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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Jenny Thomson, BSc

Project Manager

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

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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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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.

Jenny Thomson, BSc

Project Manager
Jenny received her BSc from the University of Northern BC in 2014 and joined Biologica in 2018 where she is involved in project management and client relations. After graduating Jenny spent time working with DFO in aquaculture 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, and the outdoors. Jenny is currently attempting to improve her Spanish and knitting, and hopes to discover more of Vancouver Island and Northern BC.

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.  

Laboratory Staff

Philip Hoover, BSc

Zooplankton & 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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Karen Hoban, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist & Health and Safety Representative

Society of Freshwater Science Certifications: Western EPT, Eastern EPT, Western General Arthropoda, and Eastern General Arthropoda. Karen joined Biologica in 2013 after spending over 10…

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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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Robynn Holma, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist

Society of Freshwater Science Certifications: North American Chironomidae, Western Chironomidae, Western EPT, Eastern EPT, Western General Arthropoda, and Eastern General Arthropoda. Robynn joined the Biologica…

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Paige Hayhurst, AScT

Sorting Coordinator & 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

Field Supervisor & Marine Taxonomist

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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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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Breanna Bomback, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist

Society of Freshwater Science Certifications: North American Chironomidae.    Breanna received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Victoria where she majored in biology –…

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Cassandra Smith, BSc

Junior Freshwater Taxonomist

Cassandra joined Biologica in the summer of 2020 after studying at both the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University with a degree in Geography…

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Jesslynn Shaw, BSc

Algal Taxonomist

Jesslynn graduated from the University of Victoria in 2019 with a BSc in Biology and has completed courses from the UVIC Restoration of Natural Systems…

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Brandon Williamson, BSc

Lab Technician

Brandon joined Biologica in spring 2021 after graduating from the University of Victoria with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies. At Biologica, Brandon…

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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…

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Maddie Beange, BSc

Operations Assistant

Maddie completed her BSc in Biology, with a concentration in neurobiology, at McGill University in 2010. After working as a research assistant in a couple neuro…

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Christina Nonis, BSc

Lab Technician

Christina graduated from the University of Victoria in 2018 with a BSc in Biology (Marine Biology concentration). During her degree, Christina attended the Wildlands Studies…

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Alice Pearson, BASc

Lab Technician

Alice joined Biologica in the fall of 2020 shortly after graduating from Quest University Canada with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. She enjoys learning…

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Suzy Christoffel, BSc

Lab Technician

Suzy graduated from the University of Victoria with a BSc in Biology after obtaining a Diploma in Environmental Technology in 2012. She also had the…

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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

Zooplankton & 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.

Karen Hoban, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist & Health and Safety Representative
Society of Freshwater Science Certifications: Western EPT, Eastern EPT, Western General Arthropoda, and Eastern General Arthropoda. 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. She is also certified by the Society of Freshwater Science in Western and Eastern EPT and Western and Eastern General Arthropods. 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.

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. He has specialized in the identification of marine annelids and the miscellaneous phyla from British Columbia and around the world since the beginning of his taxonomy career. 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.

Robynn Holma, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist
Society of Freshwater Science Certifications: North American Chironomidae, Western Chironomidae, Western EPT, Eastern EPT, Western General Arthropoda, and Eastern General Arthropoda. 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 and Eastern EPT, Western and Eastern General Arthropods 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.

Paige Hayhurst, AScT

Sorting Coordinator & 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

Field Supervisor & Marine Taxonomist
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.

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.

Breanna Bomback, BSc

Freshwater Taxonomist
Society of Freshwater Science Certifications: North American Chironomidae.    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.

Cassandra Smith, BSc

Junior Freshwater Taxonomist
Cassandra joined Biologica in the summer of 2020 after studying at both the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University with a degree in Geography and Coastal Studies, and an Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications. During her studies, she has enjoyed participating in Marine Field School collecting data on Gray Whales and programming drainage patterns across a landscape to culverts. In the lab, Cassandra enjoys species separation in Biologica’s diverse samples and her taxonomy training for Chironomidae and other Insect species. Outside of working hours she enjoys hiking, camping, exploring the local farmers markets, and portrait photography.

Jesslynn Shaw, BSc

Algal Taxonomist
Jesslynn graduated from the University of Victoria in 2019 with a BSc in Biology and has completed courses from the UVIC Restoration of Natural Systems Diploma Program. Jesslynn’s favourite part of working at Biologica is the continuous learning and never ceasing to be amazed when seeing a new algae or invertebrate species under the microscope for the first time. Jesslynn also works in marine mammal acoustics to identify Killer Whales. When she is not working, she enjoys camping, hiking, hot yoga, and exploring the Island’s beaches with her 6-year-old son.

Brandon Williamson, BSc

Lab Technician
Brandon joined Biologica in spring 2021 after graduating from the University of Victoria with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies. At Biologica, Brandon loves seeing and learning about the diversity of marine and freshwater invertebrates we receive from an array of different environments. Outside of work, Brandon spends much of his time volunteering with Friends of Bowker Creek where he leads riparian habitat restoration in Oak Bay as a part of a project to bring chum salmon back to the urban stream. He also loves cycling, hiking, camping, tidepooling, and learning about local biodiversity.

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/

Maddie Beange, BSc

Operations Assistant
Maddie completed her BSc in Biology, with a concentration in neurobiology, at McGill University in 2010. After working as a research assistant in a couple neuro labs, she took a break to do some travelling. Maddie ended up in Costa Rica, where she managed a sea turtle conservation program for 7 years. She recently upgraded her degree at the University of Victoria with courses in marine biology and environmental sciences. In her free time, Maddie can be found SUPing on the Gorge or hiking in East Sooke Park.

Christina Nonis, BSc

Lab Technician
Christina graduated from the University of Victoria in 2018 with a BSc in Biology (Marine Biology concentration). During her degree, Christina attended the Wildlands Studies field school in Thailand, where she completed courses in marine ecology. Her hobbies include cooking, diving, traveling to new places and hiking with her dog Lola. At Biologica, Christina enjoys learning about new marine species and how to identify them, and being able to be part of the sample collection process in the field.

Alice Pearson, BASc

Lab Technician
Alice joined Biologica in the fall of 2020 shortly after graduating from Quest University Canada with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. She enjoys learning about marine and freshwater organisms both in the lab and in the field. In her spare time Alice loves to swim, sail, hike, bike, paint, and spend time with her horse.

Suzy Christoffel, BSc

Lab Technician
Suzy graduated from the University of Victoria with a BSc in Biology after obtaining a Diploma in Environmental Technology in 2012. She also had the wonderful experience of taking field courses at Bamfield Marine Sciences Center. Suzy enjoys cooking delicious vegetarian meals, gardening, yoga, cycling, and crafting. Her favourite part of working at Biologica is learning about all the unique and beautiful organisms that she gets to observe under the microscope!

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.

Consulting Taxonomists

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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Louise Benckhuysen, BSc

Algal Taxonomist

Louise joined Biologica in the fall of 2018 as a Sorting Technician, but has shown a big interest in Algae, and has been training in Algae Taxonomy…

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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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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.

Louise Benckhuysen, BSc

Algal Taxonomist
Louise joined Biologica in the fall of 2018 as a Sorting Technician, but has shown a big interest in Algae, and has been training in Algae Taxonomy since the Fall of 2019. She received a Bachelor’s in Plant Biology from the University of Calgary in 2017 and is currently pursuing a Diploma in Restoration of Natural Systems at the University of Victoria. In her free time she enjoys rock climbing, travelling, and of course, exploring everything that Vancouver island has to offer!

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.

Head of Security

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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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.