Erin Ryan

Humane Society International (Canada)
Manager, Campaigns - Wildlife
Kamloops, Canada
Vancouver, Canada
Non-target interactions and humane evaluation of a captive bolt trap on commensal rodents
David Fraser

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

As a campaigns manager specializing in wildlife, I lead and develop content for people to learn about and take action on a number of Canadian wildlife issues, including fur farming, human-wildlife coexistence, wildlife trade, trophy hunting, and wildlife culls. This includes science communication - taking evidence-based facts and translating them into accessible outlets like social media and our website. It also includes engaging different levels of government and other stakeholders to make change happen.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

Although my graduate work focused on rodent "pest" control, my expertise has always been in human-wildlife conflicts more broadly. I found there was a gap in information on humane rodent control, and wanted to contribute to the literature. One of my graduate-directed studies involved working directly with a municipality, helping them further develop and refine their operational policies for effective, humane, and environmentally friendly rodent control. I carried this work with me past graduation and was involved in scientific consultations with the provincial government to finalize rodenticide regulations. It was so exciting to see local change that included work I did in graduate school.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

Like many kids who had a calling to work with animals, I always thought I would be a veterinarian. However, my experience in my undergrad helped broaden my perspective and see that there were many other fields to work in. What I love about my job is that it's so close to my core values, trying to make the world a better place for animals.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

UBC's Animal Welfare Program has always felt like a second home to me. I knew I wanted to return for graduate studies, but I wanted to come back with burning curiosity and a question that needed answering. Through my professional work in humane wildlife control, I could confidently recommend humane options for many species of animals - but when it came to rodents, I always felt like I was helping people choose between the "least worst" options. I wanted to see if I could change that and find more humane solutions.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

I loved that I got to do my research work in a real-world setting, tackling a problem faced by homeowners, businesses, and all kinds of institutions. It felt so rewarding taking that research forward when I was done to inform policy change in the province.

How did the graduate degree at UBC help you achieve your career and/or personal development goals?

My supervisory committee was formed by some of the most amazing mentors in my career. They were instrumental in helping me form connections, and encouraging my growth in valuable - although at times difficult - directions. A graduate degree helped me develop new skills, refine my research skills, and a chance to share all that I had learned with my thesis and other publications. 

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

I think it's important in graduate school (and life in general) to stay curious. I find it's harder for my brain to be anxious when I'm curious. If you stay open and keep asking questions, you'll always learn something new. In the words of my favorite podcaster, Alie Ward, "Ask smart people dumb questions".

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Find something that interests you and keep following it. Whether you're following it through research or in non-academic professional settings, let your passion drive you. And be kind to yourself. You are enough. You are smart enough, you are skilled enough.


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