2016 Unconference Co-Chairs

Colin Strarkevich

Colin Starkevich was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta where he was able to explore the natural world around him as he grew up near the outskirts of the city. It was his early childhood when Colin developed a unique connection to nature which he knows he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Colin feels that it is so important that we maintain our connection with nature as he believes it will lead us all to live more positive lifestyles and create a healthier world. Colin has been involved with Get to Know since 2007 when he was selected a winner in the annual art contest. Since then his artistic journey has grown with every passing year. Colin has taken part in numerous group exhibitions, painted a large mural at a Birds of Prey Centre, been featured in international artist magazines, has been selected a finalist in a large international artist’s competition through The Artist’s Magazine competing at the professional level, and has also been recognized by world renowned wildlife artist, Robert Bateman, when in 2009 Mr. Bateman invited Colin to attend his Master Artist’s Seminar the following year for Colin to strengthen his artistic ability. Colin is now represented by The Gallery on Main in Lacombe, AB where his original artwork is continuously available for purchase. Colin was also selected as a winning youth presenter with his statement art project, The Grassland Series, in 2014 at the Get to Know programs international Unconference. With a strong passion for the Grasslands region in western Canada Colin has been developing an ongoing series of artwork depicting wildlife and landscapes within this region. Through this series he wishes to raise the awareness of the Grasslands region and to use his artwork to contribute to the conservation of this land and its wild species. Colin also wishes to use this series to inspire others to find their own unique abilities and passions, putting the two together to make a positive difference in our natural world in a way that only they can do. Colin premeried this series during the spring/summer of 2015 in a solo show as a 2500 square foot Feature Exhibit at the nationally acclaimed Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, AB. Colin will be forever connecting, creating, and celebrating nature through his artwork> To view Colin's work please visit: www.colinandthegrasslandseries.com.

Frances Ramsay

Frances Ramsay is a second year student at UBC Sciences in Vancouver. She intends to study Environmental Sciences, specifically focusing on the sustainability of oceans and marine life. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors, sewing, painting, and playing sports. For the 2014 Unconference, she combined her love for textiles and fashion design with her passion for sustainability, and created a dress that reflects the unsustainable practices affecting our ocean. She is looking forward to seeing the young artists who will be presenting their projects at this year's conference in Calgary.

Katie Fitzgerald

Katie is extremely excited to be a youth co-chair for the 2016 Unconference! She is currently balancing university, community service, lifeguarding and very soon a new adventure with Parks Canada on their Toronto Urban Outreach team. She also recently had the privilege to participate at the Forum for Young Canadians in Ottawa. Through this intense program, she was able to strengthen her leadership skills and gain a broader understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the Canadian government.

Katie believes that for a community, a city and a country to grow, the youth of today must get involved. She is passionate about encouraging youth to explore and make positive connections. As an Ambassador for the Get to Know Program and a certified Eco-Mentor with Earth Day Canada, she promotes the programs and spreads environmental awareness through school presentations and workshops. She is also involved with several local environmental initiatives such as the Annual City wide Clean up event, Clean up the Sturgeon River project and Partner in the Parks program.

For her continued volunteerism and humanitarian efforts, Katie is the proud recipient of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, Stars of Albert Youth Award, the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and most recently the Canadian Western Bank Young Woman of Vision Scholarship.

Her desire to encourage youth to develop a deeper appreciation of their natural environmental, makes her continued commitment with the Get to Know Unconference a natural fit!

Joel Agarwal

Born in Saskatchewan and raised in Alberta, Joel Agarwal has developed a passion for Nature Photography. He finds great joy photographing the beautiful landscapes and wildlife of Western Canada during the day, and the stars during the night. Joel studies Biology at the University of Alberta and has always had a love for the natural world, combining biology, fine arts and photography.

Joel was a speaker at the 2015 International Get to Know Unconference held in Calgary, Alberta. His passion for astrophotography has driven him to raise awareness for the issue of light pollution and its detrimental effects on the environment and organisms, which was the topic of the presentation at this conference. In Canada he has won several photography contests including the 2014 and 2015 Get to Know contest, where his photo was chosen to be on the cover of the 2015 calendar. He has multiple photos shown on Google Earth's image gallery, and his photos have been featured at the Hire Grounds Cafe as well as the Penrith Regional Gallery & Lewers Bequest in Australia. His hope is that his photography inspires others to see the world through different lenses and to realize just how fortunate we are to live in such a gorgeous world, and as well to shed light on the environmental problems that we face today.


Laura Makaltses

Laura Makaltses is a young photographer who has a passion for environmental sustainability. She has been involved with Get To Know for since 2013, participating in events past Unconferences and contests. She loves being outdoors and exploring new environments. She has grown up making annual visits to local conservation areas and zoos. This sparked her love of nature and showed her the importance of preserving biodiversity in the world. Photography has always been a lifelong passion of hers. She has participated in many gallery shows and won several awards and publications. Her wildlife and nature photography has been recognized for its beauty and expression locally and internationally. Birds and apes are two of her favourite subjects to capture. It is her lifelong dream to work for a magazine like National Geographic and travel the world capturing images that showcase the changes in the environment and the important information science is revealing.

Cameron Aplin

Cameron Aplin has been passionate about the environment his entire life. He spent his early childhood exploring the outdoors of central Ontario, learning about the local flora and fauna. Canoeing, kayaking and hiking quickly became a favourite pastime of Cameron’s, which eventually inspired him to become an avid photographer. Wildlife photography is how he first learned about the Get To Know Program when he entered his first art competition in 2009. Since then he has had photos exhibited in art galleries as well as Canadian Geographic. It has now been over eight years and he continues to work with the Get To Know Program to inspire other youth in his community to get outdoors and experience their wild neighbours. During the summer months, Cameron works as a Natural Heritage Educator in a Provincial Park where he teaches campers all about the local environment and history. Cameron is presently in his second year of Fire Protection Engineering at Seneca College in Toronto and he hopes to work as a firefighter while continuing to pursue his wildlife photography career.