Our Team

Meet the UBC Malcolm Knapp Research Forest Team

The Malcolm Knapp Research Forest is more than just the natural environment, it is also defined by a group of hardworking and passionate individuals who keep the forest operations running year-round. Learn more about team, what they like about working at the Malcolm Knapp, and where they are hoping to go in the future!

Dominik Roeser; Associate Dean, Research Forests & Community Outreach

Since starting at UBC in 2018, Dominik Roeser, Associate Dean, Research Forests and Community Outreach, has established a forest operations research program with a focus on supply chain design, forest technology implementation, steep slope harvesting, and biomass operations. Prior to joining UBC, he held the position of Senior Director at FPInnovations, where he led a multidisciplinary team dedicated to enhancing the competitiveness of the forest sector. His responsibilities included developing practical solutions to improve operational efficiency and mitigate the impact of wildfires in Western Canada. With over 21 years of experience in forest research and innovation, Dominik has collaborated with industry partners to create solutions that contribute to the growth of the emerging bioeconomy in both Europe and Canada. In his commitment to educating the next generation of forestry professionals, Dominik has imparted knowledge by teaching four forestry courses at UBC.

Hélène Marcoux, RPF; Manager

Hélène Marcoux, Manager of MKRF, is a life-long learner with more than 20 years experience as an ecologist, Registered Professional Forester (RPF), post-secondary instructor and “bush” worker. Born and raised in Manitoba, Hélène came to be a forester in a roundabout way – beginning with 7 years of treeplanting in British Columbia, followed by a Masters of Science in Forest Sciences at UBC. Hélène is an energetic field instructor, and prior to joining the UBC Research Forest as manager, taught for 7 years in the renewable resource department at BCIT. She has great interest in silviculture, forest health, soil science, plant identification, value-added wood products and community based small-scale forestry – along with getting people of all ages outside to learn the secrets of the forest. Hélène is a mother of 2 young boys, loves reading, and enjoys any self-propelled outdoor adventure, by canoe, foot or bike.

Ionut Aron, MF; Associate Director – Education Engagement

With an undergraduate degree in Forestry from the University of Transylvania, and a Masters of Forestry from UBC with a focus on AI and GIS modeling, Ionut Aron brings over 30 years of experience in forest management, research and education. As the Associate Director – Education Engagement at MKRF, Ionut has mentored hundreds of students,  both locally and internationally. Ionut has been responsible for conceptualizing and building the entire IT system for MKRF. Appreciating the diverse nature of his responsibilities, Ionut values collaborating with a skilled team and indulging in his passion for nature. Beyond the professional realm, you can spot Ionut exploring mountain biking trails, roasting coffee, or unwinding in a relaxing sauna.

Jeremy Watkins; Assistant Operations Manager

Jeremy Watkins, Assistant Operations Manager, came to the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest as an undergraduate intern and UBC Faculty of Forestry student in 2010. Over the years, he has evolved into an indispensable member of the MKRF team. With a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Conservation, Jeremy’s commitment to the forest’s well-being is evident in his role as Assistant Operations Manager. He takes charge of overseeing all aspects of forest facilities management and maintenance, playing a key role in various operational facets. Jeremy takes pride in MKRF’s rich history rooted in forest research and education. As Jeremy continues to contribute his expertise and passion to the operations at MKRF, he embodies the spirit of growth, learning, and commitment that defines the forest’s legacy.

Victoria Farahbakhchian, RPBio; Field Education Manager

Victoria Farahbakhchian is a Registered Professional Biologist and Field Education Manager at MKRF.  Before joining MKRF, Victoria contributed her expertise to the City of Maple Ridge in Parks and Recreation, concurrently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Science and later achieving a Masters of Science in Ecological Restoration. Victoria’s multifaceted role encompasses coordinating and instructing UBC Faculty of Forestry Field Schools, spearheading Wild & Immersive initiatives, and providing support to the Research Forest’s operations. Her comprehensive experience reflects her commitment to bridging academic knowledge with hands-on applications. Beyond her professional pursuits, Victoria volunteers with Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, where her true passion shines. Over the next few years, Victoria hopes to strengthen her understanding of the local birds and mosses, and share this passion with other students and members of the community.

Sean Pledger, RPF; Resident Forester

Sean Pledger is a Registered Professional Forester and the Resident Forester at the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest. With a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and Master of Science in Forest Supply Chain Modeling,Sean’s academic foundation is complemented by a passion for continuous learning and a commitment to innovative forest management. At MKRF, Sean thrives in an environment that offers a diverse range of tasks and encourages a culture of perpetual learning. He values the flexibility to explore less conventional forest management practices, allowing for experimentation and the pursuit of sustainable solutions. Beyond his professional pursuits, Sean finds joy in spending time immersed in nature. Additionally, Sean channels his creativity into crafting with wood, showcasing a harmonious blend of professional expertise and personal passion. Looking ahead, Sean aspires to make a lasting impact on forest management in British Columbia. He envisions contributing to this goal through educating future foresters, sharing his wealth of knowledge, and actively participating in research initiatives that will shape forestry policies.

Sarah Panagiotou; Manager of Administration

Sarah Panagiotou is the Manager of Administration, and came to the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest from the corporate tourism sector with a diploma in Tourism/Hospitality Management and Business Administration Management. In her capacity as Administration Manager, Sarah is intricately involved in all facets of MKRF’s diverse business ventures. She thrives on the daily dose of variety and embraces the new challenges that each day at the forest brings. For Sarah, the highlight of her role is being immersed in what she considers the most beautiful ecosystem on our planet. Raised by an environmentalist mother, she feels a deep sense of privilege in continuing her mother’s legacy by advocating for the environment. Raised by an environmentalist mother, Sarah feels fortunate to continue her mother’s work through advocating for our environment while bearing witness to sustainable forestry practices. Sarah is currently engaged in various Indigenous-centric courses, seeking to deepen her understanding and contribute to fostering an inclusive and culturally rich environment.

Liz Smith; Business Improvement Coordinator

With over 15 years of experience in planning advanced education and coordinating business growth and development, Liz Smith is MKRF’s Business Improvement Coordinator. With a diploma of technology in Business Management from BCIT, Liz’s focus extends to coordinating and planning MKRF’s Wild & Immersive nature-education programming. In addition to her role in these initiatives, she actively contributes to various projects for the research forest while also managing the forest’s safety program. Throughout her journey at MKRF, Liz’s connection with the natural world has deepened, and she values the sense of community that envelops her. Eager to stay at the forefront of industry trends, Liz is currently pursuing micro-certifications from the UBC Sauder School of Business to enhance and update her business skills. Outside of work, Liz enjoys running outdoors, hiking and reading.

Christiane Smoroden; Wild & Immersive Coordinator

Originally from Northern Ontario, Christiane Smoroden graduated from Laurentian University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and complemented her academic journey with a certificate in Environmental Monitoring and Impact Assessment from Cambrian College. Christiane’s journey with the research forest began with Wild & Immersive in 2018, and her commitment and passion for the environment and for education led her to become a full-time MKRF employee in 2022, taking on the role of Wild & Immersive Coordinator.  Christiane is currently working on finishing a Forest and Nature School Practitioner course through the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Christiane finds joy in collaborating with a wonderful team of industry professionals at the research forest. Their shared dedication to education and to helping each other makes her experience at Wild & Immersive truly fulfilling.