The Shift Team
Shift Environmental was spun from the fabric of a lifetime on the coast and built from the experience of its founders and staff, who believe in their authentic approach for a different way to work with First Nation Communities and Ocean Technology. The Shift team is passionate about building and supporting strategic relationships between First Nations, industry and government to build resilience in coastal communities.
FOUNDER & C.E.O
James Spencer is our founder and CEO who has brokered numerous deals and raised over $25M in funding with First Nation partners and technology providers since incorporation in 2018. After training in marine eco-physiology, James journeyed into the natural resource sector—from the Aleutian Islands to the Oregon Coast, from fishing boats to hard rock mines, from a deckhand to a captain—getting to know the land and the seascape, their visitors and inhabitants. During his 20+ years working as a scientist and project manager for top-tier consulting agencies in Canada and the United States, James learned what truly drives development, readiness, and sustainability: a solid knowledge base combined with the ability to see how each part of a project relates to the whole. James holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology (University of Victoria) and a Project Management Certificate (University of Toronto). He also holds numerous professional tickets, including Small Vessel Operator Proficiency, Incident Command Training (ICS-300), Hazmat Level 2, and Marine Emergency Duties.
Colin Dobell is our Vice President of Technology. He works with growing companies to provide business and technical advice, specializing in software development, prototype manufacturing, and designing remotely operated robotic systems for confined spaces and hazardous environments. Over 25 years of experience has taught Colin that challenging a truly creative group of engineers and technicians with a client’s mission objective will push the limits of technology, leading to custom-tailored solutions. Colin has cultivated new products and new markets in 40 countries, brokered product licensing deals with major international corporations, and negotiated multi-million-dollar contracts. He is a named inventor on two patents, one for a pipe laser profiling system and the other for a magnetic crawler inspection system. Past positions have included:
• CEO of Dobell Technologies, Inc.,
• President and General Manager of Inuktun Services, Ltd. – Purchased by Eddyfi Technologies
Colin was among the recipients of the Business in Vancouver 40 Under 40 Award in 2003.
Senior Coastal Planner
Julian Bakker is our Senior Planner and project developer. He provides First Nations clients with comprehensive location information, spatial data, and planning options to develop and maintain coastal territories, with a special emphasis on sovereignty, technology, community values, and local knowledge. At Shift Environmental, Julian combines his hands-on and academic experience with GIS and remote-sensing platforms with his current PhD research in geography (University of Victoria). He shows clients how to use technology and coastal resources (human and natural) to translate community values into coastal planning and implementation initiatives. Julian customizes plans specific to each client’s unique territory, using technology and training to build people-centred economic opportunities that promote meaningful experience, a strong sense of place, and integration with the natural environment. Julian is an inflatable boat enthusiast, an inveterate dinghy sailor, and a Transport Canada–certified drone flight instructor.
R&D ENGINEERING LEAD
Sebastian Berg is our Research and Development Engineering Lead. With a professional background in industrial mechanical design and personal background centered on the ocean, Sebastian leads the technical development of our Nearshore Environmental Response Mobile Command Control and Communications (NERMC3) project and the OceanSled semi-autonomous multi-use vessel. Sebastian coordinates Shift Environmental’s technology integration into real-world heavy weather and coastal environments. Sebastian’s extensive experience in mechanical engineering included the design of a new pump for highly abrasive fluids and systemic testing and re-designing existing parts. This, coupled with three years of project management experience at remote worksites in BC’s backcountry, help him translate client needs into the custom tools required to maintain Shift Environmental technology long term.
FIELD OPERATIONS MANAGER
Bob Milne is our Field Operations Specialist. He provides our clients with safe, consistent, and highly competent marine operations capabilities for ocean technology and marine management initiatives. More comfortable on water than on land, Bob’s 20+ years of experience in the maritime, fishing, and aquaculture industries included work with governments, industry, and First Nations, through which he has proven his ability to successfully grow and maintain large-scale commercial aquaculture operations (finfish and shellfish) in both Canada and Australia. Bob is particularly interested in sustainable marine fisheries and has consulted on projects related to recirculating aquaculture systems, aquaponics, underwater logging, and fisheries management. He takes a scientific approach to problem-solving and has a deep understanding of the attitude and dedication needed for successful and profitable aquaculture. Bob holds an Aquaculture Technician certificate (Capilano College) and a post-graduate diploma in Sustainable Aquaculture (University of St. Andrews, Scotland).
