It's been a difficult few weeks. UBC made an almost-overnight transition from face-to-face classes to online classes. We have all been told to work from home, and to stay at home. Covid-19 has sickened and killed thousands of people world wide, and it looks like it's just ramping up here in Canada. K-12 public schools in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada are suspended indefinitely so the challenge for many of us is how we will maintain any type of productivity and take care of kids at the same time. It is a difficult time for many, but faster we abide by the guidelines set forth by the BC Centre for Disease Control, the faster we can get things back on track.
We had an incredible group of students take Biol409 (Arctic Ecology). There were SO many mosquitoes and the workload was heavy, but we didn't hear a single complaint. What troopers! Thanks to the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (Cambridge Bay, Nunavut) for hosting us. I'm already looking forward to going back.
There has been a lot of media attention lately on whether insect populations are collapsing. The Guardian ran a totally over-the-top article claiming that we're seeing the collapse of insect populations. They quoted the author of a recent paper as saying that in 100 years we won't have any insects left. That's quite the bold comment to make! Thankfully, there also has been at least one article published since then that provide a more balanced view on the topic. We have really good data showing that a few insect species have declined over time. We don't have good data (or any data for that matter) for most of the insect species in the world (1-5 million species). You can hear me talking on CBC radio (1:09 mark) about whether it was a good or bad thing that the Guardian article was so alarmist. On one hand, it's great that people all over the world were talking about insects (yay!) but on the other hand was it actually truthful what the Guardian was saying?
Using Natural History Collections to investigate insect responses to changing environments.
Natural history collections (e.g. museum collections, Idigbio, inaturalist, gbif, canadensys) are a treasure trove of biodiversity data. The trick is learning understanding the information in the collections, and how we can use these data to answer fundamental questions in ecology and evolution. Research on museum collections can take you to incredible museums across the country and potentially around the world, so it's definitely not boring.
I have some funds that can go towards your stipend but you will also need to TA and/or obtain UBC or external fellowships that will go towards the minimum stipend (~$25,000 CAD/year). There aren't a lot of UBC funds for MSc students. Canadian students can apply for NSERC funding if they qualify.
Undergraduate in biology with strong emphasis in ecology & evolution. Students who qualify for NSERC funding, or PhD students who qualify for the UBC 4-year fellowship are highly encouraged to apply. Students should have some experience with R stats, and with running laboratory or field experience.
I'm pretty hands-on and my main goal is to help you succeed as a scientist. We are an inclusive, welcoming, and respectful group - both my group, and the Biodiversity Research Centre / Depts Botany & Zoology. It's a great place to work.
Term 2 is chugging along in the lab. Kephra's (Honours) damselfly hypoxia experiments are coming along nicely and the Tseng lab/Biol411 combo have just started another big museum project. We're looking at how entire insect communities have changed over time. Should be fun!
Cam and I had a successful field trip today to sample some alpine lakes (1800m). We sampled Harmony Lake (Whistler Mountain) and Blackcomb Lake, (Blackcomb mountain), about a 2 hr drive from campus. Taking a gondola to our field site was the way to go! (Note to self: only collect from alpine lakes at ski resorts). And, just as a public service announcement for anyone else looking to hike 8-10km and jump into lakes to sample critters, neoprene kayaking/paddling pants work really well. You're definitely wet while hiking, but you're warm, and you don't have to haul waders in your pack. Looking forward to testing out a pack raft one of these days though.
Success! We sampled 18 of the 21 lakes we had on our list and the samples are on route to the lab to be ID'd and counted. The Yukon is pretty spectactular - super friendly people (except for the two drunks in Dawson City), and an incredible landscape. Looking forward to going back already.
Sometimes, when you're counting Daphnia till the wee hours of the morning (well, 10:30pm), they treat you to a little show. Here's a female releasing her first instar babies... (yes that's the scientific name, sort of). There were >30 babies in there.