Sasha Tuttle

The relationship between wild pollinator diversity and blueberry yield and quality within farmlands in Delta, BC
Claire Kremen
Westcoast Energy Inc First Nations Fellowship
Khot-La-Cha Award
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

While my undergraduate degree challenged me in ways that high school failed to and helped me build a foundation of knowledge in biology, it did not satisfy my desire to learn. I did walk away with newly developed skills and a background in wildlife ecology and conservation, but I lacked experience in my field. I had been so focused on maintaining a high GPA that I had little time to actually experience fieldwork. The little experience I did have ignited my passion for wildlife conservation and generated fond memories. When I graduated, I knew I needed more. The idea of pursuing a graduate degree allured me because I thought it would help me gain additional experience, further aiding me in deciding whether this field was a good fit career-wise. Moreover, I had the support of my band, Sumas First Nations, every step of the way. I hoped that by pursuing a graduate degree, I could build upon my existing experience while inspiring other Indigenous youth from my community.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I chose to study at UBC due to the presence of my current supervisor, Dr. Claire Kremen. My supervisor is an outstanding and knowledgeable scholar with a plethora of experience. Her background in wild pollinator conservation and habitat connectivity fit my interests perfectly. I also spoke to a few students from her lab, prior to joining, and found that they were very warm and supportive.

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

The opportunity to learn more about sustainable agricultural practices and to gain research experience attracted me the most. The Zoology department specifically attracted me as I have a keen interest in conservation and wildlife management.

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

The best thing about living closer to Vancouver was discovering the diverse communities here and the acceptive attitude of the city's residents. I lived in a much smaller, more conservative town beforehand and was not used to seeing such a diverse community. It was a welcome change.

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

The aspect of my program I enjoy the most is the feeling of control. While being responsible for a research project can be stressful, it's comforting to not have to rely on others as much. Having the support of others in my lab is also a huge comfort.

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

Before enrolling in my graduate program, I performed a directed study at the Agassiz Research & Development Centre. During this study, I examined how a parasitoid's geographic strain affected the consequences for its offspring when attacking a non-target host. This study helped me learn how to coordinate a research project, analyze data, and write for a scientific journal. I also implemented the Wildlife Protection Club at the University of the Fraser Valley and acted as president for several years. This greatly helped develop my leadership skills.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

When I have time, I like to visit my parents. We usually watch television together and chat. If the weather is nice, I'll go herping. More often, I simply draw or read.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

My only advice would be to not forget to take breaks. Starting a graduate degree can be overwhelming as you realize how many new responsibilities you have and how much higher expectations are, relative to an undergraduate degree. If you pace yourself and take time for yourself, you'll find the whole experience a lot less stressful.


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