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Profession: Wildlife Biologist & Photographer
Age: 31 • Years in Wood Buffalo: 5

Aurora addict, never growing tired of taking pictures of the beauty that is the northern lights.

Sithara Fernando, age 31, is a wildlife biologist and photographer who has been in Fort McMurray since 2011.

She grew up in Edmonton where she attended the University of Alberta, and received a Bachelors of Science in Forestry.

Sithara previously worked for both Parks Canada and the Alberta Parks Service, where she gained knowledge about the natural world and skills in wildlife management, visitor services, and wildfire suppression.

She currently works at Suncor Energy as a wildlife biologist, and is very familiar with the wildlife and landscapes around Fort McMurray.

Sithara is also a very accomplished photographer, having received a landscape photography scholarship from National Geographic. She has contributed her photography to various local charities including the Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s Empty Bowls Festival, the Northern Lights Health Foundation’s Healing Halls, Big Brothers Big Sisters SMS Wine Auction, and Fort McMurray Time Raiser. Sithara’s photography was nominated in the Visual Arts Category at the 2016 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards.

Having a background in Forestry, Sithara was given the opportunity to participate in some of the wildfire suppression efforts in May 2016. When she realized that Wood Buffalo might be lost, Sithara truly realized how much she loves Wood Buffalo. Sithara is the co-founder of both May the Fort Be With You (a charity supporting the rebuilding of Fort McMurray post-wildfire) and Bear Smart Wood Buffalo (an organization focused on making Wood Buffalo a Bear Smart and Wildfire Safe Community). She also sits on the board of the Fort McMurray Film Makers Association.

In her free time, Sithara enjoys hiking with her dog Oscar, paddle boarding, mountain biking, birdwatching, snowshoeing and almost anything that involves being outdoors. You can often her find capturing the northern lights with her camera.

Sithara’s passion and dedication to the natural surroundings of Wood Buffalo, and her passion for capturing the beauty of Wood Buffalo and sharing it with the world, are just some of the reasons why she has been named one of YMM’s Top 50 Under 50.

IN HER OWN WORDS: “Risk is what brings richness, beauty and love into our lives. It is by taking risks and by failing that we learn, grow and appreciate ourselves and each other.”