Alumni Newsletter 2003

Composed by Tim Goater in September, 2003. Thank-you to all the graduates who contributed to this year's newsletter.

1996 Graduates

Cheri Ayers has been working for the past 5 years for First Nations in the Cowichan region.  She moved from Cowichan Tribes to the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group in May of 2002 to help prepare the fisheries chapter of the Agreement in Principle for the Hul'qumi'num Treaty.  "My career as a fisheries biologist took an interesting and exciting turn last year when I started working in the Treaty world.  I went from working in the field doing stream restoration and environmental protection to a desk and landscape level planning."  Cheri has also been accepted into UVIC to complete an Interdisciplinary Master's Degree on Marine Protected Areas and First Nations management starting this September.  Recent travels include a trip to Thailand in 1999, a trip to Bali in 2000 and a trip to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in 2001 with Amy Weber.

Aran Gough is still working in Lima, Perú for Knight Piésold Consulting and has just celebrated his second year living there.  "Work is consistently busy and challenging with the variety of projects I am involved in.  In my spare time, which is very little, I have started a field program to study the Xenodacnis parina population in a high Andean (3,800 masl) woodland east of Huaraz.  My associate and I intend to study the physical characteristics of this species as a preliminary study, and at the same time begin collecting data to describe the variations in the bird community between an agricultural/woodland ecotone, central woodland, and woodland/grassland ecotone (the three altitudinal strata present in this particular woodland ecosystem).  We plan to collect preliminary data over the next year and publish the results shortly thereafter.  We will likely publish in both English and Spanish".

JC Lewis is working for TERA Environmental Consultants in Calgary.  He conducts wildlife and rare species surveys in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  "This past field season, along with the usual rare species surveys, I had the opportunity to spend several days observing burrowing owls and ferruginous hawks in their beautiful native prairie habitat - it was great!"

Amy Weber has been doing a lot of traveling during the past year. 

"Cheri Ayers and I had a fantastic trip through SE Asia in 2001/02.  We spent most of our time laughing and shopping.  In the spring of 2002, I was in Belgium for a conference and in July 2002 I attended the International AIDS Conference to present some of my research in Barcelona Spain. In September 2002, my traveling schedule was put on hold as I started the MD program at UBC.  It is quite a change to go from working and being a graduate student to starting an undergraduate program again.  So far medicine has been amazing lots of work as expected but I have a fantastic group of colleagues to drag me through all of the basic biology I seem to have forgotten over the years.  Year 1 of medicine ended in early June and I flew to Mtubatuba, S. Africa to spend 3 weeks working in a small medical practice.  I also found time to have a trip through Swaziland and into Kruger National Park where I was fortunate enough to see a cheetah.  I am now enjoying summer in Vancouver and looking forward to Year 2 medicine.

1997 Graduates

Christy Falkenberg has been working at the Pacific Biological Station for the past 3 years and is working with the gill parasite Loma salmonae. "Currently we are doing drug trials with Loma as well as a vaccine study to see if we can figure this parasite out.  It's exciting to be working on studies that attempt to combat this parasite as it is quite a large problem in the Chinook aquaculture industry.  This year, I also get to do more field work which is great as it's nice to get out of the lab and do more hands-on research."

Sandy Rogers (née Blandford) got married August 24, 2002.  She and her husband, Daniel, are now actively trying to start a family.  Sandy gave up on Science and went into the Business Administration field.  She now works for a local construction company.

Shelley Jepps continues to work for Fisheries and Oceans Canada as a Habitat Biologist out of Port Hardy, BC.  "My job focuses on assessing finfish and shellfish aquaculture proposals for impacts to fish and fish habitat.  Participating in investigations into potential violations of the Fisheries Act is also a component of my job. I cover the area from West Cracroft Island to north of Klemtu as well as Quatsino Sound.  The perks of the job include seeing some of BC's most beautiful coastline and diving pristine waters.  I recently had a rather interesting interaction with the largest Pacific Octopus I have ever seen.  Let's just say he was strongly encouraging me to leave his territory."

After a short break from DFO and visiting her family in the Island of Trinidad and Tobago, Reziah Khan has returned to the Pacific Biological Station, and is now working in the Shellfish Stock Assessment Division on geoduck clams.  "In 2001, the geoduck fishery was the top fishery on the west coast.  It is managed by applying individual vessel quotas and licence limitations and by regulations as a 3-year rotational fishery. Quotas for each geoduck bed are calculated as the product of virgin biomass and target harvest rate estimates.  Biomass is calculated from estimates of bed area, mean virgin density and mean weight per individual geoduck.  I use GIS programs to locate geoduck beds which I then recode and refine on nautical charts based on sea observer records and fisherman's logs which provide information on landings and bed area conditions of recent fishing years.  Bed estimates are then determined and applied to calculate quotas for the next fishing season.  Careful management of the fishery has resulted in a highly successful and sustainable fishery."

