top of page

SAM's Board of Directors and Staff

Board of Directors

SAM's Board of Directors is composed of 7 representatives: 4 Directors are volunteers elected from our SAM Member Communities (one of whom is elected as Chair of the Board) to manage the administrative and financial affairs of the corporation. These directors commit to two years of dedication, including attending SAM's biannual Business Meetings (travel included), and approximately two conference calls per year. There are 3 Ex-officio (non-voting) Directors to support SAM in a resource capacity; SAM's Executive Director, the NL Eastern Habitat Joint Venture Program Coordinator with the Wildlife Division, Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, and the Past Chair of the Board. Together, SAM's Board of Directors work with staff to implement SAM's Mission and Vision and to accomplish their yearly workplan.


Heidi Kolodniski

Director, Chair of the Board

With an education and career background in psychology, Heidi understands the significant role nature plays in human health and well-being. With these perspectives in mind, she was elected to the Bauline Town Council in the Fall of 2021 and she’s led the development of The Bauline Bee Garden, a small-scale composting site, has pushed for the expansion of habitat conservation and watershed protection in the area, and has been the SAM representative for her town since 2022. She is grateful to have been elected to the Board and hopes to continue to advocate for the inclusion of ecology and conservation into municipal planning - as it affects both humans and wildlife alike. 

Darren Sheppard.jpg

Darren Sheppard


Darren has been the Executive Director of the community-based, environmental non-profit, Indian Bay Ecosystem Corporation (IBEC) since 2018, where he oversees day to day operations for the Corporation.

He is the Host, Co-Creator, and Co-Producer of 709 Watershed, an environmental, political, tourism, and business-focused monthly podcast, that is available on all major podcast apps. It is currently into its 4th season with close to 40 episodes.

He is a former educator and public servant, who has degrees from Acadia University (Bachelor of Arts – Political Science/History) and Memorial University of Newfoundland (Bachelor of Education – Intermediate/Secondary), and a diploma from Keyin College (Human Resource Management). He volunteers with several local groups, including Ducks Unlimited Canada – Bonavista North Chapter, The Shore Tourism Committee, Kittiwake Snowmobile Association, Indian Bay ATV Association, is co-chair of the 2nd Annual ENGO Conference (2023), and has been an active member of SAM, representing the Town of Indian Bay, for over three years.

Darren accepted the position on the Board at the 2021 SAM Fall meeting hosted by the Town of Deer Lake (initially elected as SAM Secretary).


Frank Deering


Frank Deering was elected to the Bay Roberts Town Council in 2017. In 2021 he retired after 35 years of management in a glass business.

In the Fall of 2021, Frank attended his first SAM Meeting in the Town of Deer Lake. He found the SAM Organization very interesting and has continued to attend SAM Meetings on behalf of the Town of Bay Roberts ever since. Frank has been a strong supporter of SAM over the years, and looks forward to working on the Board of Directors to continue to promote habitat conservation across Newfoundland and Labrador.

In his free time, Frank enjoys all sports, gardening, the outdoors and spending time with his family.

Frank Deering was elected to the Board of Directors at the 2023 SAM AGM hosted by the Town of Port au Choix.


Cynthia Downey


With over 30 years experience as a Town Councillor in the Town of Stephenville Crossing, and currently the Deputy Mayor since 2021, Cynthia has an extensive history of working for her municipality. Currently she is the Vice Chair for the Western Regional Service Board since 2021, which she has been a member of since 2017. She is also a dedicated volunteer with Revenue Canada for over 30 years, working on taxes all year round. Cynthia has a long history with SAM, having been the representative for her municipality for many years and having served as Treasurer from 2017-2023.

Pat Woodford 2017.jpg

Pat Woodford

Ex-Officio, Past Board Chair

Patrick Woodford is a retired Air Traffic Controller, and enjoys using his spare time to get out into the woods and wetlands in central NL.

