Young Conservation Professionals Leadership Program

We are now accepting applications for the
2024 Young Conservation Professionals program!

Please download a copy of the application form and complete all fields. Once you are ready to submit your application, update the file name with your name and email the pdf to

The application deadline is Friday February 9, 2024.


Young Conservation Professionals (YCP)
2024 Alumni Conference:
Leading Through Change, Charting the Path

Thursday February 1 – Friday, February 2, 2024
Claremont Nature Centre
4290 Westney Road North, Pickering, ON L0C 1A0

participants gather for a group photograph at the first Young Conservation Professionals alumni conference

We invite you to be part of the second YCP Alumni Conference!

Reconnect with YCP leaders, alumni, and partners to reflect on the significant work accomplished throughout 16 years of empowering emerging professionals.


Registration Closes January 26, 2024.


Thursday, February 1, 2024
8:30 to 10:00 a.m. Arrival, Check-in & Continental Breakfast (Leave Your Mark)
10:00 to 10:15 a.m. Opening Remarks (Peter Mitchell)
10:15 to 11:45 a.m. Session #1: Strategic Partnerships (Kyle Vander Linden, Senior Advisor, Credit Valley Conservation and Greg Zilberbrant, Beyond 21 Academy)
12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Session #2: Low Ropes – Coaching Skills & Strategies
3:00 to 4:15 p.m. Session #3: Change Management (Gillian Harris, P.Eng, PMP Associate Director, Public Works)
4:15 to 5:00 p.m. Networking & Appetizers
5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Dinner & 2023 YCP Graduation
6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Fireside Chat (moderator Colin Love)
8:00 p.m. onwards Campfire, Networking & Social Time
Friday, February 2, 2024
8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Session #4: Collective Impact & Chaordic Leadership (Shannon Fernandes, Manager of Climate Adaptation, Halifax Regional Municipality)
10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Session #5: Strategic Planning Sharing Session
12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 to 1:15 p.m. Closing Remarks
1:15 to 2:30 p.m. Hike
2:30 p.m. Departure

About the
Young Conservation Professionals Program

The Young Conservation Professionals (YCP) Leadership Program is a year-long personal and professional development program serving the conservation and environmental sector in Ontario.

The purpose of the YCP Leadership Program is to build capacity in the conservation sector by helping the next generation of leaders to step up.

Program participants will gain:

  • Increased knowledge and understanding of leadership and management practice
  • Deepened understanding of individual leadership styles and innate strengths as managers and leaders
  • Improved interpersonal communication skills
  • Improved ability to set effective, outcome-focused goals
  • Enhanced confidence to lead in both personal and professional contexts
  • Increased motivation and ability to manage teams and complex projects

Launched in 2005, the YCP Leadership Program has a network of more than 220 alumni across the province and beyond.

Young Conservation Professionals program alumni


The Young Conservation Professionals Leadership Program takes place over the course of one calendar year and requires a total on-site time commitment of approximately nine days. This includes:

  • Three retreats (three days, two nights) focused on personal and professional leadership development
  • A minimum of four (maximum of six) workshops throughout the year focused on key management skills

Program fees include all retreat costs and workshops:

  • Public and private sector, including conservation authorities: $1,555/person
  • Non-profit: $830/person


Three retreats are the core of YCP Leadership Program. Participants are immersed in a collaborative professional learning environment focused on a theme, with individual, small group and whole-group activities and projects.

Retreats take place at Claremont Nature Centre in Pickering, Ontario.

Young Conservation Professionals residential retreat at Albion Hills Field Centre

Retreat activities include:

  • Group-building exercises
  • Self-assessment
  • Instructional sessions on leadership
  • Peer learning
  • Action-reflection learning
  • Learning in small groups
  • Journal-writing
  • Coaching
  • Learning rooted in individual and group projects

Each retreat closes with goal-setting and take-home exercises designed to help participants apply their learning both in the workplace and in everyday life.

Retreat 1 (Winter 2024): Leader as Learner


  • March 6-8, 2024


  • What is leadership?
  • Self-assessment
  • Sharpening the saw


  • Increased understanding of individual leadership style(s) and innate strengths
  • Enhanced ability to practice deliberate, ongoing self-assessment
  • Increased knowledge and understanding of leadership and management practice


  • Personal and Professional Visioning
  • Coffee-break Challenge

Young Conservation Professionals program participants at winter retreat

Retreat 2 (Spring/Summer 2024): Leader as Partner


  • June 19-21, 2024


  • Situational leadership
  • Collaboration and partnership


  • Increased knowledge of practical techniques for leading through partnership
  • Enhanced ability to plan projects and appreciation of the connections between vision, goals, action and context
  • Improved interpersonal communication skills


  • Organizational challenge

Young Conservation Professionals leadership program summer retreat at Albion Hills Field Centre

Retreat 3 (Fall 2024): Leader as Catalyst


  • October 23-25, 2024


  • Mapping the future
  • Goal setting


  • Improved ability to set effective, outcome-focused goals
  • Enhanced confidence to lead in both personal and professional contexts
  • Increased motivation and ability to manage teams and complex projects


  • Leadership plan of action

Young Conservation Professionals leadership program fall retreat at Albion Hills Field Centre

About Claremont Nature Centre

Claremont Nature Centre, which opened in 1970, is a panabode cedar log building with a spacious lounge, wood-burning fireplace, dining area, and classroom.

In addition to a wide variety of activities, Claremont Nature Centre provides the opportunity to explore one of the region’s healthiest cold-water streams, as well as a chance to look back at our heritage in a restored pioneer log cabin.

