Sara Cannon

Coral reefs, climate change, and resilience in the central Pacific
Faculty of Arts
Simon Donner
Prince Frederick
United States
Vanier Scholarship
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I spent about eight years working for private industry and non-governmental organizations before deciding it was time to go to university, so I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a marine biologist. I went straight from my undergraduate degree from the University of California Santa Cruz to my Master of Science here at UBC, and now to my PhD program. My goal now is to finish my PhD and find a faculty position that would allow me to do research and teach, both of which I've fallen in love with.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I saw my supervisor, Simon Donner, give a talk in about his work in Kiribati and I was immediately interested in working with him. I interviewed at a few universities in the United States, but Simon was the first person I heard mention the importance of working with local communities. Too often, I think, scientists go somewhere and get the data they need and then leave, without sharing their findings with the people who live there or giving back to the local communities. It’s important to me that in my research there be a balance between the data collection and science, and communicating with local communities, involving them in the research, and trying to find ways the work we’re doing can be useful to them.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I come from a traditional science background (my undergraduate degree is in Marine Biology), but I was drawn to UBC's Geography department because of its interdisciplinary nature. It's really exciting to work in a department that has both physical and social scientists. I think that opens up a lot of opportunity for really interesting and important collaborations. After all, physical science only shows one side of things. You need the human side to get a better idea of the full picture.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I have really loved the opportunity to meet people from all over the world! I have a truly international group of friends and coworkers, which is pretty amazing. That diversity brings so much to science and academia as a whole.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Being a single parent, as well as a re-entry student, have both taught me skills that have helped me navigate life in academia. I have gotten really good at managing my time and keeping organized, a lot of which is thanks to my former work experience outside of university!

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I have two dogs, one that's older and another that's just a puppy. I like snuggling up with them to read on rainy days! In the summer, I do a lot of hiking and camping. I love that it's something free I can do with my son and both dogs!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Don't forget to make time for yourself! It's okay to take a day off every once in a while. Self-care will help you get through the dark winters and the super busy periods.


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