Derek grew up in rural southern Ontario and graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario with a degree in history. After graduating, he hit the road and spent close to a decade working as a tour guide in Germany. It was during this time he attended the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009, which ignited a new chapter in his life as a climate movement organizer. He helped organized climate actions across Europe from 2010-2012 and upon returning to Canada in 2013 he became involved in the campaigns to stop the Line 9 and Energy East pipelines.
Derek has a diverse experience in the not-for-profit sector: campaigns coordinator for Ecology Ottawa's municipal election campaign in 2014 and the Eat Think Vote campaign in 2015; logistics coordinator for the 100% Possible March in Ottawa in 2015 and currently, project coordinator of Rural Routes to Climate Solutions, a central Alberta-based project seeking to empower Alberta's agricultural producers with climate solutions. Derek is also an avid farm hand, having worked on farms in Ontario, Quebec, Ontario and even Tasmania.