Our Address: 4290 Westney Road North, Pickering, ON L0C 1A0 | MAP + DIRECTIONS

Claremont Nature Centre


2024 workshop dates to be announced.

The Young Conservation Professionals Leadership Program offers up to six training workshops; participants are required to attend at least four.

The workshops teach the basics of practical, management-related skills, and may include:

  • Facilitation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Proposal development
  • Budgeting
  • Financial management
  • Goal-setting and strategy
  • Policy development
  • Collaboration
  • Communication and public speaking

Workshops are held virtually and at locations in the Greater Toronto Area, with the support of host organizations such as the University of Guelph.

Young Conservation Professionals program workshop

Certificate of Completion

The Young Conservation Professionals Leadership Program is a continuing education program offered through Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and University of Guelph. A Certificate of Completion is awarded upon successful graduation from the program.


Advisory Committee Members

Courtney Baker

Courtney (“Court”) Baker is a fun-loving and hardworking land trust practitioner. She began work in conservation seven years ago and has never looked back. As the Office and Acquisition Coordinator at The Couchiching Conservancy, she is continually awed by the dedication and generosity of their volunteers, members, and supporters. Court brings her whole self to all projects, from filling bird feeders to doing taxes, and is excited to apply this philosophy to her role as a member of the YCP Advisory Committee.

Having grown up rural, lived internationally, and earned her degree in anthropology from Trent University, Court brings local and global perspectives and is passionate about making space for diversity, equity, and inclusion. She completed the YCP Program in 2021 and will reap the benefits for the rest of her life. She is hoping to be a champion for others who wish to participate in the program through her role on the Advisory Committee.


Sasha Benevides

Sasha Benevides is the Community Engagement and Outreach Coordinator at Conservation Halton. She holds her HBSc. with a minor in Environmental Sciences from McMaster and has worked in the conservation field for 15 years. She has focused her professional career on sharing her love for the environment with a variety of audiences through various experiential education programs. Sasha participated in YCP in 2017.


Christine Bowen

After completing her BSC in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, Christine fell in love with connecting folks to nature to inspire change. She wants to share her passion for turtles, trees, camping, canoeing, and more recently, disc golf. Christine has 5-plus years sharing that passion in environmental outreach and education within the nonprofit sector.

Experience including her ongoing interpretive and events employment at Royal Botanical Gardens, her recent contract as Landowner Engagement Program Assistant at CVC, and now she is about to embark on a new role as Landowner Engagement Technician at Conservation Halton.

From school programs and volunteer plantings, to webinars, pub trivia and a young water professional development program, Christine has a wide range of experiences and education in engaging communities. Professionally, Christine is a NAI Certified Interpretive Guide and is in the process of pursuing a graduate certificate in Community Engagement and Leadership from Toronto Metropolitan University.


Nicolas Brunet

Nicolas D. Brunet is the Latornell Professor in Environmental Stewardship at the University of Guelph with a research program in the community-based conservation field. His research focuses upon natural resource governance and sustainable community development, and the tools, such as Indigenous community based monitoring and community science, used to measure the impacts of resource extraction (mining, oil and gas) in boreal and Arctic ecosystems. His research aims to build community capacity to engage in decision-making in response to various contributors to environmental and climatic change.


Megan Lalli

Megan Lalli is a lover of life who connects her passions for environmentalism and community-building to revitalize natural spaces for the health of all living beings. After graduating from McGill with a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Anthropology and Biology, she worked in the charity and non-profit sector, gaining experience in community-based conservation, wildlife rehabilitation, monitoring, and restoration project management. She has completed a graduate certificate in Ecosystem Restoration at Niagara College, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Conservation Leadership at the University of Guelph.

As a Certified Ecosystem Restoration Practitioner in-Training, she works to foster stewardship, and connect and restore stream, wetland, and forest habitat across Niagara in her work with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. As a volunteer, she focuses on restoring the Twelve Mile Creek watershed as a Director at-Large with the Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada.

Since completing the YCP program in 2021, she has stayed involved as an Alumni Representative, helping launch the first YCP Alumni Conference in 2023. She is excited to continue volunteering with YCP to strengthen this vital network while supporting the shared goals of educating communities, restoring biodiversity, and creating a more beautiful and connected world.


Peter Mitchell

Peter spent ten years teaching in the Community Studies program at Humber College, eight years as director of recreation and community development for Bell Canada International in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and 20 years as a Research Associate at the University of Guelph in the Centre for Land and Water Stewardship. He co-wrote the Woodlot Management Handbook, a national bestseller, and the Caring for Your Land books for the Niagara Escarpment, the Carolinian Canada Zone and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Peter started the World Crops Program in 2007 at the University of Guelph and received the Premier’s Agri-Food Innovation Excellence award for this project in 2011-2012. He currently manages a project called New Canadians Go Greenbelt and is closely involved with the Young Conservation Professionals program.

Peter is a past Board Member of the Sustainability Network, Toronto Food Policy Council, Ontario Farm Land Trust, and Humber Watershed Alliance. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Carrot Cache, Montgomery’s Inn and the Etobicoke-Mimico Watershed Alliance.



We welcome correspondence from alumni, managers, prospective participants, and other friends and supporters of the program.

Please direct all and correspondence to:

We look forward to hearing from you!

Young Conservation Professionals Leadership program participants walk trail at Albion Hills Field Centre

Thank You to Our Funders and Supporters:

A.D. Latornell Endowment Fund
University of Guelph | Latornell Conservation Symposium