Our People

sarah pic 40 percentSarah Thorne, President Sarah is President of Decision • Partners Canada Inc., Decision • Partners Inc. in the U.S. Decision Partners is a recognized leader in behavioural decision research, strategy and communications, and the creator of Mental Modeling InsightTM, an integrated  suite of methods, tools and software support for policy, strategy and implementation of research-based initiatives at public and private organizations across a broad range of application areas including those related to emergency preparedness, energy and infrastructure, public health, organizational transformation, stakeholder engagement, climate change, sustainability and resilience. Sarah also works collaboratively with RiskLogik and Southern Harbour on a wide range of risk and resilience challenges. Sarah is a regular contributor to the scientific and management literature on decision making and behaviour-focused strategy and communications, and is co-author of the book Mental Modeling Approach: Risk Management Application Case Studies (Springer, 2017). Sarah is based in Mississauga, Ontario.


Baruch Fischhoff, PhD, Chief Scientist Baruch Photo Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, PhD, is Howard Heinz University Professor at the Institute for Politics and Strategy and in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.  He is also Decision Partners’ Chief Scientist. A graduate of the Detroit Public Schools, he holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and psychology from Wayne State University and a PhD in psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, past President of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making and of the Society for Risk Analysis, and and founding chair of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Risk Communication Advisory Committee. He currently co-chairs the National Research Council Committee on Future Research Goals and Directions for Foundational Science in Cybersecurity. His books include Acceptable Risk  (1981), Risk Communication: A Mental Models Approach (2002), Risk: A Very Short Introduction (2011), Communicating Risks and Benefits (FDA, 2011), Risk Analysis and Human Behavior (Earthscan, 2011), The Science of Science Communication (2013) and Counting Civilian Casualties (2013). Dr. Fischhoff is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Daniel Kovacs, PhD, Senior Scientist Dan - Headshot ReducedDr. Daniel Kovacs is Decision Partners’ Senior Scientist and leads all aspects of Decision Partners’ research activities, including: strategic research design, implementation, analysis and reporting. Dan received his doctorate from the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. His thesis applied the mental models research approach to characterizing public understanding and perceptions of technical and social issues related to chemicals in society and the chemical industry. He also has a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering (environmental track) and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Dan spent several years in the chemical industry before returning to graduate school and then joining Decision Partners where he as worked for over 15 years as a researcher and project manager on numerous projects for government and industry clients, with a focus on expert and public stakeholder perceptions of complex social and technical issues. Dan’s recent work includes customer engagement and strategic planning projects for several Ontario local energy distribution companies, as well as leading research to gain insight into stakeholder judgment on the acceptability of proposed projects in the oil and gas sector. He has also worked on numerous projects related to climate change. Dan is co-author of Mental Modeling Approach: Risk Management Application Case Studies published by Springer in January 2017. Dan is based in Lake Milton, Ohio.


LaurelAustinLaurel Austin, PhD, Senior Scientist/Senior Facilitator Dr. Laurel Austin has been with Decision Partners for over ten years serving as a Senior Scientist and Senior Facilitator. She is also an Adjunct Research Professor at the Ivey Business School, London, Ontario, Canada. Laurel has a Master of Science in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan and a PhD in Management and Decision Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University. With Baruch Fischhoff as her thesis advisor (who is Decision Partners’ Chief Scientist), Laurel wrote her PhD dissertation on consumers’ insurance decisions – one of the first studies to use the mental models research method developed at Carnegie Mellon University. As a professor at Copenhagen Business School, 2007-2016, Laurel specialized in health risk decision making and managerial risk management, and she maintains an affiliation with the Research Unit for General Practice, Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen. Her academic research and teaching combines qualitative and quantitative methods from psychology and decision analysis to model, elicit, and analyze decisions that involve risk and uncertainty. The results identify ways to improve decision making and risk management processes in organizational and personal contexts. With Decision Partners, Laurel has focused in the public health and energy sectors, playing a lead role in numerous risk communications projects in Canada, the US and South Africa. Laurel is based in London, Ontario.





Steve Ackerlund, PhD, Senior Consultant and Senior Facilitator. Dr. Ackerlund is a Senior Consultant and Facilitator with over 25 years’ experience in project management, serving industry, agency and citizen clients. Through his experience, Dr. Ackerlund has acquired a deep understanding of the risk assessment process from a technical perspective. Working with Decision Partners, he has led projects dealing with biosolids risk assessment and risk communication, food safety and climate change. His doctoral dissertation adapts the mental models methodology to explore how individuals involved in Superfund related controversies conceptualize the situation and make decisions to engage one another in achieving their mutual goals and interests. Steve is based in Helena, Montana.


