Alejandra Echeverri Ochoa

Research Topic

Conservation of tropical birds

Research Description

My research focuses on understanding how human actions affect tropical bird diversity. Specifically, I study how forest conversion to agriculture and human-induced changes in precipitation drive bird communities. I also study how different groups of people value and perceive birds. I am interested in evaluating the cultural values associated with different birds.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

When choosing a school I looked at university rankings, professors, and research quality. My department (IRES) is ranked among the world’s top 10 departments in environmental studies. The research quality of my department and the kindness of the people was inevitably attracting. However, factors like location, proximity to my family, and weather also influenced my decision; UBC is located in a beautiful area with mild winters, and I also get to be in the same time zone as my family, which allows me to communicate with them often.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Countries like Colombia have an incredible abundance of natural resources that are often managed by people who lack training in environmental issues. This became evident to me when I worked as an environmental consultant prior to starting my master’s degree. It makes me sad to know that our beautiful landscapes are constantly being degraded without even knowing what we are losing. This situation motivated me to pursue a graduate degree in resource management and environmental studies abroad. Graduate school provides the unique opportunity to improve my skills, knowledge, and connections to something that I am particularly passionate about. Grad school also allows me to meet smart people (including students, professors, and postdocs) from all over the world who have similar goals and interests to mine. It is a really unique experience, and I believe that a graduate degree is an important step for my future career goals.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

I am committed to a life in conservation. I want to advocate for the conservation of tropical forests, which entails working in and for developing countries. The “brain drain” that countries like my own suffer is worsening because it perpetuates poverty. Thus, one of the main challenges I see in my future career is finding the resources and opportunities to work for developing countries without letting the corruption and political circumstances of those countries constrain my work and motivation. It won’t be easy, I know. But I firmly believe that it is possible to conduct rigorous and meaningful research in these countries. Whoever commits to doing research in developing countries just has to work twice as hard, and must begin by being humble and acknowledging that there are many ways of achieving interesting research results.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I have way too many hobbies. I enjoy playing sports – particularly volleyball and soccer. I like to go out dancing with friends. I often go to trivia at local pubs. I am also a big fan of art galleries and exhibits, so I often visit them too.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

I recommend thinking about the training they intend to get out of a graduate program. Some topics can be studied in different graduate programs, but the training and the connections that one gets from various programs are different. I also recommend being open-minded. There are many opportunities for grad schools available, just look for the best fit on both personal and academic levels. It might be an unexpected one, but it will mean joy and productivity down the road.