Living Lakes Canada Alumni

Meet our accomplished alumni who have been instrumental in advancing water science and stewardship efforts across Canada.

Heather Leschied

Like the waters of the mighty Columbia River, Heather is a driving force in the world of freshwater protection and stewardship in Canada. Having co-founded Living Lakes Canada alongside Kat Hartwig, Heather now continues her impactful work as Water Policy Advisor with the Water Stewardship and Security Branch of the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship in British Columbia. 

Over Heather’s 10 years as Living Lakes Canada’s Operations Director, she was instrumental in developing and delivering several programs, including the Foreshore Integrated Management Planning program alongside former Living Lakes Advisor Bruce MacDonald. She delivered CABIN training workshops to hundreds of individuals including government, industry, Indigenous and community groups, and built community-based monitoring case studies to support the creation of grassroots stewardship initiatives elsewhere in Canada.

Heather now works with the B.C. provincial government to support the development and implementation of policies associated with the Water Sustainability Act, governance models for water, and legislation and planning frameworks that deliver on government priorities. “I get to work on similar concepts, just from a different lens,” says Heather. She credits her work with Living Lakes for providing the opportunity to develop “a foundational understanding of water stewardship and policy in B.C.” that has supported her current work.

We are fortunate to have had such an incredibly passionate person help lay the foundation of our work today and we look forward to seeing what inspiring projects Heather pursues in the future.

Tomba Paagman

From intern to Master’s student in International Land and Water Management at Wageningen University & Research, Tomba Paagman is carrying forward lessons learned from her time with Living Lakes Canada. 

During her internship with Living Lakes, Tomba dug into whether the water availability of streams can keep pace with domestic water consumption and forest fire suppression. Guided by Paul Saso, Living Lakes Program Hydrologist, Tomba’s thesis report would go on to help Living Lakes Canada to further investigate how forest fire suppression and available resources intersect with climate change predictions. 

But it wasn’t all thesis research; Tomba had the opportunity to wade through waterways as a field technician for Living Lakes Canada’s Rivers and Streams project and the Kootenay Watershed Science (KWS) program. Living Lakes also facilitated Tomba’s work with the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners, Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Collaborative and Youth Climate Corps Program where she assisted in monitoring wetland and stream health. Slogging through seas of sedges and battling thick underbrush is challenging work, Tomba’s field experience with Living Lakes contributed to the collection of water quality and quantity data in the summer of 2021.

Although Tomba will specialize in land management in her master’s program, she reflected that “land and water go hand in hand and you can not treat one, without treating the other.” Tomba’s understanding of the interconnectedness between water and land and her appreciation for streams and rivers stems from her experience with Living Lakes. 

We wish Tomba the best as she furthers her education and hope the lessons learned with Living Lakes continue to guide her career within the environmental sector. 

Amelia Smart

During a summer internship with Living Lakes Canada, Amelia Smart explored the world of water data collection, developed water monitoring technical skills, and grew excited about furthering her education. As a professional athlete on the Canadian National Alpine Ski team, Amelia is no stranger to facing challenges head on and glided right into the water monitoring field at speed. 

Garbed in hip waders, Amelia gained valuable fieldwork experience as the Data Technician for the Columbia Basin Water Hub. She had the opportunity to participate in a Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) course and hydrometric training led by Living Lakes, as well as a LakeKeepers workshop co-hosted by Living Lakes and the BC Lake Stewardship Society. 

When Amelia wasn’t outdoors collecting water data, she helped to upload new incoming datasets to the Water Hub. Although meticulous work, it’s a critical step for supporting data-driven decision-making in the Columbia Basin. 

From both Amelia’s experience in the field and behind the computer, her biggest takeaway was “getting to see all the facets of what goes into collecting useful water data.” Amelia reflected, “I appreciated my internship experience as it provided the opportunity for youth, like me, to be involved in real-world stewardship experience.” In turn, Living Lakes Canada recognizes Amelia’s contribution to water monitoring in the Columbia Basin. 

Equipped with new skills and knowledge, Amelia is currently working to complete the Masters of Water Security program at the University of Saskatchewan. We wish Amelia the best of luck as she pursues her education, as well as competes on the World Cup circuit.

Sabrina Hu

As tributaries come together to form a flowing stream, it is through the pooling of many efforts that our freshwater protection initiatives come to life. A student of the University of British Columbia’s Master of Land and Water Systems Program, Sabrina Hu joined Living Lakes in the summer of 2023 as a Climate Scenario Intern seconded to the Foreshore Integrated Management Planning (FIMP) program.

Sabrina was asked to develop a climate scenario analysis framework for FIMP. The framework aims to increase the understanding of climate change uncertainties to help inform future lake management and support climate resiliency. Following an in-depth review of climate scenario analysis, along with past and present versions of the FIMP methodology, Sabrina developed a framework outlining the steps of applying scenario planning alongside FIMP to provide a methodology for collaborating and protecting the lake foreshore.

The objective is to provide more information to various levels of government, Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and stakeholders, for better informed and collaborative lake-related decision-making under the impacts of climate change. In this report, the scenario planning methodology from previous studies was reviewed and adopted to design a community-based FIMP scenario planning methodology.

Additionally, Sabrina supported research, planning, reconnaissance, and reporting processes for various FIMP projects. 

“This internship was an excellent experience that taught me a lot about how to apply my knowledge in solving real-world water issues,” said Sabrina. “I also learned how to build good relationships with people through effective communication with respect and humility. I sincerely thank Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions program and Living Lakes Canada for giving me the opportunity to gain valuable experience early in my career.”

Sabrina completed her internship and returned to her Masters program at UBC, which she graduated from in the fall of 2023.

Anwen Rees

Anwen joined the Living Lakes Canada team ablaze with passion for environmental research and education, which made the role of Program Assistant to the biomonitoring program an ideal fit. This position allowed her to support community participation in a national standardized water monitoring protocol.

Anwen quickly became proficient in all aspects of the biomonitoring program support role, including planning and delivering Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) and STREAM protocol training programs, writing grants, and reporting on outcomes. Her biggest takeaway from working with Living Lakes is an understanding of “how essential it is to build community-based water monitoring programs.” She continued, “having access to accurate, up-to-date data about water will become increasingly important for communities as the effects of climate change become more severe.”

Anwen left Living Lakes to pursue her Master’s of Resource Management (Planning) degree at Simon Fraser University (SFU), where her project explored how nature-based solutions might support reconciliation efforts through a Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions funded project called “Living with Water”. She has since continued on to a PhD, investigating collaborative water governance and planning. She also works as a research assistant with Living With Water, helping to plan and facilitate participatory water governance mapping initiatives.

My work with Living Lakes Canada gave me an important baseline on water issues in Canada and a greater awareness of the existing knowledge gaps in decision-making,” she credits. Anwen’s drive and passion are an inspiration, and we eagerly look forward to following her work in watershed-level planning and climate adaptation.