PhD announcement

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

I’ve been sitting on this information for a while now, but after a successful trip to Canada I think it’s time to announce that I will be returning in September as a PhD student in the University of British Columbia – Okanagan’s WiRE lab.

Me being generally happy because I've been offered a PhD in CANADA! (© James Fleming)

A week ago, when I arrived in Vancouver, my little, fearful, roe-doe-self was a bit overwhelmed by the big city, it’s high rises and parallel streets. Thankfully a kind Twitter friend (@aisha_uduman; Aisha's Wild Life) agreed to meet me and invited me to join the UBC Vancouver Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society (@tws_ubcv) for the morning. We headed to Iona Island Bird Observatory (right by the airport, as many good birding sites are) where volunteers from WildResearch taught us about banding birds in the area.


I’ve been banding in the UK a couple of times (we call it “ringing”), but I’m relatively new to birding so it’s always nice to identify birds outside of the UK that I haven’t seen before. In the car park alone I saw four new birds! A tree swallow, marsh wren, yellow-headed black bird and a red-winged blackbird. In the woods by the banding station we saw more passerines at close quarters including a super cute common yellowthroat warblers and a very handsome Wilson’s warbler.

Just a tree swallow being shiny and fierce

The next day I met my future supervisor Dr Adam Ford (@adamthomasford), face-to-face for the first time. We headed to Vancouver Island and started the journey to my future field site in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. I wasn’t sure what to expect before I arrived, but whatever it was I wasn’t disappointed. The drive was beautiful, with trees taller than I’d ever seen and rivers waiting patiently for the salmon to return.


The west coast itself felt like home; small towns focused around fishing and tourism, with dedicated surfers squeezed into wetsuits. Imagine taking a small Cornish surf town and putting it against the rugged Scottish backdrop – that’s Vancouver Island’s west coast. Add to that image, whales migrating passed, sea otters floating in the kelp, and wolves, cougars and bears watching from the forest. That’s what I came for.

The simple beauty of Vancouver Island

We joined in discussions during a workshop on human-wolf conflict within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Organised by Parks Canada and attended by representatives from several project partners including Elders, staff and citizens from several Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, it was a valuable learning opportunity for me prior to starting my PhD research.


The project itself will be utilising a three-pronged approach to reduce human-wolf conflict by combining Traditional Knowledge, human dimensions research and ecological research. As a PhD student, my role will be looking at the ecology of the wolves in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Please don't feed the wildlife

I'll be able to share more about the project as it evolves, but for now I'm heading back to the UK!

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Photo Disclaimer: All photographs are property of Sophie May Watts or James Fleming unless otherwise stated.

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