by Meghan Ward
Finishing up your undergraduate degree is a feat in and of itself, so congratulations! If you are considering continuing on in academia, the next step might be a Master of Science (MSc). Most MSc. degrees are broken into two broad categories: thesis based, and course based. For the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on finding a supervisor for a thesis-based MSc, as that is where my experience stems from.
There are a variety of ways to find a potential MSc supervisor. You may have met a potential supervisor while completing your undergraduate degree, while at a conference, or while scrolling on Twitter (I’m not kidding – #ScienceTwitter is a great resource to find like-minded people in your field!).
To begin, you will want to have a general idea of the research you wish to pursue. This will make it much easier to find a supervisor, as you can narrow down your search to faculty who study what you are interested in. For example, you are interested generally in conservation, and specifically on the impact of roads on animal mortality rates. Of course, it is totally normal to have more than one research interest! Keep them all in mind when searching through faculty pages.
Next, you will want to compile a list of potential universities to attend. I knew that I wanted to remain in Canada for the duration of my MSc, so I compiled a list of 10-15 universities in Canada that I would be happy to attend. This step often confuses students because we are taught to value the research above all else and that the research should be the single defining trait that dictates where we attend graduate school. I disagree. While I do think it is important to pursue a topic that is of interest to you, I also believe that there is much more to a graduate degree than your thesis project. You want to ensure that you are living in an area you enjoy and feel safe in. You will also want to consider tuition costs and MSc stipend payments and the cost of living (i.e. rent, transportation, food, etc.) in different cities. Because of these various factors, I recommend putting just as much weight towards where you go to school as you do when choosing who will supervise you.
Now that you have a list of potential universities, you can get to the fun part; finding supervisors! The best way to do this is to find the faculty list within the department of your choosing. For example, if you are interested in conservation you will find the list of Biology professors at your chosen university. Some universities categorize this further by creating distinctions between Evolution and Ecology, Health Science, Environmental Science, etc. Most universities will pair the list of professors with a short biography about their field of research. For example, Laurentian University lists Dr. David Lesbarreres on their faculty and highlights his interest in amphibian conservation, disease ecology, and road ecology. Once you have found a professor of interest, click on their profile! You can now find their personal websites, previous publications, and their contact information. I recommend going through the entire faculty list and keeping track of who you are interested in, what they study, a link to their website, and their contact information. Create something similar to the chart below to keep everything organized:
Once you have completed the chart above, you can begin contacting your potential supervisors!
Stay tuned for the second part in this series! I will be chatting about drafting the first email you send to potential supervisors, and all the details you should be including.
Applications are now open for a variety of ELB Board of Directors positions! You can self-nominate or be nominated.
Joining the Board will allow you to meet interesting people who will add to your sphere of influence and develop skills important for any career, including: project management, strategic planning, networking, and budgeting. The responsibilities of Board membership include participation in the administration and decision-making for the organization, as well as managing working groups that accomplish ELB's various projects.
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by Heather Kerrison
The holidays are my favourite time of year. The holidays fill people with joy, and deep down we all know that we love giving more than getting, and that is a wonderful thing!
Here are four things to consider when planning your holiday celebrations:
1. Buy Local: buying local spreads the seasonal joy to shop owners and helps them also have a happy holiday. Many local businesses source their materials locally, and you are entirely cutting out the process of shipping (and carbon emissions) associated with big brands. Choosing to shop local is a win for everyone, especially in a year that has brought financial hardship to many businesses. Even gift cards to local restaurants (hello, future date night!) is a great way to gift your time and support a local business.
3. Eat Mindfully: again, shopping local is always better. Sourcing as much as you can from local farms and markets greatly reduces the carbon footprint of the food you are buying. You are also supporting local farmers and families! Bring your own bags and grab some veggies that were grown locally. For alcohol, there is no shortage of local breweries and wineries to stock your fridges with! After the meal happens, it is also important to remember to reduce food waste. Food production can be a strain on our environment, and it makes a huge difference to plan appropriately and have all food be consumed or repurposed into leftover dishes. Get creative and make hearty soups that can be frozen and eaten over the winter.
