Vice-President, Operations and Projects
With extensive experience living and working in northern Canada, Louie Porta oversees projects related to marine conservation, oil and gas regulatory reform, shipping and coastal stewardship. He formerly served as lead political adviser to Mary Simon during her appointment as Minister’s Special Representative for Arctic Leadership. He was recently appointed to serve on the national advisory panel charged with recommending how Canada can meet its international conservation obligations. He is also an adviser to the Students on Ice Foundation, serves on the governing council of the Ocean Tracking Network and sits on the research oversight committee for Genome Canada’s investigation into oil spill countermeasures for the Arctic. He has a master’s degree from Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies, and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his wife and three children.
Raised in Gunners Cove, Newfoundland, Trevor Taylor has been a northern cod fisherman, a skipper and a board member of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council and the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation. From 2000 to 2009, he was a cabinet minister in the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador where he served at different times as minister of fisheries and aquaculture, minister of Labrador and Aboriginal affairs, minister of innovation, minister of trade and rural development and minister of transportation, as well as on the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. He is based in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Vice-President, Policy Development and Counsel
An avid naturalist and wilderness explorer, Chris Debicki works with Inuit communities to secure greater protections for critical Arctic marine habitat in places like Lancaster Sound and the beluga estuaries of Western Hudson Bay. He supported the creation of the North Water Polynya Commission, a binational body that is collaborating with Inuit in Greenland and Nunavut to preserve this region. Before joining Oceans North, he worked with the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway on oceanographic research in Greenland and sailed through the Northwest Passage to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on Inuit communities. He also served as the executive director of Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik, the Nunavut legal aid organization that serves the eastern Arctic. He has a law degree from McGill University and is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Focusing on interdisciplinary policy solutions, Erin Abou-Abssi works to address issues related to climate change and industrial and commercial pressures in the Arctic. She draws on experience in the private sector and with the auditor general of Canada, the First Nations in British Columbia and the Public Health Agency of Canada. She earned her master’s degree in natural resource management and regional planning at Simon Fraser University and has conducted paleoecological climate change research. She is based in Ottawa, Ontario.
With expertise in outreach and program development, Paul Labun conducts government and community outreach in Ottawa, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. Before joining Oceans North, he served as a strategic adviser to the Manitoba government and Manitoba Hydro for over a decade. He also directed development projects in post-conflict Bosnia. He grew up in Winnipeg and spent many summers of his youth guiding wilderness canoe trips on Lake of the Woods in northern Ontario. He earned a master’s degree in Canadian history from Queen’s University. He is based in Ottawa, Ontario.
Community and Science Adviser
An expert on community-based scientific research, Jennie Knopp works on projects related to harvesting, conservation and monitoring in the Inuvialuit, Kitikmeot and Nunavik regions. She has over 10 years of experience working in the Canadian Arctic in collaboration with communities, local experts, co-management boards, researchers, land claim organizations and federal government departments. She earned her PhD from Trent University, where she did research focused on integrating Inuit and western scientific knowledge to better understand community-based monitoring of local food resources. She lives outside Ottawa, Ontario.
A marine mammal expert, Kristin Westdal has worked extensively on research about narwhal, belugas and killer whales in Canada’s eastern Arctic, including collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. She also owned and operated a kayaking ecotourism operation in Hudson Bay from 2001 to 2005 that offered close encounters with beluga whales. She has a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Manitoba, where she researched the movement and diving of narwhal in northern Hudson Bay. She is currently working on a PhD and is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Marine Spatial Analyst
With expertise in spatial analysis, data management and cartography, Olivia Mussells helps Oceans North map and analyze how changes in ecosystems and human use affect the Canadian Arctic. She holds a master’s degree in geography from the University of Ottawa, where her research focused on sea ice hazards and shipping in the Canadian Arctic. She is based in Ottawa, Ontario.
Greenland Projects Director
Alfred Jakobsen works to promote sustainable fisheries in Greenland and has long been an advocate for transboundary Inuit cooperation and Indigenous rights. Before joining Oceans North, Alfred worked as CEO of KNAPK (Greenland’s association for hunters and fishers), Executive Director of ICC Greenland and served in Greenland’s cabinet as Minister of Health and Minister of Environment and Nature.
An expert in Atlantic Canadian fisheries management, Chelsey Karbowski focuses her work on depleted groundfish species. She’s worked extensively with fishermen, fisheries managers and scientists to support sustainable use of Atlantic marine species. Chelsey also has experience with aquaculture and earned a master’s of coastal and marine resource management from the University of Akureyri in Iceland. For her graduate research, Chelsey undertook the first assessment of sea lice abundance within an Icelandic fjord system. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Senior Manager, Communications
A passion for storytelling is at the heart of Ruth Teichroeb’s work in communications. She oversees media relations, content development and strategic communications for Oceans North and is also senior manager for Arctic communications at Ocean Conservancy. She previously worked for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Arctic programs and spent more than two decades as an award-winning journalist at newspapers in Canada and the U.S. She is the author of a nonfiction book and has a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of British Columbia. A dual citizen, she is based in Seattle, Washington.
Operations and Finance Manager
With more than two decades of experience in the profit and nonprofit sectors, Debbie Bernhardt specializes in operations management, accounting and finance. She holds a CPA, CGA designation, and has certification in risk management. She is based in Ottawa, Ontario.