During the fall of 2002, Greg Murray completed his research assistantship at the University of Victoria looking at protein expression during echinoderm development.  "I have since re-located to Vancouver where I have taken a research assistant position in the Gene Array Facility at the Vancouver Prostate Centre (at Vancouver General Hospital).  Our facility generates gene libraries and uses liquid-handling robots to print microarray genechips, which enable us to compare the expression levels of over 30,000 genes in a single experiment.  As a result, we are able to observe and compare changes in gene expression in organisms/tissues exposed to different conditions, such as those correlating with progression and treatment of various cancers.  We currently print comprehensive gene arrays for a wide variety of organism models, including human, mouse, rat, and several salmonid and tree species."

Chris Whipps is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Oregon State University, planning to defend later this year.  His thesis project, "a phylogeographic study of the marine myxozoan parasite Kudoa thyrsites", has afforded him many opportunities for worldwide collaboration and travel.  Recently, Chris has had the opportunity to learn some "old school" taxonomy, revising the classification of a group of myxozoan parasites based on molecular relationships.  For his working future, Chris plans to remain at Oregon State to study virulence mechanisms of Mycobacterium species and implications of fish pathogens in human disease.  Outside of work, Chris still finds time for hockey, softball and the many great outdoor activities to be had in Oregon.

1998 Graduates

Melissa Daniels is currently employed as an Environmental Health Officer at Health Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.  She is responsible for 14 First Nations Communities in the mid-Vancouver Island area.  "Our mission is to help First Nations maintain and improve their health by ensuring a safe community environment, including safe water and food supplies, good air quality, suitable and well-maintained housing and proper waste disposal.  A primary goal is to further my education and I would like to work towards a Master's degree in Public Health."

Melinda Jacobs is still working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at the Pacific Biological Station.  Melinda has been with the High Seas Salmon group for almost four years.  She spends a considerable amount of time at sea studying salmon migration along the BC & Alaska coast, but her main focus in the group is electronic tagging.  "I travel to northern Vancouver Island and surgically implant acoustic and archival tags into salmon species.  Then using strategically placed receivers we are able to monitor which direction the salmon are traveling once they leave the rivers.  The results are definitely leading to new and improved fisheries science.  I'm hoping funding is approved for a large, well-known salmon run predicted for 2004."  She recently traveled to Hawaii for a conference where she met contacts in the tagging industry.  "It was amazing to hear the success, design and problems for all species tagged worldwide.  It was such a beautiful experience I wanted to stay longer than the time I had allotted.  However, in my busy schedule, I tried scuba diving for the first time!  I never knew just what I was missing - Fiji here I come.  Maybe I should start with beautiful Neck Point".

Blaise MacMullin's three years as photographer/videographer with Athabasca University in northern Alberta has allowed him to explore the promotion of science education.  While serving the entire University, he's often involved in science projects ranging from a video-intensive CD-ROM that assists Chemistry students with home-based labs to documenting the hunt for fallen meteors, to creating short documentaries on industrial pollution / human health issues, to promotional pieces for cool Biology courses.

After graduation, Karl Nykwist headed down to Panama and spent six months trekking through Central America.  "It was a great experience and I even managed to save a few turtles along the way.  Upon return home, I got back on with CP Rail, which was bought out by Seaspan a couple years back.  This not being the most scientifically oriented job, I soon found work with the National Marine Fisheries Service.  This position involved stock assessment of groundfish and crabs from various commercial fishing vessels in the Bering Sea.  Anchorage was a treat, as was flying around the Aleutian Islands, though some stormy nights at sea I could have done without.  Upon pregnancy news, I got back on with Seaspan and soon had myself a daughter.  It has been the greatest experience and I have been keeping up with my research as my little one and I are constantly doing interspecies competition and insect enumeration studies."

Julian Sturhahn has moved on from his position as Georgia Strait Creel Coordinator for DFO to Campbell River where he is working as a DFO Salmon Stock Assessment Coordinator.  He works with a team of biologists and technicians on a variety of salmon programs focused primarily in the Central Coast area of British Columbia.  These programs are located in pristine areas including Bella Coola, Rivers Inlet, and Smith Inlet.  Julian enjoys the challenges of leading a young and energetic group of "next generation" biologists and technicians as they work to provide Fisheries Managers with the valuable information necessary to provide fishing opportunities while protecting threatened or endangered stocks.  Julian and his wife Jennifer can often be seen fishing or whale watching in their boat as they enjoy the "Salmon Capital of the World."

1999 Graduates

Ken Fong is still at the Pacific Biological Station working as an invertebrate biologist with the stock assessment division, shellfish section.  I'm involved in the assessment of deep water Tanner crabs, Chionoecetes tanneri.  It is currently being developed as a new fishery.  This species of spider or Majid crab (you may also know it as snow crab) is found along the continental slope of BC in depths of 400 to 1,400m.  I have been fortunate enough to participate on a couple of deep-water trawl surveys and see the bizarre animals (too many to list) that live in 1,000 to 2,000 meters of water.

