Erin is a proud member of the Sy'ilx Nation.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I knew that graduate studies was something I wanted to pursue, but I only wanted to come back with a meaningful research question that I knew would make a difference for the lives of wild animals. Through my work with the BC SPCA, I was continually running into questions about humane rodent control, with limited answers. I realized that I had questions that needed answering and knew it was time to go back to school. When this research project is complete, I intend to return to my job, using the results to inform my work in humane wildlife control and make changes in the pest control industry. I hope my work will be an example to others in evidence-based animal welfare research, and I hope to be a leader in sharing this knowledge with others. Public education is not a responsibility that stays at my desk, but something I carry with me every day.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
During my first year of undergrad, I was actually attending a different university. I decided to transfer when I came to the realization that I was missing a sense of home. Although I had never lived in Vancouver, my mother, father and grandfather were proud UBC graduates, and my grandfather received one of nine LFS Centenary Awards which recognized the outstanding achievements of UBC alumni. Transferring to UBC meant I completed my BSc in the same faculty as my grandfather and developed a close mentor relationship with many of the faculty during my undergrad. Being part of the Animal Welfare Program gave me that sense of home and belonging I was looking for, and I knew I would come back for a graduate degree when the time and research question was right.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The Animal Welfare Program is small compared to other graduate programs, but it is one of the most respected animal welfare science centres globally. I saw the results of its research leading to improvements in the lives of animals in BC and around the world, and that was a movement I wanted to be part of. I love the small and intimate nature of the program, most especially the regular lunch-and-learns – where Program members meet regularly for lunch discussions on projects, or host visiting academic and industry animal welfare professionals to share information, facilitate discussion and professional development.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I think UBC (and Vancouver) is a really special place because of the close proximity to natural spaces. In many other cities, you could be driving for an hour before you see any sense of the outdoors. In Vancouver, you’re never far from the ocean or quiet forest spaces. It’s a really beautiful place to celebrate nature, with such rich Indigenous history.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
A lot of my previous work involved working with people and stakeholders who may have very different views - this is particularly applicable to the field of animal welfare where people’s attitudes towards animal welfare are strongly rooted in their values. Being able to communicate with people with different values and still have thoughtful discussions is an integral part of my research work.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
Getting enough exercise helps me stay balanced. I really enjoy playing volleyball in leagues around the city, going to the gym, and when the weather is nice, I find every opportunity to get outside. But even the rainy days are a perfect excuse to stay indoors to read, play video games, or just relax with my two cats!
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I keep trying to remember that my time here is precious and short. This is a time to treasure quality learning, philosophical discussions, and conducting original research.