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Board of Directors

Dr. Suzanne Simard Forest Ecologist President Mother Tree Network Board of Directors Author Finding the Mother Tree

Suzanne Simard PhD

Founder | President

Dr. Suzanne Simard is a Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada and leader of both The Mother Tree Project and Mother Tree Network. Her research focuses on the complexity and interconnectedness of nature and is guided by her deep connection to the land and her time spent amongst the trees.  
She is known worldwide for her pioneering work on how trees interact with one another and communicate using below-ground fungal networks. With a team of collaborators, Dr. Simard has established the Mother Tree Project, an innovative long-term experiment crossing a 900-km climate gradient that is investigating how retention of old trees helps protect biodiversity, carbon storage, and forest regeneration as climate changes. This research has already shown far-reaching implications for sustainable stewardship of forest ecosystems in evolving climates.

Dr. Simard is a passionate science communication advocate, empowering people to help manage and heal forests from human impacts, including climate change. She shares her research globally through teaching, interviews, documentaries, and her TED Talk, "How trees talk to one another," which, to date, has accumulated more than 5.4 million views and has been translated into dozens of different languages. 

Dr. Simard's award-winning scientific memoir, "Finding The Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest," continues to extend her global impact. Among its numerous accolades is the prestigious Lewis Thomas Prize, bestowed by New York’s Rockefeller University, awarded in 2023, in recognition of its innovative fusion of science and the humanities.

Last year, Dr. Simard also received the Kew International Medal from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew based in London, England. The award recognized her 'invaluable work and devotion' to championing biodiversity in forests. 

Dr. Simard holds a Ph.D. in Forest Ecology from Oregon State University and is a Registered Professional Forester. In her career, she has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles and presented at conferences around the world.

Her enduring commitment to advancing our understanding of forest ecosystems and promoting sustainable stewardship continues to inspire and catalyze positive change on a global scale.

Ross Wilson Vice-President Mother Tree Network Board of Directors Indigenous Leader

Ross Wilson

Board Member | Vice-President

Ross Wilson is a member and former chief of the Heiltsuk Nation. Ross has been instrumental in leading Indigenous-led stewardship in coastal BC, including as: the Director of the Metlakatla Stewardship Society and as Director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department.

Jonaki Bhattacharyya, PhD (Waterloo), is an ethnoecologist dedicated to Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship. Jonaki specializes in wildlife and habitat stewardship through community-based initiatives. She integrates diverse cultural experiences and interdisciplinary approaches to provide technical support, field research, planning, and facilitation services to Indigenous nations, NGOs, and partners. Jonaki has been instrumental in supporting the establishment of Dasiqox Nexwagwez?an (Tsilhqot’in Protected Area), since 2014. Jonaki has been recognized for her contributions to conservation science, receiving the 2015 Wilburforce Fellowship, and has served on various academic and NGO advisory committees related to Indigenous conservation initiatives, university graduate research, and Indigenous wildfire management and stewardship. Jonaki currently serves on the Board of Directors for West Coast Environmental Law and brings her experience to support the important work of the Mother Tree Network.

Jonaki Bhattacharyya PhD Ecologist Board of Directors Secretary Mother Tree Network

Jonaki Bhattacharyya PhD

Board Member | Secretary

Lara Hoshizaki Treasurer Mother Tree Network Board of Directors

Lara Hoshizaki

Board Member | Treasurer

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Executive Director

Jana Kotaska is the Executive Director for the Mother Tree Network. She has worked for First Nations in British Columbia since 1998, supporting their land and water governance. Some of these nations include the Cowichan Tribes, other members of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, and Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative. Her formal educational background is in ecology, environmental science, and planning, and she completed a PhD focused on decolonizing territorial governance at the University of British Columbia. Her real-world education comes from the Elders and colleagues she has had the privilege to work with, and to whom she is ever grateful. She has taught courses with the Haida Gwaii Institute and the University of Victoria’s Restoration of Natural Systems program. Of mixed European ancestry, she was born and raised on various Coast Salish territories, and currently lives on Quw’utsun lands in the Cowichan Valley, where she and her partner run a 40 acre certified organic mixed farm. She is a mother of two, and in her spare time, is nurturing an emerging art practice. 

Director of Collaborations

Sammy is an Indigenous researcher, and professional agrologist (PAg). Sammy has worked for over a decade on ecological restoration projects and in community-based research.  Born in Whitehorse, Yukon and living there for much of his youth, he was exposed from a young age to a life rooted in the outdoors and a deep respect for local Indigenous people and cultures. As a descendent of Cree & Dene peoples from Fort McMurray #468 First Nation, and European colonial settlers. Sammy is always walking, learning, and working in the boundary between Indigenous and Western cultures. Sammy has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Victoria, with a Double Major in Geography and Environmental Studies. His research interests are focused primarily on ecological design and restoration, Indigenous food sovereignty, Indigenous Guardian programs, and Indigenous-led collaborative stewardship.​ Sammy founded the Smokehouse Foundation, Reciprocity Trusts Society and Reciprocity Restoration. Sammy brings his experience in working with Indigenous communities in British Columbia to his role as Director of Collaborations with the Mother Tree Network. Sammy is grateful to live, work and learn with my family on Indigenous lands of the Malahat, Sc'ianew, Songhees, and W̱SÁNEĆ Nations.

Director of Development & Operations

Britton is a strategic and thoughtful environmental non-profit collaborator with an academic background in environmental restoration and more than 10 years’ experience aligning organizational strategy and resource mobilization. Her main area of responsibility is supporting the Mother Tree Network’s fund development strategy and impact, while nurturing reciprocal relationships with philanthropic and granting partners as the organization grows into its mission.  Born and raised in California, in Tongva territory, Britton has a degree from University of California, Irvine (English and Biological Sciences), working as a bilingual reporter for a number of years in Costa Rica, before pursuing a Restoration of Natural Systems program diploma from University of Victoria (Dip. RNS). Her capstone project Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping Site Series Descriptions of the Homer McCrea Covenant put her hands back in the earth! Britton is of mixed ancestry: Métis (Saulteaux/Swampy Cree/Irish/Scottish—family names McNab, McDermot, Logan), Jamaican, and British on her mother’s side; and Irish/German, on her father’s. She and her partner live in t’Suk territories (Sooke) and are proud mothers to two: Callum and Myles. In off hours you can find her birding, bodysurfing, traversing the Sooke Hills and Kludahk ridge, and keeping her Spanish honed with anyone who will listen.


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