A tree trunk covered in moss in front of a blurry background on the forest in winter

Our Team

chris walton

Chris Walton


Chris Walton is the CEO for the Centre for Research & Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE); Chris is a management professional with over 20 years of experience specializing in government relations, strategic planning, sustainability planning & project development, with a focus in the forest products & bio-economy sectors.

Prior to joining CRIBE, Chris was the President & Principal Consultant for a Thunder Bay based boutique management consulting company that specialized strategic planning, government relations & organizational planning and prior to that he was responsible for the environment and energy portfolio for a large integrated pulp & paper facility.

Mike Barten

Mike Barten

Nextfor Coordinator

Mike is the Nextfor Coordinator with CRIBE, overseeing industry collaboration activities through Nextfor, Industry Challenge Funds, and leading forest innovation initiatives. Prior to joining CRIBE Mike worked as a natural resources consultant at a Thunder Bay based firm, specializing in the permitting and the forest products sector; and previously as a forestry technician at several working forests in Connecticut, USA.

Mike has 8+ years of experience as an environmental science & natural resources professional in the sustainability, permitting, environmental and forestry consulting field.

melissa blackwell

Melissa Blackwell

Program Coordinator

Melissa Blackwell began her role as CRIBE’s program coordinator in May 2021. As the program coordinator she is responsible for the administration and management of CRIBE’s funding programs and ongoing projects. Melissa also oversees strategic communications for CRIBE and its initiatives. She enjoys any opportunity to connect with, support, & learn from our growing network.

Prior to joining CRIBE, Melissa had completed a bachelor’s degree in Medical and Environmental Sciences. She hopes to use her knowledge in sustainability, ecology, and human health to make positive change in her community.

sarah bencic

Sarah Benčić

GIS Innovation Coordinator

Sarah Benčić is a multidisciplinary GIS & Environmental professional with a great eye for cartography, design, & compelling analysis. She joined Cribe after completing an undergraduate in Environmental & Biological Sciences, & a post-graduate in GIS Cartographic studies. With years of experience in the Silviculture, Forestry, and Energy sectors she’s a well rounded interdisciplinary critical thinker with a passion for creating user friendly cartographic products.

Sarah loves the Thunder Bay region and is very excited to see positive change & growth in the space of bio-economy; while supporting the existing forest industry members. She loves working with our Nextfor partners to configure new tools & datasets to steer our pursuit of geospatial decision-making with our partners in Ontario & around the world.

ian wright

Ian Wright

GIS Technician

Ian Wright joined the CRIBE team to assist in the GIS department. In this role Ian will assist in day to day data processing, application development & testing, as well as help support the many project proponents & member of Next-For’s network. Ian brings a wide range of experience to the team through his education and work experience. Ian’s formal education consists of a forestry diploma from Fleming College, a degree in environmental science and sustainable agriculture from Trent University and a post graduate GIS Applications Specialist diploma from Fleming College.

Board of Directors

CRIBE’s Board of Directors includes senior executive leadership from forestry, science, business, academics and finance. Expertise from the bio-chemical, bio-product and forest sectors ensures projects are relevant and fosters a culture of collaboration.

Michael Willick

Chairman of the Board

Doug Murray

Vice Chairman of the Board

Hamdy A. Khalil

Patricia M. Mohr

Ian A. de la Roche

George A. Ross

Bernard West

Mahima Sharma

Cem Gercek

Marianne Berube