Sierra Curtis-McLane

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Forest conservation genetics under climate change
Dr. Sally Aitken
Hanover, New Hampshire
United States of America
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I taught at a high school in California for two years prior to starting my degree at UBC. While I was there my passion for science and teaching deepened, and I realized that in order to be the over-the-top exciting and passionate science teacher that I wanted to be I would need a deeper scientific grounding. Graduate school seemed like the ideal place to gain that experience, and it has proven to be more fun and rewarding than I anticipated.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I was drawn to UBC by my keen and conscientious supervisor, as well as by the vibrancy of Vancouver and its proximity to mountains and oceans for recreation. I was lucky enough to meet my future husband here and we stay happy biking to our universities on weekdays and playing in the mountains on the weekends.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

I hope my research will draw attention to whitebark pine and other species that will be threatened with population reductions and possibly extinction as the climate changes. British Columbia has long been economically dependent on its forest sector, and globally we reap great carbon storage benefits from our northern forests, so it is critical that the world know what challenges our forests face under climate change.

What are your future career goals?

I hope to work as a research scientist for the BC or US Forest Service, or as a professor at a small college or university. Wherever I end up I look forward to a career that is driven by a strong societal mandate for forest conservation, as our forests are critical to human and ecosystem health.

What has been your most memorable Vancouver experience so far?

Falling in love with my future husband in Andy Livingstone Park, just north of False Creek, while watching a miniature cyclo-cross race was pretty exceptional. Getting stuck in the field because a glacially dammed lake burst and washed out the road next to the Salmon Glacier (the truck is still up there), climbing countless whitebark pine trees to put cages on their cones, and planting whitebark pine seeds on some of the most beautiful mountains on earth... memorable moments abound.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Bike to school! Vancouver is a very bike-friendly city and biking from home to school every day is excellent for one's physical and mental health, not to mention the environmental benefits. In general get outside as often as possible in and around the city.

Personal Interests / Hobbies

Mountain biking, backcountry skiing, commuting from Commercial Drive to UBC by bike


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