4. Re-purpose your tree: If you typically get a real tree for the season, there are so many ways to re-purpose it after use, so avoid just dragging it out to the curb for pick up! You can easily turn a tree into an animal sanctuary by removing all decorations and placing it outside. You can then even make wildlife-friendly garland out of cranberries, dried cherries and apple slices. Alternatively, you can lay the tree down in the corner of your yard and you’ll notice that wildlife will use it as shelter. There is plenty of opportunity to get creative, such as making wreaths and garland for decorations, or even make a DIY bird feeder out of pinecones.
No one is perfect, but if all of us make an attempt to "green" our holidays, the impact will be grand. And after all, this time of year is about spreading cheer.
by Meredith Meeker
The Emerging Leaders for Biodiversity Podcast invites you to cozy up with your favourite beverage and sit down to chat with some of the biggest names in the environmental sector. It is backstage access into some of the most competitive and well-known organizations in the game. Basically, it is an opportunity that most people don’t get. The whole purpose of this podcast is to help emerging leaders find their path and make a difference. Listening to different perspectives from within the environmental field can only make us stronger as practitioners.
When this whole adventure started, I certainly didn’t know much about how to host a podcast, but the guests have made it easy. Every time I sit down to record an episode with someone, I genuinely can’t wait to hear their answers and learn more about field I have dedicated my life to. Right now my favourite question is about their favourite “Neature” moment (because nature is so neat). Most of the stories are local and it’s a great reminder that even though we might not be able to travel far and wide right now, there is so much to enjoy right in our backyards.
In addition to great career advice, we have already touched on some really important themes, including what does meaningful reconciliation in our field look like, how can we make the space more welcoming and inclusive, and how can we prevent emotional burnout that sometimes comes along with the field. These are all important topics that we will continue to dive into in future episodes and seasons.
Not a lot of good has come from the pandemic, but it did allow me to reach out to more people since a lot of us are working from home and have the technology to support a podcast interview. What technology do you need to be a guest on the ELB podcast, you might ask? All you need is a laptop and headphones, preferably with a mic. Email us if you think you would be a great ELB podcast guest!
The podcast was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I think 2020 has forced people to shake things up and deviate from our usual routines. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to host and help create this podcast. I feel like I have learned a lot from the process but even more from the guests. We are only half way in, but I would say the biggest take-away I’ve had from this podcast so far was actually from my first guest Jessica Steiner, from Wildlife Preservation Canada. We talked about the importance on focusing on working on your own piece of the conservation/environmental puzzle, and if each of us can do that and to the best we can on our own piece, we actually allow others to focus on theirs. We will all complete and reach our goals faster and happier.
We would love to hear from our members. Are you loving the podcast? Is there someone you would like to see on the podcast? Are we answering your top burning questions? Let us know in the comments below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Caitlin Brant
Tips for speaking about biodiversity loss in the modern world.
Summer is normally conservation’s best season - it’s often when the majority of fieldwork, habitat restoration, and public engagement is done. This year though it feels like conservation and many other non-profits are struggling to adapt. This is because meaningful engagement that leads to action is more difficult to achieve without meeting face=to-face. With that in mind, how can we get people on board with conservation? I have spent most, if not all, of my adult life trying to get people to care about this issue when they might not value it or know very much about it. The answer I’ve come up with is a simple one: respect and listen. The reason why so many conservation efforts fail is due to lack of local involvement. We need to understand the reasons behind people’s behaviour before asking them to do something new.
Furthermore, behaviour changes take time; everyone is at a different point in their life and sometimes the best option is to showcase what you do, why you do it, and the benefits of that action. Online discussions often seem to facilitate debate rather than dialogue. Of course debates have their place, but if we are going to engage people in conservation, we will have a greater impact by finding common values and celebrating successes both big and small. It is important to understand many people are not going out of their way to harm wildlife – they were simply not taught about how their actions negatively affect biodiversity.
As youth, it can sometimes be difficult to see beyond our social media newsfeeds but there is a whole world of different opinions out there and each opinion should be valued because someone has used their personal experiences to come to that conclusion. The fastest way to turn someone off a cause is the feeling of being judged or policed. Statements like, “You’re doing something wrong”, or “You are not doing enough” will never result in something positive. Remember that not everyone will do what you consider to be right so try to think about what you can change.