Project Engineering Technologist
Aiden Massey is our Project Engineering Technologist. During his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) degree program at the University of Victoria, he completed three co-op placements with naval architecture and ocean technology companies. Aiden has expertise in designing systems for the marine environment, including platforms for housing oceanographic instruments on Ocean Networks Canada’s underwater observatories as well as designing tools for remotely operated vehicles to perform subsea maintenance work. Aiden has helped maintain cabled observatories on the CCGS John P Tully, a research vessel operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. He was also part of a two-person crew maintaining a cabled observatory in a remote camp in the Canadian Arctic. He has a strong interest in all things ocean. He likes to kayak, fish, and beachcomb on the BC coast.
Adrian Nutt is our Financial Controller. He fosters business-to-business and business-to-public relationships to create positive personal and professional growth for all involved. He has worked with individuals and business clients in various industries, including seafood processing, accommodation & food services, and amusement & recreational services. Adrian’s background is in administration and accounting, and he has experience in full-cycle bookkeeping, budget & tax planning, payroll, government filings, and the preparation/analysis of financial statements. Adrian holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (Vancouver Island University) and is currently studying for his designation as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).
Ronan Leighton is our Product Developer. His breadth of experience with multiple microcontrollers and computer platforms allows him to contribute valuable insights into the design of custom hardware and software for remotely operated robotics, including the OceanSled. He completed complex robotics and telepresence projects during high school, competing as a member of his school’s VEX Robotics team, including a personal telepresence robot, a mobile cable-mounted security camera, and a wifi-controlled rover. Since then, he has taught intensive workshops on Raspberry Pi programming and implementation for younger students. Ronan has previously worked producing products for local robotics companies, including:
• Crystal Cam Imaging, Inc.
• Inuktun Services Ltd.
• Eddyfi Technologies
Ronan is an accomplished student and programmer, having worked to complete high school early. He is currently working toward his diploma in Computer Science (Vancouver Island University).
Marine Projects Lead
Katie Smith is our Marine Projects Lead. She is adept at building and managing projects working with ocean technology providers, remotely operated vehicles, remotely piloted aircraft systems, and sensor data. Katie collaborates with academic researchers, government, and coastal communities to facilitate sustainable solutions for marine resource management. Katie’s experience working as a marine educator in the ecotourism industry, along with her background in fisheries management and coastal ecosystem mapping, has taught her the importance of weaving together technology, data, and people to support healthy ecosystems and healthy communities. Katie loves being on the water with her dog and paddleboard. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology (University of Victoria) and a Master 60T ticket (Transport Canada), and she is working towards her Master of Marine Studies degree in Fisheries Resource Management (Memorial University).
Jason Howes is our Project Manager for the Coastal Incident Management System (CIMS) Project and Environmental Response specialist. He is a coastal and environmental scientist who spent 20+ years gaining a specialized skillset: providing services in coastal resource project management and spill response planning for private, public, and Indigenous government-sector clients across North America. He has extensive experience leading collaborative initiatives with diverse stakeholders and is as comfortable in the field as he is in the office. Jason’s experience leading Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique surveys on multiple spills taught him the importance of timely, accurate data collection in delivering an effective response. He brings this experience and insights to develop a product that will provide indigenous nations and remote coastal communities their independent ability to respond to incidents in their region. Jason holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Geography (University of Victoria).
Capt. Kurt Salchert
Chief Strategy Officer
Captain Kurt Salchert is our Chief Strategy Officer. A retired naval captain, senior public servant, and project manager, he now brings his expertise and leadership in disaster risk management, performance excellence, and decision-support solutions to the private sector. Over his 30-year military career, he has held command and senior leadership appointments aboard virtually every class of Canadian warship, as well as UN riverine and coastal patrol vessels. His experience is complemented by diverse shoreside duties ranging from leading multinational strategic advisory teams in Cambodia to managing large scale multi-agency operations at home and abroad. Following his retirement from the Royal Canadian Navy, he facilitated government-Indigenous consultations for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project and its potential impacts on Aboriginal Rights and Title, marine safety, and cumulative effects on the marine environment. He continues to advise domestic and international organizations regarding maritime spill response and emergency management.