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 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 Natural Resources and Forestry

COSSARO Membership

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


Tom Hilditch is President and CEO of Savanta Inc., responsible for all aspects of Savanta including the technical quality of all ecological work completed. He is a former Vice-President, Environmental Management Practice Area, Central and Eastern Canada at Stantec Consulting and a former Senior Ecologist at Gartner Lee Limited. Mr. Hilditch was a member and Chair of the Species at Risk Program Advisory Committee from 2008 to 2014.


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 is a former Collection Technician with Natural Resources Canada. Mr. Paiero is a former Field Technician/Researcher and former Database Manager and Acting Curator of the Insect Collection with the University of Guelph. He is also a former Entomology Consultant with the Town of Markham. Mr. Paiero holds an Honours Bachelor of Sciences in Zoology, a Master of Sciences in Environmental Biology, and is currently completing a Doctor of Philosophy in Entomology from the University of Guelph.


Dr. Tyler Smith is a Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Dr. Smith is a former Assistant Professor with Eastern Kentucky University. His community involvement has included serving as a board member, bulletin editor and associate editor for the Canadian Botanical Association and as an assistant editor for the peer-reviewed journal Castanea for the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society. Dr. Smith holds a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Biology from Guelph University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Science from McGill University.


Edward (Ted) Armstrong recently retired after a 35-year career with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). He has worked in a number of fisheries and wildlife management positions across the province and has been involved in the conservation and recovery of a number of bird and mammal species at risk. His most recent positions were Regional Wildlife Biologist and Senior Caribou Biologist with MNRF. He also served as an Ontario Public Service and a public member of the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario from 2008 to 2014. Mr. Armstrong holds a Master of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Guelph and continues to work on wildlife and species at risk as a wildlife consultant.


Holly Bickerton is a self-employed Consulting Ecologist with emphasis on botany, ecology and birds of Eastern Ontario. She is a former species at risk Biologist. Her community involvement includes serving on the Ottawa Field-Naturalists Club, Excursions and Lectures Committee and trip leader. Ms. Bickerton holds a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from York University, a Bachelors degree in Education from Queens University and a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree from McMaster University.


Julie Rosenthal earned her Ph.D. from Lakehead University’s Faculty of Natural Resources Management in 2012. Her M.Sc. was awarded from the University of Greenwich, U.K. She has 12 years experience researching, monitoring and writing management plans for species and habitats at risk in protected areas in Ontario and abroad. Her research focus is on the conservation of rare species and habitats that are dependent on agricultural landscapes. Ms. Rosenthal owns and operates a beef and sheep farm in Northwestern Ontario and lectures at Lakehead University.


Laura Timms is an Ecologist with Credit Valley Conservation in Mississauga. In addition, she is a Consultant in entomology, ecology, and conservation. Dr. Timms’ community involvement includes being Director of the Board of the Entomological Society of Canada, Departmental Associate at the Royal Ontario Museum, and former Chair of the Common Names Committee of the Entomological Society of Canada. Dr. Timms holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Science degree in Forest Entomology from the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto.


Scott Gillingwater is the Species at Risk Biologist for the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and a Freelance Herpetologist. Since 1994, Mr. Gillingwater has conducted wildlife research and surveys on various taxa both in Canada and abroad, with a particular focus on reptiles at risk in Southern Ontario. He serves, or has served, as a member of the Ontario Multi-species Turtles at Risk, Wood Turtle, E. Hog-nosed Snake and E. Foxsnake Recovery Teams, COSEWIC Amphibians and Reptiles SSC, IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Chair of the Queensnake and Spiny Softshell Turtle Recovery Teams, and President of the Canadian Herpetological Society.

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.