Finally, just because our lives have been put on hold doesn’t mean we have to cancel on people. We need people to question our decisions and our values. Learning from others and learning to compromise is essential to the future of conservation. It is also important to consider that news outlets are trying to sell stories that have big, reactive headlines. Now more than ever we need people to highlight positive conservation and community engagement. Why not start a small habitat restoration project at your home or with your community, create bird-friendly windows. or advocate for the monarch butterflies’ right-of-way in your municipality? Show people the real things we can all do to help wildlife. Encourage these actions with an emphasis on why individual actions are beneficial to us, our communities, and the planet. Remember, respect goes both ways and positivity breeds positivity.
by Sara Mak
During my first term of university, a few friends talked me into transferring into the co-op program. I’m going to be honest here: at the time, the main reason why I agreed was so that I would be able to graduate with them five years later. I didn’t fully understand what I was getting into or how it would impact me post-graduation. As I stumbled my way through countless job applications, nerve-wracking interviews, and rewarding work terms, I came to appreciate just how valuable my co-op experience was.
For me, co-op was an opportunity to explore new places, meet exciting people, and test out career paths without the long-term commitment and expectations of a permanent full-time job. Some highlights of mine include:
Of course, each person’s experience will be vastly different; we each have our own goals and preferences, not to mention the external factors that we may have no control over. As cliché as it is, this is what helps us grow and overcome challenges. And speaking of challenges, there certainly were many! If you’re like first-year-me and wish you had some advice, read on for some pointers I picked up along the way.
As with most things, it may be a bit scary in the beginning, but you’ll be glad you did it! Being a co-op student introduces a new perspective on your studies; you’re able to see how you can apply your course teachings to your job, and vice versa. Five years ago, I had no idea the impact that FOMO and an impulse decision would have on my entire undergraduate experience. Graduating with a more holistic resume and a clearer idea of what kind of career I wanted to pursue made stepping out into the real world a lot less daunting. Having established connections certainly didn’t hurt either. I would highly recommend co-op to anyone interested in participating in a work/study program!
by Heather Kerrison
If you’re anything like me, part of the distress that has come along with COVID-19 stems from the rollback in environmental strides that took years to make. Earlier this year, we saw major retailers such as Sobeys banning the use of plastic shopping bags, restaurants banishing plastic straws and coffee shops incentivising the use of personal cups. When Ontario declared a state of emergency earlier this year, many grocery stores banned reusable bags from entering the store and coffee shops stopped allowing customers to use their own mugs. Because single-use items used for personal protection equipment (PPE) are considered “safe”, there has been a massive uptake in the use and of these products and therefore a huge increase in how many are discarded. Of course, frontline workers need to be adequately protected and we all want to slow the spread and do our part. However, it is troubling to think of not only the rollback of “green” habits such as reusable grocery bags and coffee cups, but the combination of that with the uptake in the use of a suite of single use items.
Here are 4 ways you can try to keep your habits “green” during this time:
1. Try Using Reusable Grocery Bags: Some grocery stores have not been allowing reusable personal bags to enter the stores or be used at checkout. In some places the employees are just not able to touch the bags, meaning you could seemingly pack your own groceries and still use them. These measures are understandable as the safety of the workers comes first. Some options include bringing the bags (if able) and packing your groceries yourself. If this creates a stressful situation or slows a line, a great alternative is bringing your cart to your car and bagging them there. Personally, I have been able to use a grocer that allows the bags to come into the store and packing the bags myself.
Free reusable bags, among other great resources, are available through the Ontario Government website. These double sided bags feature some Ontario Species at Risk. Source: https://www.publications.gov.on.ca/species-at-risk-reusable-bags
2. Shop Local: this could not be more important. Not only are small businesses struggling and need your support, but by buying local goods, you can cut out the emissions needed to transport materials. I know that ordering from Amazon is all too convenient when we are stuck inside, but many local retailers are offering free delivery or pickup options. Products like beer or coffee can often be sourced locally and delivered – a double win! You can support a small business that may be struggling to make ends meet and forego the extra carbon emissions.
3. Eliminate Food Waste: If you are anything like me, the last couple months have rendered you a meal planning whiz. Trying to decrease trips to grocery stores means making a meal plan ahead of time and a grocery list from that. When you operate in this way, you usually end up using all of the food you purchased and less goes to waste. Food waste equates to a massive amount of water and resources that have gone to waste, so let’s avoid that as much as possible!