In 2017, Pat was elected councillor with the Gander Town Council. He volunteered to be on the SAM Executive in hopes to represent the Town of Gander with new ideas and a fresh approach. Pat considered it an honour to be a part of the SAM community, and looked forward to learning more about what we can do to protect our wetlands and rebuild those which we have destroyed.

Pat's personal interests include volunteering, camping, sports of all kinds, hiking and walks in the country.

Pat was elected SAM Secretary at the 2017 SAM Fall Meeting hosted by the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor, and he was re-elected to the Board of Directors (as President) at the 2019 SAM Fall Meeting hosted by the Town of Gander. Pat was acclaimed to the Board of Directors once again at the 2021 Fall Meeting in the Town of Deer Lake (elected as President). When the Board of Directors was established in 2022, they underwent some restructuring, with Pat now the Chair of the Board.


Jonathan Sharpe

Ex-Officio, NL Eastern Habitat Joint Venture Program Coordinator

Jonathan Sharpe is a member of the SAM Board of Directors in a technical/advisory capacity in terms of his partnering role as NL Eastern Habitat Joint Venture Program Coordinator with the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Division, Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture. Jon has been acting in this capacity since 2007 in support of SAM's mission and objectives.


Zach Burrows

Ex-Officio, SAM Executive Director

Joining the SAM in 2021 as a Conservation Biologist, Zach Burrows has served as the Executive Director for the organization since 2022. After receiving an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree with specialization in history from the University of Ottawa, Zach started in the environmental industry as a Red-Seal Certified Landscape Horticulturist, and later acquired a Fish and Wildlife technician diploma from the College of the North Atlantic. From the rugged coastline of the Avalon Peninsula, the rocky tablelands of Newfoundland’s west coast to the sandy shores of Nova Scotia, Zach has practiced conservation across Newfoundland and throughout Atlantic Canada for a myriad of species and their habitat. With his wife, son, and daughter, Zach has rooted himself on the Rock and is dedicated to helping the leaders of this province in their conservation efforts.


SAM contractually has four paid staff members - an Executive Director, an Outreach Coordinator, and two Conservation Biologists.


Karleena Squires

Outreach Coordinator

Growing up in St. John’s, NL, Karleena knew that she wanted to work in environmental conservation, protecting the beautiful island that she called home. She completed her Marine Environmental Technology Diploma through the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Newfoundland and Labrador, and followed that up with her Bachelor of Technology Degree through Memorial University. Since graduating, Karleena has worked with various environmental organizations in a variety of positions, and volunteers in her free time with Girl Guides of Canada. Karleena's background in environmental outreach and education led her to her role as Outreach Coordinator for SAM, working on developing educational content related to wildlife and habitat conservation and stewardship. In her free time she loves to hike the many beautiful trails in our province, explore new places while camping, and other outdoor activities.

bio pic_edited.jpg

Willem Peters

Conservation Biologist

Willem Peters grew up on the island of Newfoundland with a view of the ocean and a backyard that bordered the East Coast Trail. As a child, he would hike the ECT every weekend with his family. An appreciation for the beauty and wildness of this province steadily grew and matured as he did. As an adult, Willem pursued an education in geography, biology, and natural resource management. He has worked with environmental NGOs, Parks Canada, and municipal governments on environmental conservation and stewardship. During his free time, Willem loves to cross-country ski, write, and eat lunch in panoramic places.


Natalie Parsons

Conservation Biologist

Natalie, born and raised in Western Newfoundland, spent her childhood caring for a flock of chickens and enjoying the natural splendour of Gros Morne National Park in her backyard. Pursuing her academic interests, she earned a Master of Science degree, specializing in boreal ecosystem conservation. In her free time, Natalie enjoys hiking and indulging her artistic side with activities from drawing to crafting miniatures. Her life is a balance of academic pursuit and creative expression, all inspired by her deep connection to nature.

bottom of page