About Us

CPAWS Manitoba Staff

ron thiessen

Executive Director

Ron Thiessen

Ron Thiessen has been instrumental in establishing 23 parks and protected areas in Manitoba. That’s nearly three million hectares of healthy lands and waters conserved for future generations.

Ron began his nearly 30-year career in conservation knocking on doors for Greenpeace. These face-to-face interactions taught Ron what it takes to get people interested in environmental issues and how to empower and motivate them to take action. Ron’s leadership skills were swiftly recognized as he moved from leading teams in the Winnipeg office to helping Greenpeace offices across the country revitalize their campaigns.


Director of Communications and Public Programs

Mira Oberman

Mira Oberman was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba where she developed a love of hiking, canoeing, skiing and stargazing in the boreal.

Mira has more than 20 years of experience in journalism and communications. A creative storyteller and strategic thinker, Mira began working with CPAWS Manitoba as a consultant in April 2018 and joined as staff in January 2019.

David Swan CPAWS Manitoba

Director of Operations

David Swan

David Swan is a behavioural ecologist who joined CPAWS Manitoba because he is passionate about science-based conservation. He has a great love for animals and is dedicated to habitat preservation and animal welfare. David has many science-based interests; however, he is most interested in figuring out why animals behave the way they do.

Before joining CPAWS, David managed a non-profit veterans club and was instrumental in bringing the organization to the best financial situation it has ever been in. He also spent time teaching introductory biology at the University of Manitoba.

Two people in a canoe

Conservation Campaign Manager

Neil Bailey

Neil Bailey grew up in Gimli, Manitoba. His lifelong passion for nature and stewardship began collecting sticks and rocks on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. He has a keen eye for “lucky stones” and will always take you up on a stone-skipping challenge.

Neil received his science degree from the University of Manitoba, with a major in psychology, and studied community and regional planning at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 


Conservation Campaign Manager

Claire Woodbury

Claire joins the Conservation Team with a passion for environmental protection and experience in project management within a decolonial framework.

Educated at the University of Manitoba, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with a minor in Anthropology. Her degree focus was in the evolution and biodiversity of our world, from the small scale to the ecosystem level. Her anthropology background helps her connect the human world to the natural one.

Claire can trace her environmentalism roots back to summers spent in Riding Mountain National Park as well as the formative children’s books The Wump World and The Lorax.


Conservation Campaign Officer

Nadia Schimnowski

Nadia Schimnowski, who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is thrilled to be part of the conservation team at CPAWS Manitoba. Her deep passion for the environment has significantly shaped her educational journey. She is completing her Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Manitoba, with a focus on Northern Studies and a minor in Indigenous Studies.

Nadia's work is profoundly influenced by the integration of Western science and Indigenous Traditional Knowledge systems, which she believes are crucial for developing effective environmental remediation tools. Her connection to nature and enthusiasm for conservation have been nurtured through a lifetime of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and travelling.


Environmental Education Manager

Carly Gray

Carly Gray leads our Outdoor Education Program.  She is a certified teacher from the University of Winnipeg’s After-Degree Bachelor of Education program in April 2023. She joined CPAWS in June of 2022 and has delivered outdoor learning programming to hundreds of children and students. 

Carly has been working with children since 2010 in many capacities including as: a YMCA day camp counsellor and youth program coordinator; a literacy tutor; an after school program supervisor; and a dance instructor. Carly is passionate about outdoor education and recently obtained her Below Zero instructor certification from the Canadian Wildlife Federation.


Environmental Education Ambassador

Kate Heide

Kate Heide is an education student studying at the University of Winnipeg to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an educator. Her childhood in a sprawling wooded space south of Winkler, Manitoba planted the seeds for her love of the outdoors as the majority of her childhood was spent sledding, biking, camping, and kayaking. Her experience in a farming family has also informed her understanding of land as a space of excitement and learning. Kate joined CPAWS in May of 2023 through a University of Winnipeg work/study program and has since continued her work delivering outdoor learning programming alongside Carly Gray. 

Before joining CPAWS, Kate worked in a variety of child-centred environments including daycares, day camps, and math and literacy tutoring. She is passionate about outdoor education and creating safe, inclusive spaces for children to explore their surroundings, spark curiosity, and grow into their most authentic selves.

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Digital Marketing Coordinator

Katie Borgfjord

Katie Borgfjord is a communications and social media professional with a passion for sustainability and intersectional feminism. She is a graduate of University of Winnipeg with a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Communications. Katie joined CPAWS Manitoba in May 2023 as the Digital Marketing Coordinator. 

Prior to joining CPAWS, Katie was a full-time student at UofW. She also works for local radio, where she coordinates events and manages social media. She has also created her own zine focusing on feminism.

You can find Katie browsing thrift stores, reading feminism books, journaling, listening to Taylor Swift, trying out a new vegetarian recipe, or leading a CPAWS hike. 

ron thiessen

Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator

Deb Gay-de Vries

Deborah is thrilled to join the CPAWS team, in the new role of Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator. Born in Kenora, and raised In Winnipeg, she is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg, majoring in Theatrical Production and Stage Management. If she looks familiar, you may have seen her at RMTC or PTE where she spent 12 seasons in the role of Front of House Manager and Volunteer Coordinator.

Her deep love of the environment and the outdoors started early, with trips out camping with her family in many of Manitoba’s Provincial Parks. She has spent more birthdays in a tent trailer than she can count! A special place in her heart will always be Birds Hill Park, which is a love she also passed on to her two sons. Other favourite places are Riding Mountain, Pisew Falls (not just because of the name) and the Assiniboine forest. You can often find her in the summer in her pop-up Dutchmen Duck, with her three Dutchmen, around a roaring campfire!

ron thiessen

Conservation Ambassador

Austin Cirillo

Austin grew up in Winnipeg and learned through travel with his family at a young age about the importance of protecting nature and gaining a worldly view. His favourite locations are sandy beaches where he enjoys everything from water sports to sand castles. Manitoba's Grand Beach is a treasured summer tradition.

Austin's passion for storytelling, and collaboration, have broadened his professional experience as a Conservation Ambassador at CPAWS Manitoba. Austin is currently studying Commerce at the University of Manitoba, where he learned much about adapting to modern environmental sustainability objectives. He has also worked in a variety of customer service positions, from retailers to video game promotion.

One day he hopes to turn his talent and love of storytelling into a published work, from novel to tabletop roleplaying game.

Help Keep Manitoba Wild


CPAWS Manitoba has helped establish 23 parks and protected areas thanks to people like you.

With your help, we can protect half our lands and waters for future generations of people and wildlife.