Bio Pic_Julia BalabanowiczJulia Balabanowicz, Senior Consultant and Facilitator Julia Balabanowicz is an expert in difficult conversations and relationship building. As a conflict resolution practitioner with a professional background in engagement and consultation, she has a talent and passion for helping business, governments and communities to engage in meaningful dialogue with their stakeholders. She specializes in working through opposition or conflict and facilitating the ability to build trust, identify common ground and solve problems. With ten years of experience in the energy industry, Julia has worked extensively on large scale, multi-stakeholder engagements involving the public, Indigenous communities and governments. Julia has a B.A in Political Science and Ethics, a Post Graduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution and an M.A. in Disaster and Emergency Management. She also brings a diverse intercultural lens to the work that she does as she has lived and worked in the United Kingdom, Korea and India. Julia has been a judge for the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) Canada’s Core Values Awards for over four years and is on the Board of Governors for the Mackenzie Institute. Julia is based in Toronto, Ontario.


Don Boynton photoDon Boynton, Senior Consultant and Facilitator Don Boynton is a Senior Consultant and Facilitator with Decision Partners and Principal of his own firm, Reputation Counsel. Don has broad national experience in a range of communications areas, including public relations, public affairs, media relations, stakeholder engagement, marketing communications and internal communications for a wide variety of public and private sector clients. His management experience includes research, strategic planning, budgeting, staffing, team building, change management and executive coaching. Don is a certified Mental Models Technology™ Applications Professional, and has been collaborating with Decision Partners for five years. Don has more than 25 years’ experience at various public relations firms and advertising agencies across Canada. He developed and managed strategic communications assignments and programs for public and private sector clients including those involved in natural resources, agriculture and development. Don is an honours graduate of the three-year public relations program at Humber College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto. He also studied engineering at the University of New Brunswick. Don is based in Calgary, Alberta.


EmayEmay Cowx, Senior Consultant and Facilitator  Emay Cowx is a Senior Research Associate with Decision Partners, responsible for providing strategic outreach, consultation and communications support to Decision Partners’ clients, research directors, team leaders and Principals. Emay is a professional with over 20 years of experience in a variety of roles covering regulatory, planning, sales and policy in the continental natural gas environment as well as the Ontario electricity industry. She is also a trained facilitator. Emay has a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, as well as a Certified Professional Facilitator certificate with the International Association of Facilitators. Emay is based in Richmond Hill, Ontario.


Michael Dunn HeadshotMichael Dunn, Senior Consultant  Michael Dunn is president of Dunn & Associates Communications and Public Affairs Inc., a Halifax-based public relations firm specializing in corporate communications, public affairs, media and stakeholder relations and facilitation. The firm provides senior-level counsel, broad based expertise, and a customized approach to achieve outstanding results for clients in the Atlantic Provinces, the rest of Canada, and beyond. Michael has more than 18 years’ national and international experience as principal of his own firm and as a practitioner in the Toronto offices of Ketchum and Edelman Public Relations Worldwide. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Public Relations degree from Mount St. Vincent University. He is a Senior Consultant with Decision Partners as well as Certified Applications Professional, licensed by Decision Partners in Mental Modeling InsightTM. Michael is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Erin Horb HeadsthoErin Horb, Air and Climate Scientist, Senior Consultant  Erin Horb is trained in Atmospheric Science and holds a Master of Science degree from McGill University. Erin supports Decision Partners on policy-related and technical air and climate issues drawing on her consulting experience working for provincial, federal and municipal governments, non-profit societies. Erin has worked on regional strategic and local planning projects for the Government of Alberta and has municipal program management experience with the Air Quality, Climate Change and Energy group at the City of Calgary. She was instrumental in the development of an innovative multi-stakeholder Air Quality Management Plan for the Calgary Region Airshed Zone, and worked collaboratively to coordinate the development of the GHG Action Toolkit for Alberta Communities through the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre. Erin is based in Calgary, Alberta.


Denise Mullen Dalmer - New PhotoDenise Mullen, Consultant  Denise Mullen brings a unique range of talent and experience to the Decision Partners Team. Her Bachelor’s degree in statistics and economics and Master’s degree in public administration are complemented by certificates in conflict resolution, project management, professional writing, and current studies in applied data analytics. Denise has 30 years’ experience in the natural resources management sector with a specialized focus on environment and energy. As a member of the Decision Partners Team, Denise has worked on a wide variety of projects in various capacities: researcher, developer of detailed stakeholder analyses, report writer, and facilitator. Denise is based in Burnaby, BC.


