Sampath (Sam) Walgama Ph. D, F.R.E.S

Research Coordinator

I was born and raised in beautiful Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. I earned a Bachelor of Science (B Sc.) in Environmental Science from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and went on to complete my Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D) in the field of Agricultural Entomology, at the University of Queensland, Australia. I worked as an Entomologist at the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka for 15 years managing a research agenda (70% research, 20% extension, and 10% administration), focusing on developing sustainable crop production practices as it relates to crop protection. After completing his postgraduate, I returned to Sri Lanka for a brief period before moving to Canada, having secured a National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) fellowship to work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge in 2010, for the postdoctoral program. At AAFC, I worked on developing trapping programs to monitor biting flies using UV and CO2 – enriched light traps (Livestock Entomology). My passion was not only for agricultural research and development but also for teaching at the post-secondary level and I joined Lethbridge College for teaching at the School of Agriculture Sciences for three years (subjects included Irrigation, Agriculture Entomology, Pesticide Applications, Plant Pathology) and then joined the industry through a company in Lethbridge, a wholesale buyer, and seller of forage products, and worked there as a Laboratory Technologist, with responsibility on quality control and testing forage products (NIRS). I am a Certified Pesticide Applicator (CPA),  which I received from Lakeland College, Pesticide Science (Education) being my favorite subject.

Direct Contact
Sampath Walgama
Email: //
Cell Phone: 780-285-0988

Nicole Driedger

Office Manager/Extension Coordinator

I’ve spent most of my memorable years growing up on a farm in Myrnam, Alberta surrounded by an active agricultural community. I moved up to Fort Vermilion in 2017 and worked as a summer student at MARA and then again the following summer in 2018. That winter I took over the office/bookkeeping position to fill in for a maternity leave employee. During that time, I also acquired my Bookkeeping Certificate through Northern Lakes College. I left in the spring of 2019 but I’ve always had fond memories of meeting producers and helping with events at MARA, and am very excited to be back full time. I hope to provide producers with a diverse range of events and a friendly and enthusiastic office atmosphere. When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling, outdoor summer activities, and game nights with friends and family.

Direct Contact
Email: //
Cell Phone: 780-285-0911

Frank Fehr

Senior Research Technician

was born and raised on a farm in Northern British Columbia. I moved to Fort Vermilion, Alberta in 2013. I have been farming most of my life and enjoy it. I enjoy the outdoors and working in the fields. I really love experimenting with new and different ideas aimed at improving farming. In addition to my work as MARA’s Senior Research Technician, I am an active Volunteer Firefighter. At MARA, I am responsible for equipment repair and maintenance and I am the go-to guy on almost everything that requires mechanical assessment.



Summer Research Technician

Hunter Orlesky
Hi, my name is Hunter Orlesky.
Growing up in La Crete Alberta I’ve gotten to know the agricultural community well, I then got to be a part of it starting in 2019 as a Summer research technician here at MARA.
I’ve continued to pursue it annually, which has brought my to my 4th year here.



Summer Research Technician

Tacara Krahn
Hello, my name is Tacara Krahn and I grew up on a grain farm in La Crete, AB. I have always enjoyed helping on the farm and learning about the various stages of crop production. Working at MARA as a summer staff member allows me to expand on this interest. I am also currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree from The Kings University which will lead into a career as a psychologist. I’m my free time I enjoy fishing and hiking.


Summer Research Technician

Sarah Driedger
My name is Sarah Driedger, I am 20 years old and currently live in Fort Vermillion, Alberta. Growing up my family moved all over Alberta as well as British Columbia for a period of time. Most of my growing up was in a small farming community in Myrnam, Alberta as well as Blumenort, Alberta on a small cattle farm. I am currently enrolled in Lakeland College for the following fall of 2022 for American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Studies.


Summer Research Technician

Samantha Bueckert
Hello my name is Samantha Bueckert and I grew up in Northern Alberta, spending most of my time being outside as much as I possibly could. Since a young age the outdoors, animals and photography have been my biggest interests. I would love to pursue psychology studies or photography for my future career.