Our Team of Aquatic Taxonomy Experts

Biologica’s staff are experts across a wide range of marine and freshwater taxonomic disciplines. Learn more about the diverse backgrounds that comprise our team below!

Management Team

Tara Macdonald, PhD, RPBio

President

Tara became president of Biologica in 2012. Tara has been identifying and thinking about marine invertebrates her whole life, having performed her first microscope work…

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Sarah Steinerstauch, BSc

Manager – Laboratory Operations & Marine Taxonomist

Sarah joined Biologica in 2009 after completing a BSc in Biology at the University of Victoria. She uses her amazing organizational skills to oversee all…

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Natalia Filip, MSc, RPBio

Algae Program Manager

Certifications: Kindrogan Field Centre Freshwater Algae Certificate, North American Chironomidae (SFS), Biology and Taxonomy of Tunicates (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), Riparian Area Regulation. Natalia completed…

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Jenny Thomson, BSc

Project Coordinator

Jenny received her BSc from the University of Northern BC in 2014. She joined Biologica in 2018 where she is involved in project management and…

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Tara Macdonald, PhD, RPBio

President
Tara became president of Biologica in 2012. Tara has been identifying and thinking about marine invertebrates her whole life, having performed her first microscope work at the age of 14 in order to purchase a guitar. However, she ultimately found she had more talent for taxonomy than she did music. She earned her PhD from the University of Alberta in 2006, where she studied systematics and evolution of polychaete worms as an NSERC scholar. Tara previously worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Ocean Sciences (Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Sidney, BC) studying marine benthic ecology, and at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre as an instructor of Marine Invertebrate Zoology. Tara spends most of her free time in her vegetable garden, kitchen, fishing, and foraging.

Sarah Steinerstauch, BSc

Manager – Laboratory Operations & Marine Taxonomist
Sarah joined Biologica in 2009 after completing a BSc in Biology at the University of Victoria. She uses her amazing organizational skills to oversee all aspects of laboratory production. She is also a talented mollusc and echinoderm taxonomist, and enjoys taking time for microscope and field work. Sarah has lived in Victoria for most of her life and enjoys all the west coast has to offer. She can often be found hiking, cycling, golfing, and beach combing.

Natalia Filip, MSc, RPBio

Algae Program Manager
Certifications: Kindrogan Field Centre Freshwater Algae Certificate, North American Chironomidae (SFS), Biology and Taxonomy of Tunicates (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), Riparian Area Regulation. Natalia completed her Masters degree in Biology at St. Francis Xavier University. Her thesis research, funded by an NSERC industrial PGS, focused on field testing of non-toxic antifouling coatings and their effects on invasive tunicates. Natalia´s extensive experience in aquatic ecology includes biodiversity assessments of marine intertidal soft-sediments and subtidal fouling communities, invasive species monitoring, diet characterization of fish, and tropical coral reef monitoring.  Natalia enjoys rock climbing, mountaineering, and mountain biking.  

Jenny Thomson, BSc

Project Coordinator
Jenny received her BSc from the University of Northern BC in 2014. She joined Biologica in 2018 where she is involved in project management and client relations. After graduating, Jenny spent time working with DFO and then as a lab/field technician with the Doñana Biological Station in Spain; more recently she gained experience in Ireland as a scientific QC editor, while using weekends to explore Europe! She loves writing, travel, language, and the outdoors. Jenny is currently attempting to improve her Spanish and hopes to discover more of Vancouver Island and Northern BC.

Taxonomists and Ecologists

Philip Hoover, BSc

Crustacea & Misc. Arthropoda Taxonomist

Phil joined Biologica in 1994. Although he specializes in crustacean taxonomy, he happily tackles whatever phylum crosses his path. He grew up on Vancouver Island,…

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Hiroki Tomoe, AScT

Annelida & Miscellaneous Phyla Taxonomist

Certifications: North American Oligochaeta (SFS) Hiroki is originally from Osaka, Japan. As a child, he enjoyed collecting stag beetles, praying mantises, and other insects. He…

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Lu Guan, MSc, PhD

Zooplankton Taxonomist & Aquatic Ecologist

Lu is originally from Chengdu, China, and has been living in Canada since 2004. She did her Master’s degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland on…

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Robynn Holma, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist

Certifications: North American Chironomidae (SFS), Western Chironomidae (SFS), Western EPT (SFS), Eastern EPT (SFS), Western General Arthropoda (SFS) Robynn joined the Biologica team in 2011….