Shayna RectorShayna Rector, Senior Consultant  Shayna Rector is a Communications Consultant with experience in Strategic and insightful Corporate Communications, Reputation Management, Marketing Communications and Organizational Effectiveness with organizations ranging from Fortune 500 multi-nationals to municipal government. She has had operational and leadership roles in developing and implementing innovative and award-winning advertising, communications, stakeholder engagement and change management plans. She is recognized as having a creative, can-do, energetic attitude and collegial approach with a keen business sense. She has the ability to handle complexity and challenge with a clear response. Shayna is a sought out mentor and leader of teams who inspires excellence and creativity. Shayna’s expertise includes: Communications Planning, Brand Management, Crisis Communications, Stakeholder Engagement, Reputation Research, Collaborative Dialogue, Change Management, Internal Communications, Writing and Editing, Design Thinking and Facilitation. Shayna is based in Vancouver, BC.


Alexandra Wright HeadshotAlexandra Wright, Senior Consultant  Alexandra Wright is a seasoned strategist, communicator and leadership coach who has worked for some of the world’s largest and most profitable companies, a number of boutique organizations and with an array of leaders and teams to help manage issues and minimize risk. Alex has worked extensively in the arena of energy, sustainability, climate, the environment and safety. Alex’s education includes a BA in Linguistics, a Diploma in Public Relations and a Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching, and she holds both British and Canadian citizenship. Alex is based in Vancouver, BC.




Anne Papmehl, Senior Writer/Senior Researcher/Trainer 20050126-istD-1903-5x7-for-webAnne Papmehl has worked as Senior Writer and Senior Researcher with Decision Partners for over 11 years. In her role as Senior Researcher, she’s responsible for conducting mental models research interviews and training and orienting new team members to Decision Partners’ interviewing process. Anne has an MA in Italian Studies from the University of Toronto. She has professional experience in diverse areas such as academic administration, corporate communications, business journalism, teaching and mental models research. Anne is an award winning writer and has published over 100 articles, papers, book reviews and reports. Through Decision Partners, Anne has supported research on numerous stakeholder engagement and climate change related projects. She also provided critical editorial support to Decision Partners and their Army Corps of Engineers’ co-authors on their latest book, Mental Modeling Approach: Risk Management Application Case Studies, published by Springer in January 2017. Outside of her work with Decision Partners, she has written in both the academic and popular press on topics related to energy conservation, energy storage technologies and clean power generation. Anne is based in London, Ontario.


photoLaura Ramsay, Senior Writer  Laura Ramsay is a Senior Writer with Decision Partners, where her primary focus is on communicating research results and technical information. Laura has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and a Master’s Degree in Journalism, both from Western University. She has more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor, technical writer and communications consultant in the corporate world and in academia. She has written and edited strategic risk communications technical manuals and training materials on behalf of Decision Partners for numerous clients. Outside of Decision Partners Laura has also worked with the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA) at McMaster University as a Communications Specialist, managing website content and helping to disseminate research knowledge. Before joining Decision Partners she worked as a Communications Officer for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and spent more than 20 years in the newspaper industry. As a young reporter for the Brantford Expositor and the Hamilton Spectator she wrote about local and national First Nations issues while covering the Six Nations and New Credit territories. Laura also worked as a copy editor on the Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald and Vancouver Sun at Postmedia Editorial Services for 15 years. Laura is based in Hamilton, Ontario.


Katherine Sousa, Senior Research Analyst  Katherine Sousa is a Senior Research Analyst with Decision Partners. She has over 20 years’ experience in helping health, education and social services not-for-profit organizations organize and implement marketing, human resource management, and fund-raising strategies. For the past 9 years, Katherine has brought her communications, organizational and strategic skills to her role in supporting the Decision Partners’ Research Team through coding, analysis and report writing. Katherine is based in Southport, Connecticut.


FW Picture (2)Felix Wolfinger, Senior Research Analyst  Felix Wolfinger is a Senior Research Analyst and provides coding and analysis support on Decision Partners research projects. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Chicago and a Master of Business Administration in International Business from the University of Wisconsin in 2005. Following graduation, Mr. Wolfinger worked for three years with a German auditing and consulting firm. He later completed a Master of Science in Environmental Policy from Duke University. His concentration was on national and international energy policy and his master’s thesis analyzed content labels in electricity markets, applying theories from behavioral economics and decision science. Felix is based in Tacoma Park, Maryland.


Barb - PicBarb Sauder, Senior Research Analyst and Faciliator Barb Sauder provides research and facilitation support to Decision Partners. Her responsibilities include conducting research interviews, coding and analyzing research interview responses using proprietary software and contributing to research reports. Through Decision Partners, she has worked on numerous energy-related projects. In addition to her work with Decision Partners, Barb has her own event management company, Anomaly Events, through which she manages, organizes and coordinates conferences and tradeshows for associations, corporations and academic societies. Barb is based in Toronto, Ontario.


