Nathan Furey

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Quantitative analysis and simulation of salmon smolt migrations
Scott Hinch
United States of America
Vanier Scholarship
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

As a child I was curious about the natural world, and since about sixth grade felt that I wanted a PhD, even though I didn't know what that meant. While engaged in research as an undergraduate, I realized my curiosity lends itself to generating hypotheses and asking questions about ecology. I also desire intellectual independence in my career to pursue research of interest to me, which is only afforded in positions requiring advanced degrees.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

What drew me in to UBC were the incredible opportunities in terms of types of research, data, and networking or collaborative opportunities. I simply felt that coming into the research group would provide the optimal environment to be successful in terms of obtaining skills, conducting high-quality research that can advance scientific knowledge, and meeting and working with other experts that can not only help my graduate research but also assist in moving my career forward.

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

For me, I think simply the amount of resources, in terms of networking and the ability to collaborate and discuss my research with others, has been the best and most significant surprise. There are such varied departments at UBC, all with incredible faculty members. The genuine interest in and willingness to assist my research by faculty from across campus has been incredible and quite helpful. The scenery here is pretty incredible as well.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

In the simplest sense, we hope to shed light on one of nature's most incredible, but understudied, animal migrations - the migration of salmon smolts. In particular, we hope to understand the balance of factors affecting migration success, including the characteristics of the environments they pass through, characteristics of body condition or health, or variability in individual behaviour. We also hope to provide insight as to how climate change might impact or change these migrations.

What has winning a major award meant to you?

Winning a Vanier graduate scholarship provides affirmation that the work I'm doing is valuable, and that I as an ecologist have the potential to positively impact the science. More importantly, being a Vanier scholar brings recognition to those who have made my experiences, progress, and potential possible. The award reflects positively on my department, my lab, my previous advisors and universities, and family, as without their guidance, training, and support I wouldn't have experienced success.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Not to sound too cliché, but with graduate school, you really get out of the experience what you put in. Don't be afraid to aim big, but also keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to learn and be a better scientist. Explore and utilize your resources; the world is full of experts, and even if they are outside of your research group they can still be incredible assets. Graduate school can also be intimidating and frustrating at times; try to keep the bigger picture in mind, and focus on trying to make progress, no matter how small, every day.


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