4. Get, or Make, a Washable Mask: wearing masks in public places is going to be a reality for many of us for quite some time. If you are not a frontline worker, try to stay away from single-use PPE and instead opt for a reusable mask that you can wash after each use. Many shops have started making masks but if you have yet to find a seller in your area, try making one yourself!
Source: "Non-medial masks and face coverings: Sew and no-sew instructions". (2020). Government of Canada. Internet: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/sew-no-sew-instructions-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html
It is my deep hope that we can each do our part to keep up with green initiatives that are so important for not only our own well-being, but the well-being of this wonderful planet that we all call home. These are new waters to navigate, but it is imperative that we do our best to maintain environmentally friendly habits. Additionally, in the vast unknown of this unprecedented time, it is nice to feel like you are doing what you can to keep our planet healthy.
by Marlee Pyott
In 2008, humans passed a critical threshold from which we will likely never return. As of 2008, over half of the world’s human population is living in urban areas. Prior to this, over half of the world’s human population was living in rural areas. In Canada, however, this threshold was surpassed almost 70 years ago and as of today, 81% of Canadians live in an urban area. This has had an irreversible impact on our environment, especially on native wildlife populations. Most animals are admitted into wildlife rehabilitation centres as a result of human activity. Thus, as our population increases and our cities expand into natural habitats, more animals are at risk of injury. With animals and humans interacting more and more every year, educating the public on animal welfare has become increasingly important. Working at a wildlife refuge centre has given me the opportunity to work closely with many amazing animals and help them get back into the wild.
A fox kit from a litter of 4; all of which were found abandoned after their mother had died.
by Natasha Barlow
I still don’t know what I’m doing and what I want out of life. However, in the hopes that some of my experiences may resonate with others, I wanted to share a few tidbits of things that have made me a better scientist, and a better person. These are disjointed thoughts, and are in no specific order, but I hope they will be useful to anyone in the environment field (or otherwise) thinking about jobs, schooling, and life in general.
Jobs and School:
by Heather Kerrison
Late May and early June represent an important time of the year for turtles in Ontario as it is the peak of nesting season. This means that they leave the safety of the wetlands, creeks, and rivers they call home in search of appropriate nesting sites. In Southern Ontario, no area of land is further than 1.5 km from a roadway which means that this can be a dangerous time for the turtles and the eggs they plan to lay. The biggest threats to the survival of Ontario turtles are roadways and habitat loss. Reptiles, including turtles, account for a large portion of the wildlife killed on Ontario roads annually. Turtles in particular often lay their eggs on the soft substrate found along roads, making it more likely for them to be struck while crossing. A positive of reduced traffic and physical distancing is that they may have a better chance of crossing safely this season.
Midland painted turtle hatchling (left), and snapping turtle hatchling (right).
Turtles are slow to reach sexual maturity and only have the chance to lay eggs once a year, with those eggs facing ample threat from predation from animals like raccoons and foxes. Losing just one mature adult can significantly impact a population. Ontario has 8 species of turtles; until 2018, the midland painted turtle was the only Ontario turtle species to not yet be listed as a species at risk. When the Committee of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated the species as Special Concern, this made eight Ontario turtle species at risk. This means that all species are at risk if active conservation and protection measure are not put in place immediately.
Concerned citizens and wildlife lovers alike can help make sure that Ontario's turtles safely lay their eggs and make it back to their respective homes. Simply driving with caution during this time of year and paying particular attention to wildlife crossing signs is important. Further, if you see a turtle on a roadway, you can help it cross. It is very important that you always help a turtle across in the direction that they are traveling. They know where they are heading and if you turn them around, they will simply attempt to cross the road the same way again.
Some Important Tips for Helping Turtles:
If you find an injured turtle that has already been struck, refer to this Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre page on how to get it to help. It is important to note that even if a female turtle has been struck and may not survive, the eggs she is carrying can be saved and incubated at a care facility. This ensures the young have a chance to hatch and grow the population of the species. Although the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is based in Peterborough, they have over thirty turtle response centres and hundreds of volunteers across Ontario who can organize a transfer to their hospital.
Turtles are a precious part of our ecosystems here in Ontario and we can all take steps to help protect them.
Blogs are written by ELB members who want to share their stories about Ontario's biodiversity.