Kim Howlett HeadshotKim Howlett, Decision Partners Resource Centre Coordinator As Decision Partners’ Resource Centre Coordinator, Kim Howlett acts as the first point of contact for many of Decision Partners’ clients. She provides coordination and support to the Decision Partners Research Team during all phases of DP’s research activities. This includes: maintaining a global awareness of all project timelines and deliverables; maintaining project summaries, coordinating and supporting project launches with the interview team, and then coordinating ongoing activities related to field research project coordination. She also maintains DP’s extensive library of expert models and mental models research results. Kim holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Western University (formerly The University of Western Ontario). Kim is based in Sarnia, Ontario.


Linda Murphy HeadshotLinda Murphy, Accountant and Controller As Decision Partners’ Accountant and Controller, Linda Murphy  acts is responsible for overseeing all bookkeeping, preparation of the financial statements, budgeting and analysis, cash management and all banking arrangements. Linda is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CMA) and has a Bachelor of Mathematics degree from the University of Waterloo. She brings over 34 years of accounting experience to her role with the firm. Prior to joining Decision Partners, she held various financial positions at six major Canadian corporations, including London Life Insurance Company, IBM and The Molson Companies Ltd. Linda is based in London, Ontario.





Nick Martyn - Civilian PhotoNick Martyn, Founder and CEO, RiskLogik  Nick Martyn is the founder and CEO of RiskLogik. He works collaboratively with Decision Partners and Southern Harbour on a wide range of risk and resilience challenges. RiskLogik provides network based risk analysis tools and services to ensure operational continuity of businesses and public sector organizations, regardless of the event. Nick founded RiskLogik in response to the growing frequency, intensity and impact of hazards to business operations and critical infrastructure, and the consequential impact on sustainable growth and civil society world-wide. This motivation emerged from his experience in Afghanistan developing the Afghan National Development Strategy. Key leaders were faced with dramatic and complex decisions to make about the development of their country with few evidence-based decision support tools to help them reduce the complexity to actionable alternatives they could have confidence in. This condition also exists globally in both the private and public sectors. In 2009 he founded the Masters of Business Administration for International Development (MBA4ID) in the Sprott School at Carleton University. Nick is a retired Canadian Army Officer with 30 years’ service, and five years spent in Afghanistan. He is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College. Nick is based in Almonte, Ontario.


Alec Hay HeadshotAlexander (Alec) Hay, Risk, Reslience and Security Planning Consultant, Founder and Principal at Southern Harbour  Alec Hay is our Risk, Resilience and Security Planning leader. He works closely with clients to identify both the physical risk context and the operational dependencies, and so determine where the operational risks are and how to address them. With 30 years of infrastructure risk and planning experience, he is focused on client-centric solutions that fit the particular operating culture, strategy and context. Working from first principles, he develops both resilience and security integration plans to the client’s particular operating requirements and risk criteria. He works collaboratively with Decision Partners and Risk Logik on a wide range of risk and resilience challenges. An adjunct professor at the University of Toronto, Alec is deeply involved in much of the leading international research into infrastructure risk, including rehabilitation of infrastructure systems, governance of cross-jurisdictional resilience programs, and optimizing the community density to infrastructure capacity. He recently published a book, After the Flood: Exploring Operational Resilience (2017), available through Friesenpress. Alec is based in Toronto, Ontario


Xiu Qiu HeadshotDr. Xin Qiu, PhD, Principal and Senior Climate Science Expert, Novus Environmental  Dr. Qiu is a founding Principal of Novus Environmental, based in Guelph, Ontario, and an Adjunct Professor at York University. He also conducts climate related work on risk and resilience projects for Decision Partners. Dr. Qiu has over 20 years of experience in meteorology, climatology and air quality studies. Dr. Qiu was an IPCC Expert Reviewer on the AR5’s Special Report: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Dr. Qiu was also invited to be an Expert Panel Member of the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) for climate change. He is currently leading a climate change and advanced downscaling research project for the Government of Ontario and Environment Canada. Dr. Qiu’s recent studies focus on identifying the gaps that lie between existing and future climate change and engineering applications and developing a number of modeling approaches in adapting to localized climate extremes. Dr. Qiu is based in Toronto, Ontario.


Brad Goble HeadshotBrad Goble, CEO Goble Consulting  Brad Goble has more than 20 years of experience working with public health and security organizations, both domestically and internationally. He has been an active leader within the G7 multilateral health security organization, the Global Health Security Action Group (GHSAG), and has acted as a senior advisor to the WHO on key global health security initiatives. Brad provides leadership in the development of strategies to enhance global capacity to respond to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) threats, including improved medical countermeasures capacity and consortia aimed at their development. He has also worked closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada, particularly in dealing with the issues and challenges facing Canada’s leading scientific facility, the National Microbiology Laboratory. He has an extensive breadth of knowledge regarding the entire spectrum of public health and emergency preparedness and response, including biosafety and biosecurity-related issues. Brad is based in Ottawa, Ontario.