Michael Lathuillière

Research Topic

Ecohydrology and Industrial Ecology

Research Group

UBC’s Ecohydro Lab Group

Research Description

I am part of UBC’s Ecohydro Lab Group which operates out of the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability with collaborators at the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso located in Cuiabá (Brazil). The goal of my research is to outline and apply an impact assessment method that accounts for changes in the water cycle from agricultural expansion in Southern Amazonia. Production has occurred through deforestation with the region now acting as a key supplier of animal products, soybean and maize for national and international markets. My work combines field measurements of crop water use along with models that can estimate the potential impacts of commodities on terrestrial ecosystems. The method will be applied at product and river basin levels to assess current and future potential impacts of agricultural production in Southern Amazonia. Results can guide regional land and water policies and provide information to supply chains. 

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I mostly enjoy the collaboration I have had with students and researchers inside and outside of the university. It is also impossible to do environmental research without talking to many different types of experts and by drawing on people’s experiences and knowledge. I definitely look forward to more productive conversations in my studies.

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

My best surprise was to see just how engaged UBC and the City of Vancouver were in discussing and acting on important questions in sustainability. Sometimes these discussions can become heated and passionate with many disagreeing on the best path forward. But at least both the University and the City are having these conversations. 

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I was born in Canada and moved to Europe when I was only 5 years old. Returning to Canada had always been a dream of mine and what better time to return but to study? UBC was on my top list of Canadian universities, which welcomed me back to my country, making UBC and Vancouver my new homes. 

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

To my mind, the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability has the best interdisciplinary Program in the country. Never before had I been surrounded by such amazing people, faculty, staff and students alike. We all have a “previous life” with amazing experiences that somehow brought us together to study important societal questions about resources, the environment and sustainability. Sometimes, I wonder if it was the Program chose me or if I chose the Program.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

When you begin asking more questions than there are available answers, it might be time to enter graduate school and create an educational path guided only by your curiosity. That’s pretty much what happened to me after several years in industry. Science has always been my passion and so it was only natural for me to dedicate myself to a full time graduate program. 

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

The biggest challenge I see is to properly translate scientific knowledge into information that is easily accessible to the general public and the main stakeholders of my research results (mostly business and government). There is a fine balance between too much technical talk and not enough scientific information.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

What I described above is one of the main challenges that the Program is tackling with its students and faculty. In fact, it is a key topic of many class discussions, dissertations, presentations and hallway conversations.

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

The ability to travel and discover new cultures and realities has been one of my best and favourite learning experiences. Sustainability is also about understanding that there are different ways of living, and there is no better way to learn about these differences that to experience them on your own.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I enjoy reading about international affairs, history, and enjoy art and music, especially tango music.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

No matter what people around you might say, your graduate degree is yours to shape into what you believe is best and challenging for you. Your passion and curiosity will guide you through a successful degree. Of course there will be ups and downs, but if you are truly passionate about what you do, those will only be remembered as minor bumps in the road.