It has been two weeks since I relocated to lovely Victoria, BC and started the much anticipated work on my MSc. There is so much to cover, but I'll probably leave you with just a quick recap; I have a lot of exciting things on the go right now, each deserving of their own story, that I will share about throughout the summer.
Everything with the initial move went very smooth, and I have settled in well to my new place located just outside the city (shout out to mom and dad for this). I am within walking distance to some excellent trails and, most importantly, the ocean (pictures below)! I have waisted no time getting acquainted with the outdoor opportunities right in my neighbourhood and have truly been loving the vibe of the community here.
The University of Victoria campus is beautiful, although it's always a bit intimidating learning how to get around such a big area. I recently got lost in the woods near UVic for about 1.5 hours trying to take a short cut (of course with a heavy backpack of books - but hey I got my steps in!). Everyone in my lab(s) have been wonderful to meet and between zoom meetings and lawn beers, covid hasn't felt like a barrier getting settled into the group at all. A few of us in the lab are already gearing up for field work this month even. I am very fortunate to be on a small team heading up to the Prince George area to deploy an array of camera traps as part of a moose habitat study, led by one of the PhD students in our lab. I'll hopefully be able to write about that experience shortly, so stay tuned for that story coming in early June!
So, what am I even doing this summer?
I have been getting a lot of questions about grad school: What is it like? Are you in any classes? What are you actually doing this summer? Well, I'm here to finally explain, as I'm sure you have all been waiting on the edge of your seats to find out.
Quick recap before moving on: I am co-supervised by Dr. Trevor Lantz (Arctic Landscape Ecology Lab) and Dr. Jason Fisher (Applied Conservation and Macro Ecology Lab [ACME]), in the School of Environmental Studies at UVic. My study is in partnership with the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board (GRRB) in the Northwest Territories. If you haven't already, check out our lab websites here: ACME LAB - Home and Arctic Landscape Ecology Lab (uvic.ca)
In my program, your project/thesis is worth most of your credits. In fact, I will only take four "traditional" university classes during the entire program. The rest of credits come from the thesis-based research project. This summer, I am enrolled in thesis credits, but will not take any of my actual classes until the fall. This means I am working full time on my project: literature reviews (LOTS of reading to become an expert in my field), starting my formal research proposal, working on presentations to community members for when I am up North, prepping field budgets, applying for funding, participating in other lab members field work, attending lab meetings, etc. I am treating it like a full time job and trying to work at it Monday - Friday 8:00am - 5:00pm, mostly out of my lovely home office but sometimes from my workspace on campus. This schedule is super flexible, luckily due to my two wonderful co-supervisors who give students lots of autonomy in our work. This flexibility is why I chose to come to the island this summer; I knew I'd be able to make time to travel and explore and enjoy island living before things get crazy this fall.
It has become immediately clear to me how profoundly impactful these next years of my life will be. It's hard to describe, but sometimes you just know when everything feels right. Since starting here, I have felt more confident, determined, and alive than I have in quite some time, and I think those feelings are exceptionally important to acknowledge and appreciate. With each day I feel more grateful to have been selected to work on this project and in this lab.
Thanks for catching up with me here. There is so much more to come soon!