MABRRI has an amazing team of Project Coordinators, Full-time Research Assistants, and Student Research Assistants. We value our team members as they help with ongoing projects and daily operational tasks.

The Coordinator team helps to manage MABRRI's daily operations. From coming up with new projects, to creating new partnerships, to finding funding that allows MABRRI to hire so many students, the Coordinators help with it all. In addition to the Coordinator Team, MABRRI's full-time staff help with ongoing projects and daily operational tasks.


Dr. Pam Shaw, Research Director

Pam is MABRRI's Research Director as well as the Director of the Master of Community Planning Program at Vancouver Island University. Pam has more than 35 years of experience in land use planning and facilitation, and is currently researching human/nature connections. She brings ideas, connections, and experience to the research team.


Graham Sakaki, Regional Research Institute Manager

After moving from Vancouver to Nanaimo in 2011 to further his education at VIU, Graham has been involved with MABRRI since it was established in 2014. Graham oversees the management of the research institute including partner engagement and project development. Graham is also responsible for securing and administering research funding, financial administration of research grants and service contracts, supervision of staff, resource management, planning, reporting, and knowledge mobilization. His educational background includes a master’s degree in Community Planning, a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Geography and diploma’s in both Forestry and Hospitality.


Jessica Pyett, Research and Community Engagement Coordinator

Jessica graduated from VIU’s Geography program in 2018, specializing in Natural Resource Management. Her current research focus is on environmental protection and analyzing the impacts of climate change on vulnerable plant and animal species. Jessica’s role at MABRRI is to assist and lead research projects on the ground.


Courtney Vaugeois, Special Projects Coordinator

Courtney holds a BA in Sociology from VIU and is currently pursing a Masters of Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University. She started at MABRRI in a Student Research Assistant position in 2017, gradually working her way up to the Special Projects Coordinator role in 2022. At MABRRI, Courtney’s supports social and cultural projects, with a primary focus on the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She has been educating local communities on the SDGs and how to localize them.


Sonal Deshmukh, Planning Project Coordinator

Sonal is a graduate of the Master of Community Planning program from Vancouver Island University. She holds an undergraduate degree in Architecture and has developed a set of skills as a practicing architect for almost a decade. Hailing from the central parts of India and relatively new to Canada, Sonal has acquired a keen interest in Canada's Indigenous history. She was inspired by and impressed with the resilience of Indigenous people and believes there are valuable lessons learned from Indigenous ways of living. She is an ambitious designer with hopes of improving urban issues through responsive community-led designs. Sonal brings her passion, entrepreneurial spirit, and fresh perspective to further the goals of MABRRI's diverse array of initiatives.


Ariel Verhoeks, Financial Coordinator & GIS Specialist

Ariel is a graduate from VIU’s GIS Diploma program and is MABRRI’s GIS Specialist and Financial Assistant. After graduating in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and Geography, she decided to further her education and enroll in the diploma program. Alongside MABRRI, she is excited to be working on the spatial analysis components of MABRRI’s projects. Having lived in Nanaimo her whole life, she believes that working with the MABR and with the MABRRI team is a wonderful opportunity for her to do hands-on work in her home region.


Jenica Ng-Cornish, Environmental Project Coordinator

Jenica’s educational background is in a Bachelor of Science, with a major in Geoscience. From being a student at VIU to becoming a full-time employee at MABRRI, Jenica has gained a variety of experience in field work and interdisciplinary research. With interests in environmental preservation, climate change science, and sustainability in all its forms, Jenica is excited to be a part of the MABRRI team where she can continue to learn and contribute to meaningful research.

Mandy Hobkirk headshot

Mandy Hobkirk, MABR Coordinator

On leave

Mandy started with MABRRI in the fall of 2017. After graduating from Vancouver Island University from the Bachelor of Science Degree Program in 2019, she transitioned into the role of MABR Coordinator. Mandy manages the MABR’s internal and external communications, coordinates community engagement events, manages the MABR’s youth program, and facilitates meetings and community forums for the MABR. Mandy has a passion for the environment, and is very excited to work within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.


Alanna Vivani, Environmental Project Coordinator

Alanna has graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from VIU in 2018. Her passion for marine biology was the driving factor to move from Ontario. Since then, she’s fallen in love with Vancouver Island and the ecosystems surrounding coastal British Columbia. During her time at VIU, she studied sea otter foraging behaviour and occupation time. This research solidified her interest in marine mammals and conservation. She is working with MABRRI as a Project Coordinator, involved in the Forage Fish Spawning Habitat Monitoring Project and Timing Windows in the RDN. She’s excited to be a part of the MABRRI team and contribute to their work on conservation.


Alicia McLean - Planning Project Coordinator

Alicia is a 2023 Candidate of the Master of Community Planning Program at VIU. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from UBC, with majors in Cultural Anthropology and English Literature, and a Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning. Alicia has been with MABRRI since the fall of 2021 and feels very privileged to contribute to such important applied planning work on Vancouver Island. Her interests include healthy communities, decolonization and motorcycles. She grew up in Errington and Parksville, in the heart of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, and is passionate about the people and places within.

Anna Lawrence

Anna Lawrence, Senior Research Assistant

Anna has a BA in Anthropology and recently completed her MA in Sustainable Leisure Management here at VIU. Anna is originally from England and moved to Treaty 7 territory in Alberta with her family when she was ten. She has lived on Coast Salish territories for the past seven years. Anna's research focus has been primarily in environmental and social/cultural sustainability and is excited to join MABRRI as a Senior Research Assistant.


Jacob Frankel, Senior Research Assistant

Jacob graduated with a Bachelors degree in Geography in 2020, specializing in Natural Resource Management. His areas of past experience include ecosystem based management and environmental sustainability. Jacob is excited to be working with MABRRI as a Senior Research Assistant, supporting conservation initiatives which include the Wetland Monitoring and Forage Fish Spawning Habitat Monitoring projects.


Jocelyn Benji, Junior Research Assistant

Jocelyn graduated from University of British Columbia in 2021 with a Bachelor of Sciences degree in a Combined Major focusing on Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Life Sciences. She has a passion for braiding Indigenous knowledge in culturally respectful ways and is excited to work on the Braiding United Nations Global Agendas project.


Kyla Seward, Junior Research Assistant

Kyla graduated from the University of Northern British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management. Until recently her focus has largely been in sustainable forestry, working with Forest Improvement and Research Management. She is excited to be a part of MABRRI's multidisciplinary approach to sustainability and hopes to be able to contribute many projects to come.

Student Research Assistants

Meet our Student Research Assistants