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Karen Hoban, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist & Health & Safety Representative

Certifications: Western EPT (SFS), Western General Arthropoda (SFS) Karen joined Biologica in 2013 after spending over 10 years working for a forest biotechnology company in…

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Kate Ruegg, AScT

Marine Taxonomist

Kate graduated from the Environmental Technology program at Camosun College in 2012, and has an Associate of Science Degree from Camosun College. She started as…

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Paige Dawson, AScT

Marine Taxonomist

Paige joined Biologica in 2011 as a co-op student. Since then, she graduated from Camosun College in 2012 with a Diploma in Environmental Technology and…

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Karen Cram, BSc

Marine Taxonomist & Field Supervisor

Karen graduated in 2012 with a BSc in Biology and Oceanography from the University of Victoria. She has worked at Biologica since 2012 as a…

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Breanna Bomback, BSc

Taxonomist

Breanna received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Victoria where she majored in biology – marine sciences, and minored in statistics. She started in…

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Melissa Hennekes, AScT

Algal Taxonomist

Melissa has worked with Biologica as an algal taxonomist since 2013, and has been an algal taxonomist with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans…

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Valerie Macdonald

Past President (Mostly Retired)

Valerie founded Biologica in 1994. She has been a tireless advocate for improving the quality of taxonomic work since 1971. Valerie is well-known for both…

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Philip Hoover, BSc

Crustacea & Misc. Arthropoda Taxonomist
Phil joined Biologica in 1994. Although he specializes in crustacean taxonomy, he happily tackles whatever phylum crosses his path. He grew up on Vancouver Island, looking in tide pools, fishing and birding. After completing his BSc., he studied amphipod taxonomy and pollution effects on benthos. Phil has also worked at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and participated in both local and international benthic surveys. Phil enjoys teaching his daughter the joys of natural history.

Hiroki Tomoe, AScT

Annelida & Miscellaneous Phyla Taxonomist
Certifications: North American Oligochaeta (SFS)
Hiroki is originally from Osaka, Japan. As a child, he enjoyed collecting stag beetles, praying mantises, and other insects. He joined Biologica in 1999. For the past 15 years, he has specialized in the identification of marine annelids and the miscellaneous phyla from British Columbia and around the world. He is also certified in oligochaete taxonomy by the Society of Freshwater Science. Hiroki, his wife and four children enjoy spending time exploring the marvelous ocean, forests, and mountains around Victoria.

Lu Guan, MSc, PhD

Zooplankton Taxonomist & Aquatic Ecologist
Lu is originally from Chengdu, China, and has been living in Canada since 2004. She did her Master’s degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland on the development of swimming capability of larval fish, and her Doctoral degree at the University of Victoria on the spatial and temporal dynamics of larval fish assemblages in the Strait of Georgia. In her spare time, Lu enjoys playing with her little preschooler, and also enjoys travel, music, and movies.

Robynn Holma, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist
Certifications: North American Chironomidae (SFS), Western Chironomidae (SFS), Western EPT (SFS), Eastern EPT (SFS), Western General Arthropoda (SFS) Robynn joined the Biologica team in 2011. She earned her BSc in marine biology at the University of Guelph, Ontario and moved to Victoria, BC in 1998. Robynn has experience identifying many different freshwater critters, and is certified by the Society of Freshwater Science in western EPT and Chironomidae. In her spare time, Robynn enjoys keeping up with her daughter, exploring BC one campsite at a time, and anything crafty she can get her hands on.

Karen Hoban, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist & Health & Safety Representative
Certifications: Western EPT (SFS), Western General Arthropoda (SFS) Karen joined Biologica in 2013 after spending over 10 years working for a forest biotechnology company in Victoria. Karen is one of Biologica’s freshwater taxonomists, as well as the Health and Safety Representative. Karen earned her BSc in Wildlife Biology from the University of Northern British Columbia, and a certificate of Applied Project Management from Camosun College. Outside of work, Karen enjoys playing team sports such as slow-pitch and curling and volunteers on various executive committees for the leagues in which she plays.

