An independent committee of experts considers which plants and animals should be listed as at risk. The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) consists of up to 12 members with expertise in scientific disciplines or community knowledge or Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge.

The Endangered Species Act gives the committee legal recognition and specific responsibilities:

  • Maintaining criteria for assessing and classifying species
  • Keeping a list of species that should be assessed and classified (or reclassified) in the future
  • Assessing, reviewing and classifying species
  • Submitting reports regarding the classification of species and providing advice to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

COSSARO Membership

AGENCY MEMBERS BIOGRAPHIES (Click + to view members biographies.)


Tom Hilditch is President and CEO of Colucent Environmental Inc. During his 40-year career as an ecologist, Tom has completed impact assessment, mitigation planning and ecological planning and design projects in Canada, China, Barbados, Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea. Tom served on the Species at Risk Program Advisory Committee (SARPAC), COSSARO’s sister committee between 2008 and 2014 (Member 2008 to 2010, Chair 2010 to 2014). Tom has served as Chair of COSSARO since 2015. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resources Centre.


Dan Kraus is the Manager of Conservation Science and Planning for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) – Ontario Region. He is co-author of the Lake Ontario Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, the Great Lakes Islands Conservation and Biodiversity Atlas and Beyond Island of Green: A Primer for Using Conservation Science to Select and Design Community-Based Nature Reserves. Prior to joining NCC, Mr. Kraus was a senior ecologist for an environmental consultant. He is a member of the Society for Conservation Biology and the Ecological Society of America. Mr. Kraus has an undergraduate degree from the University of Waterloo in Environmental Studies and a M.Sc. from the University of Guelph.


Steven Paiero works at the University of Guelph, where he is the curator of the University of Guelph Insect Collection. His work focuses on documenting the occurrence of insects in Ontario and taxonomic reviews and revisions. He has previously worked in short-term positions with Natural Resources Canada and Canadian Wildlife Federation. Dr. Paiero holds an Honours Bachelor of Sciences in Zoology, a Master of Sciences in Environmental Biology, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Entomology from the University of Guelph.


Ashley Thomson is Assistant Professor at Lakehead University and former Ecologist at Resolute Forest Products and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Michigan. Her community involvement includes serving as a Council member for Lakehead University Sustainability Stewardship Council.


Darren Sleep is Senior Director, Conservation Strategies at Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). His former employment includes roles as Project Leader, Forest Ecology at The National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI). Community involvement includes serving as Chair of the Survival and Recovery Working Group for the Species at Risk Advisory Committee (SARAC).


Glenn Cunnington is a Senior Ecologist and Species at Risk Specialist with Riverstone Environmental Solution Inc. (River Stone). He has conducted wildlife research and monitoring for a variety of species throughout Ontario and has served as a member of the E. hog-nosed snake and E. Foxsnake Recover Teams. Prior to his employment at Riverstone, Dr. Cunnington was a Species at Risk Biologist, and a Permitting and Agreements Coordinator with the Ontario Public Service. Dr. Cunnington holds a Ph.D. from Carleton University, and a Master of Science degree from Trent University.


Toby Thorne grew up in the UK with a keen interest in natural history and studied biology at the University of Oxford. He moved to Canada in 2013 to pursue a research master’s degree, studying Ontario Bats. He has worked on a variety of bat focused projects. Toby lives in Toronto, and currently helps lead the Native Bat Conservation Program at the Toronto Zoo, focusing on filling knowledge gaps and raising public awareness of bats in the province. He is the author of a 2016 field guide to Ontario’s bat species.


Ian Barrett is a senior biologist and senior manager of Environmental Projects for Colville Consulting Inc. He is a former biologist for the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, an ecologist for Gartner Lee Limited and a habitat technician for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Mr. Barrett holds a Fish and Wildlife Technologist Diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College, a Bachelor of Science degree from Trent University and a Master of Science Degree from the University of Waterloo. Mr. Barrett is a former member for the Ontario Freshwater Fish Recovery Team and was involved in the development of the recover strategy for the Lake Chubsucker and the management plan for the Grass Pickerel.


Jillian deMan has 23 years of dedicated environmental experience as a Senior Ecologist with AECOM where she has worked on projects across Canada in the renewable mining, transportation, waste and water sectors. Her main role is facilitation of project approvals with respect to the Endangered Species Act. Ms. deMan has an undergraduate degree from Brock University in biological and earth sciences and is recognized as an expert in woodland and wetland restoration before the Environmental Review Tribunal. She is a life time member of the Field Botanists of Ontario and currently volunteers her time with The Owl Foundation.


Derek Parks is the President of Parks Environmental Inc. (est. 2010) and is a senior aquatic specialist with more than 30 years of field and assessment experience. Mr. Parks’ main focus and interests include Environmental Assessments, Species at Risk, Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) programs, fisheries and fish habitat, water-quality, environmental permitting, bioengineering and impact assessments. Educated with a M.Sc. of Biology (2003) from the University of Waterloo, a B.Sc. in Environmental Science\Biology from Trent University (1997); an Ecosystem Management Diploma (1996) and Geographic Information Systems Specialist Diploma (1997) from Sir Sandford Fleming College.


Dr. Barbara Hard has over 27 years of experience as an Environmental Biologist in Environmental Assessment, Permitting, Natural Resources and Ecological Risk Assessment. Barbara’s responsibilities related to Ecological Services include managing and conducting environmental impact assessments; Species at Risk studies; vegetation and wildlife surveys; benthic invertebrate surveys; fish habitat assessments; wetland evaluations; ecological land classification; and rare species research. She is experienced in Species at Risk permitting, development of habitat compensation and mitigation plans as well as re-vegetation and vegetation management plans. Barbara is a hands-on biologist with extensive field work experience throughout Canada.

How to apply to join COSSARO

If you are interested in becoming a member of the committee, please see the agency details and how to apply sections of the Public Appointments Secretariat webpage.