Relevant Degree Programs
Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters
Terrestrial mammal conservation; wildlife population and community modelling; animal movement simulation; cumulative environmental impact assessment; adaptive management; human-wildlife coexistence; biodiversity trends
Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!
- Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
- Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
- Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
- Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
- Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
- Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
- Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
- Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
- Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
- Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
- Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
- Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
- Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
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- Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.
Great Supervisor Week Mentions
Apparently it's Supervisor Appreciation Week at #UBC, and these two #GreatSupervisors just published a key paper on community-wide impacts on mammals in the oil sands. Congrats @cole_burton and @JasonTFisherLab!!!
Graduate Student Supervision
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
The Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is the largest carnivore in the tropical Andes and is an essential apex predator. Andean bears are vulnerable to extinction, and human-caused disturbances are driving population declines. Although the presence of free-ranging cattle is a major disturbance within protected areas, the effect of cattle on Andean bears is poorly understood. We used camera traps and remotely sensed data to assess the spatial and temporal relationships between cattle and bears in a protected area in northern Peru from 2015 to 2016. We hypothesized that cattle grazing represented a disturbance for Andean bears and predicted that bears would avoid cattle in space and/or time. We further predicted that the effects of cattle would be stronger during the wet season when their abundance and activity was higher. We tested the spatial prediction using generalized linear models, where we expected a negative relationship between the occurrence of cattle and bears. We included other factors potentially influencing bear occurrence in our models, including other measures of anthropogenic disturbance (occurrence of humans and dogs, and proximity to towns and farms) and of natural habitat variation in the refuge (elevation, slope, and forest cover). To test for temporal avoidance, we estimated the degree of overlap between daily activity patterns of bears and cattle. As predicted, we found a negative spatial association between bears and cattle and bears and humans and dogs. Bears were also less likely to occur closer to towns and farms adjacent to the refuge. Overall, bear responses to anthropogenic disturbance were stronger than to natural habitat variation. Surprisingly, the spatial avoidance of cattle by bears was stronger during the dry season. We did not find evidence of temporal avoidance, as there was high overlap between the daily activity patterns of bears and cattle, and between bears and humans and dogs, suggesting the potential for interaction where they do spatially co-occur. Given the threatened status of Andean bears, and the critical role of protected areas in their conservation, we recommend effective management of cattle and associated disturbances to protect and recover populations of this ecologically and culturally important carnivore.
The urban-wildland interface is growing as human development expands, potentially increasing human-wildlife conflict. Conflicts include animals accessing garbage, damaging agricultural crops, or depredating livestock. For mammalian carnivores this often leads to lethal mitigation. Mortality from conflict represents a major threat to carnivores who miscalculate the risk of human-dominated areas. By contrast, carnivores that adapt to these novel anthropogenic environments may facilitate human-wildlife coexistence. Human-carnivore conflict is an increasing issue on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, due to rapidly expanding development and high concentrations of black bears (Ursus americanus) and cougars (Puma concolor). To reduce these conflicts and promote coexistence, it is critical to target proactive mitigations using reliable evidence to distinguish where conflict is probable from where carnivores are adapting to coexist. I modelled relative conflict probability using seven years of reported conflicts and GIS data to investigate which anthropogenic and environmental predictors best explained the spatial and temporal distribution of conflict in Victoria’s Capital Regional District. I found that the probability of conflict for both species increased along the urban-wildland interface, where human disturbance adjoined natural habitat. Black bear conflict also increased in rural areas in autumn before winter denning. I subsequently used a camera trap survey to see when and where bears were active across a gradient of human disturbance and compared bear habitat use to the previously estimated probabilities of conflict. For much of the year, bears used areas of low to medium conflict, such as forests near urban areas, avoided areas of higher human density, and were more nocturnal in urban and rural areas compared to wild. However, in autumn, bears were more active in areas of high conflict probability, specifically rural lands with ripe crops. This suggests that bear behaviour may allow for coexistence in most seasons by spatially and temporally avoiding humans, except in autumn when hyperphagia and peak anthropogenic crop availability increase the risk of human-bear conflict.Overall, I recommend proactive conflict mitigation to secure anthropogenic attractants against multiple carnivore species, and a particular focus on mitigations during seasonal peaks in attractive human food resources.
A leading cause of large carnivore declines is conflict with humans, specifically due to livestock depredation. This conflict threatens both carnivore populations and human communities with livestock-dependent livelihoods. The expanding dairy industry in Sri Lanka, home to the endangered Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), provides an opportunity for proactive conflict mitigation. Little is known about incidents of livestock depredation or attitudes of pastoralists whose livelihoods may be threatened by leopard conflict. This thesis aimed to combine social and ecological research methods to address these knowledge gaps. We surveyed two pastoralist communities that differed in leopard conflict and socioecological factors (Yala and Central Hills) to identify determinants of attitudes towards leopards. We conducted Exploratory Factor Analysis and ran generalised linear models (GLMs) to detect influential variables. In the higher conflict region (Yala), attitudes towards leopards were positively related to socio-demographics (age, number of dependents, years rearing livestock) and an overall desire for wildlife conservation, while attitudes were negatively related to general awareness of leopard ecology and leopard-related tourism. In the lower conflict region (Central Hills), attitudes were positively related to a desire for increased government assistance in cattle rearing. The inability to own land were common concerns for pastoralists in both regions. We recommend assessing programs that may improve attitudes towards leopards, such as involving pastoralists in tourism programs and restricted land ownership. While the Central Hills is currently not experiencing depredation, proactively addressing hardships (e.g. improving roads, subsidizing cattle feed) may facilitate positive attitudes, should incidents of conflict increase. To investigate potential drivers of cattle depredation in Yala, we used GLMs to test the importance of hypothesised explanatory variables, specifically: native prey availability, cattle husbandry, number of cattle, distance from national park, road density and pastoralist residency time. Model results indicated that depredation frequency increased with the number of cattle and decreased with improved husbandry. Survey responses suggested that stronger cattle enclosures using plastic and light deterrents were husbandry techniques most supported by pastoralists. We recommend testing their efficacy and feasibility. This thesis illustrates the importance of interdisciplinary research to better inform human-carnivore coexistence grounded in the local context.