Meet the FoKLSS Team!

Untitled design (27)

Gwen Dell'Anno

Executive Director

Gwen grew up on a farm near Niagara Falls, but has always felt drawn to the mountains. She has been exploring the natural world around her with wonder and enthusiasm since she was a small child. Her trips ‘up north’ to summer Camp gave her a deep appreciation for the wilderness and caused her to pursue Wildlife Biology as her University major.

Since then, Gwen has had the opportunity to explore (and live in) a wide variety of ecological forest/habitat zones from Ontario across the west to Alberta and BC. Along the way, she gained experience in not-for-profit management while working with a variety of youth-serving organizations including Scouts, 4-H and a number of summer camps and supporting organizations.

In her spare time, Gwen is an avid gardener – recently exploring permaculture and regenerative farming processes – as well as hiking, birdwatching, and letterboxing with her family.

She is looking forward to the opportunity to delve into the more scientific aspects of nature appreciation and stewardship that the Friends of Kootenay Lake offers as well as giving support to the broader organizational structure and processes that will strengthen the Society and help to ensure its longevity.

Untitled design

Jesse Letford

Environmental Outreach Coordinator
Jesse grew up in Peterborough, Ontario, where her first passion was the music industry. In 2012, she moved to Toronto to follow her dream of working at a record label, where she stayed until early 2023, gaining over a decade of experience building partner relationships and executing events. During her time in music she started to develop a love of the outdoors, going on hikes as often as possible and learning about outdoor and wildlife photography.
In 2021 Jesse decided to embark on the path towards a new career in the environmental industry, signing up for the Advanced Environmental Management program at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, which she completed in 2022. She also decided that it was time to make the move to the mountains, and that Nelson was the right place for her.
Jesse is excited to learn more about Kootenay Lake and the ways in which we all have a role to play in protecting and conserving the lake and surrounding ecosystems. She can’t wait to become more involved in the community in Nelson and to explore all of the Kootenays!
Untitled design (4)

Oleksandra Dmitrienko

Ecological Projects Manager

After immigrating to Canada from Ukraine, Oleksandra grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. As most newcomers do, she and her family explored the natural beauty of their new home by hiking, camping, and going on road trips all over BC every chance they could; it was here that she discovered her love of the natural world. After graduating high school, she moved across the country to Montreal to pursue her other loves, literature and language, by getting a degree in English Literature and French Language from the University of McGill.

Oleksandra taught English to students of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds for over seven years in Montreal. While she loved teaching, she knew that she wanted to eventually come back to her first love and work in the environmental field. With so much tragedy and upheaval unfolding in the natural world due to the climate crisis, she wanted to be part of the group looking for solutions. And so, Oleksandra discovered the field of Ecological Restoration. She moved to Ontario and obtained the Ecosystem Management Diploma from Fleming College in Lindsay. During her studies, she took part in a project aimed at restoring a part of the campus to a tallgrass prairie, basing her prescriptions on historical remnants found throughout southern Ontario. After obtaining her diploma, Oleksandra came back to BC and worked in the natural resources industry, managing invasive species, monitoring
forest health and conducting silviculture surveys. And, most importantly, writing prescriptions for Caribou Habitat Restoration in the Kennedy Siding and Burnt Pine herd ranges as part of a project for the McLeod Lake Indian Band in central BC.

Oleksandra is looking forward to developing and working on many restoration projects around the lake in her role as the Ecological Projects Manager with FoKLSS. She hopes to build meaningful relationships with the many communities of Kootenay Lake and work together on solutions to create resilient and biodiverse ecosystems for all; human and non-human alike.


Dayna Eldridge

Stewardship and Outreach Assistant (Summer Position)

Dayna has always loved being outside and working with her heart and her hands. She grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and followed her dream to move to British Columbia in 2017. Since then she has spent a lot of her time hiking, camping, surfing, snowboarding and trail running around BC. She moved to Nelson in 2022, and is so excited to be forming such a strong connection to Kootenay Lake and the Nelson community!

Dayna graduated from the University of Victoria with a double major in Environmental Studies and Sociology. She is joining the FoKLSS team for a summer position, and before this has worked at several non-profit organizations, as well as several organic farms. She has over four years of communications/engagement and outreach experience in the environmental and social justice field, and can’t wait to expand this experience with the Nelson community and share in her passion for the natural world.

She is looking forward to gaining more field work experience and learning more about the science and data-collecting aspects of environmental stewardship at Kootenay Lake!

Dayna will be assisting with outreach, communications, volunteer and member engagement and field work.