Kate Ruegg, AScT

Marine Taxonomist
Kate graduated from the Environmental Technology program at Camosun College in 2012, and has an Associate of Science Degree from Camosun College. She started as a Co-op student with Biologica in 2011 and started her taxonomic training (marine polychaetes and molluscs) in 2013. Victoria is her hometown and she loves living on the west coast. In her spare time, Kate likes to read, knit, and watch cheesy science fiction movies.

Paige Dawson, AScT

Marine Taxonomist
Paige joined Biologica in 2011 as a co-op student. Since then, she graduated from Camosun College in 2012 with a Diploma in Environmental Technology and an Associate Degree in Science. She promptly rejoined Biologica with a passion to expand her invertebrate knowledge and experience. She specializes in marine taxonomy, primarily focusing on annelids and molluscs but is always eager to tackle other marine or freshwater taxonomic groups when needed. In her spare time she enjoys going on road trips, listening to loud music, and visiting all the natural beauty on Vancouver Island.

Karen Cram, BSc

Marine Taxonomist & Field Supervisor
Karen graduated in 2012 with a BSc in Biology and Oceanography from the University of Victoria. She has worked at Biologica since 2012 as a lab technician, and more recently has been heading up field programs and receiving training in the taxonomy of Crustacea and Miscellaneous Phyla. In her free time, Karen scuba dives and knits sea creatures.

Breanna Bomback, BSc

Taxonomist
Breanna received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Victoria where she majored in biology – marine sciences, and minored in statistics. She started in 2017 as a sorting technician at Biologica shortly after graduating. In the lab she also enjoys Chironomid taxonomy, fish stomach analysis, and otolith aging. In her spare time she loves exploring Vancouver Island.

Melissa Hennekes, AScT

Algal Taxonomist
Melissa has worked with Biologica as an algal taxonomist since 2013, and has been an algal taxonomist with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans for over 10 years. Melissa is an accomplished glass artist and when she isn’t at sea conducting ecological surveys for government projects, she can often be found at the Bastion Square Market.

Valerie Macdonald

Past President (Mostly Retired)
Valerie founded Biologica in 1994. She has been a tireless advocate for improving the quality of taxonomic work since 1971. Valerie is well-known for both her inventive benthic screening sample system, as well as her astounding taxonomic knowledge in both marine and freshwater systems. She retired in 2012, but participates in training and QA/QC. She remains as busy as ever, maintaining a small farm on the Saanich Peninsula, where she has a dairy goat herd and a pack of rescued border collies.

Technicians

Anne Fearon-Wood, BSc

Lab Technician & Photographer

Anne joined Biologica in 1999 as a lab technician. She graduated from Lakehead University, Ontario in 1990 with a degree in Bachelor of Science and…

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Anne Fearon-Wood, BSc

Lab Technician & Photographer
Anne joined Biologica in 1999 as a lab technician. She graduated from Lakehead University, Ontario in 1990 with a degree in Bachelor of Science and a degree in Outdoor Recreation/Tourism Management. She is Biologica’s resident photographer, supplying photography for our website, presentation materials, and digital reference collections. In her spare time, Anne enjoys sailing, yoga, hiking, and photographing the beauty of Vancouver Island. Several of Anne’s photos are featured on this website, and we would encourage you to see more of her work at http://www.fearonwoodphoto.com/

Lab Pets

Lucy Mushroom

Lab Dog

Lucy has unknown origins, having been found on a logging road as a puppy. She adopted Tara in 2005 and enjoys hiking, spending time on…

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Jasper Wildman

Adjunct Lab Dog

Jasper is a fluffy white dog (Canis floofiensis) and excels at disciplines including SuperDog exercises, barking at strangers, barking at familiars, and charming the masses….

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Lucy Mushroom

Lab Dog
Lucy has unknown origins, having been found on a logging road as a puppy. She adopted Tara in 2005 and enjoys hiking, spending time on the water, and finding smelly things to roll in at the beach. Her duties include helping to eat leftover lunches and reminding everyone when it is time to go home. Lucy always lies in the part of the floor least likely to cause inconvenience to anyone who might like to walk past.

Jasper Wildman

Adjunct Lab Dog
Jasper is a fluffy white dog (Canis floofiensis) and excels at disciplines including SuperDog exercises, barking at strangers, barking at familiars, and charming the masses. When Jasper isn’t dining out on remote controls, he is probably enjoying a delicious meal of other things you wish hadn’t gotten eaten by a dog. In his spare time Jasper can be found barking at humans he sees and humans he can hear, and chewing objects in his proximity.