability scientist, Kai leads CHANS lab (Connecting Human and Natural Systems) and is a lead editor of the new British Ecological Society journal People and Nature. He is also an agent of change toward sustainability.
Kai co-founded CoSphere, a Community of Small-Planet Heroes, which seeks to make it easy, enjoyable and inexpensive for individuals and organizations to have net-positive effects on nature and their many crucial contributions to people. Kai has a bunch of honours, but he didn’t want to burden you with reading them!
Eric Denhoff is a senior executive with more than 30 years of experience in Canada and abroad. He has served as a deputy minister and a chief negotiator in Alberta’s and BC’s public sectors in the areas of environment, climate change and aboriginal affairs. He has extensive experience in business in Asia, North America and Europe. He has served on a wide variety of boards, including the Energy Council of Canada, National Capital Commission, Fair Trade Canada, BC Women’s Hospital Foundation, Hospice Victoria, Greater Victoria Hospital Board, GNS School Board, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters among others.
Karen Hamberg is an experienced clean technology executive with nearly 20 years of global experience in the deployment of clean transportation technologies and the policy and regulatory frameworks required to advance market share. She is currently Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs at Westport Fuel Systems.
Karen was named to Canada’s Clean 50™ in 2017 for her contributions to advance sustainability in the transportation sector and to Canada's Clean 16TM for 2019 for her work on stringent clean transportation regulatory frameworks. She was a member of the Government of Canada’s Economic Strategy Table on Clean Technology.
She is the current Chair of the Board of Directors of CALSTART in Pasadena, California. Karen is serving as Chair of the 2019 United Way of the Lower Mainland Campaign Cabinet, after receiving the 2016 President’s Award of Distinction. She joined the board of the Nature Conservancy of Canada in September 2019.
Steve Hilts is a longtime supporter of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and an outdoor recreation and photography enthusiast. He lives in the West Kootenay, following a 30-year career in environmental management in industry, government and consulting. His work included water, air and land stewardship and restoration spanning North America, with a focus on BC. Most recently, Steve was director of environmental legacies with Teck Resources Limited, where he was responsible for leading Teck’s management of over 40 properties that were mined historically by Teck or its predecessor companies, plus developing and leading Teck's Net Positive Impact strategy for biodiversity.
Eliza Mitchell is a rancher in the remote Tatlayoko Valley in the West Chilcotin. Her ranch lies between NCC’s Lincoln Creek and Tatlayoko Lake Ranches. She has just completed two terms on the National Board of NCC and is currently a director of both the Weston Family Foundation in Canada and the Garfield Weston Foundation in the UK.
Melissa Polak is a tenured professional with 15+ years of experience in Canada in the field of risk management, performance measurement, governance and internal control. Melissa is currently the senior director of enterprise risk and assurance at Aurora Cannabis. Prior to her current role, she worked in management consulting with global firm Ernst & Young LLP. Outside of work, you can find Melissa actively involved in the communities she is passionate about; she recently chaired the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and oversaw its transition from the Women’s Leadership Council into the program it is today. When not at a desk, you can find Melissa running in Stanley Park, hiking the North Shore mountains or kayaking in the Salish Sea.
Robert M. Shaunessy
Robert M. Shaunessy brings extensive business experience to the NCC BC Region board of directors. Bob has been a co-founder and/or director of a number of corporations, including Rio Alto Exploration Ltd, Trigger Resources, Midway Energy Services, Renaissance Wine and Spirits and Rondo Exploration Ltd. Currently, he is the owner and co-founder of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Ltd and the president and CEO of Shaunessy Ranch Ltd. Since 2013, Bob has focused on serving on not-for-profit boards (generally as an advisor on advisory board positions), such as the Columbia Valley Hospice Society, Western Sky Land Trust and the Greenways Trail Alliance. Bob lives in Invermere, BC.
Janice Wattis’s love of nature led her to study earth sciences and to work as a park interpreter for the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba. She studied law in Victoria, BC, practicing for many years in Vancouver and Oakville, Ontario. Most recently, Janice served as vice-president, legal, with an international engineering firm, providing professional services in the natural resource industry sectors. She has wide experience in risk identification and management, compliance matters and professional management.
Janice has been a longtime supporter of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and was thrilled to join the BC Regional Board in 2015. She was appointed vice-chair of NCC's National Board in 2021. She has also served on the Chimo Community Services Board (Richmond, BC) and the PTA of St. Gabriel’s School (Bridgetown, Barbados). She has participated in Vancouver’s Giving Circle and has raised funds for other charitable organizations, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
In her spare time, Janice hikes, swims, kayaks, snowshoes and travels.
Bruce is a significant philanthropist in Vancouver, a partner at the law firm MLT Aikins and a former managing director at Goodmans LLC. He is a past-chair of the Vancouver Opera Foundation and the Vancouver Art Gallery. In addition to a deep love of the arts, Bruce is passionate about nature and animals.