After completing her M.Sc. from UBC last summer, Alison Keple has recently finished her teaching certificate from UVic and has been teaching science in Duncan.  She is also teaching a course on marine mammals in Bamfield this summer and will continue doing harbour porpoise surveys in the San Juan Islands for the U.S. Government.  She tried her first adventure race this spring and is looking forward to doing more.

2000 Graduates

For the remainder of 2002, Amelia Grant continued to work for Active Pass Pharmaceuticals.  Her primary focus has been screening ABC transporters against potential drug candidates for a wide range of diseases including Alzheimer's.  ABC transporters, or ATP Binding Cassettes, are molecular pumps which are responsible for pumping a wide range of chemical compounds, including drugs and cholesterol, in and out of the cell.  Her most recent work, although not completely related to ABC transporters, has established her as a co-author and co-inventor of a published international application (patent) entitled "Compounds, Compositions, and Methods for Modulating B-amyloid Production."  At the end of 2002, Amelia resigned from Active Pass Pharmaceuticals, and moved to Wellington, New Zealand, to be with her partner, Daniel.  After travelling around New Zealand's north island, Amelia found a job at ESR (Environmental Science and Research) working in the virology laboratory.  Here, she participates in multiple research and viral screening projects involving polio, HSV, hepatitis and HIV.  Of course, living in New Zealand isn't all work and no play.  In their spare time, Amelia and Daniel hike, scuba dive and socialize with Daniel's family and friends.

Andrea Griffiths is currently finishing up her job at UBC and then going back to school this September.  She is starting her M.Sc. in the School of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene at UBC.  Andrea and her fiancé Michael Armstrong are getting married in Nanaimo on July 5th and then heading to Costa Rica for their honeymoon.

Willie Jeffries is working in Ottawa as an evaluation biologist at Health Canada in charge of regulating biologics, or more specifically, blood and blood products including cells, tissues and organs for transplantation.  "Currently, my section is very busy evaluating cell, tissue and organ establishments for basic safety requirements as is published in our recently released guidance document.  Needless to say, it is a very large job as this industry has never been subjected to mandatory requirements.  All this in anticipation of our new regulatory framework which will address stem cells, ocular tissue and perfusable organs in the coming years.  Also, I'm involved in the evaluation of any clinical trial applications regarding tissues organs and xenografts."

Aaron Jex is halfway through his second year of work on his Ph.D. at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, in which he is studying a superfamily of pinworm nematodes, called Thelastomatoidea, which are parasitic in terrestrial arthropods all over the world.  I am having a great time in Australia, although I am beginning to feel the mounting strain of a Ph.D. thesis.  I have a lot on my plate over the next four months.  From July 4th to 14th, I am in Darwin (which is on the north-western tip of Australia) for a conference where I will be discussing all things cockroach, particularly "Host-specificity patterns for pinworm nematodes in two subfamilies of Australian cockroaches."  Then from July 23rd until August 13th, I will be in Sydney doing some collaborative lab work at the University of Sydney.  Finally, at the end of September, I will be attending another conference in Tasmania where I will be giving a presentation on "The transmission of pinworm nematodes between beetles, cockroaches, mole crickets and millipedes co-habiting fallen logs in southeast Queensland."  I will be doing the fieldwork for this last presentation some time in between returning from Sydney and leaving for Tasmania, so I really hope it works out, otherwise I am apt to look a bit foolish, or more foolish than someone studying parasitic worms found in the nether regions of cockroaches is already destined to look.  I was going to attach a picture of myself with this, but I though everyone would rather see this picture of a baby sea turtle I saw while doing some field work on Heron Island."

Throughout the past year, Dawn Locke has had her hands full working from home and raising her 18-month-old son Jakob.  "We are due to have our second child arrive at the end of September and are expecting another boy.  Otherwise, our plans to open a wildlife rehabilitation and learning center in the country are still in the process and should be complete and ready to open in approximately 3 more years."

Tanya Griffiths (née Wood) is still plugging away at her Ph.D.  She will hopefully have a publication coming out soon in "Biochemical Journal" - it's not on her current project, but on some work she did a few summers ago in the MacGillivray lab.  Tanya mentored two grade 10 girls for ten weeks last winter.  It was great fun and the two seemed pretty enthusiastic about getting to do "real" lab work and actually see DNA!  She also has her first undergraduate summer student (Katie) this year; Katie is working on expressing Hephaestin in the yeast Pichia pastoris while Tanya is expressing Hephaestin in mammalian cells.  Bike riding has become her favourite way to get to school lately (except when it's raining); Vancouver is great for biking!   Her one-year anniversary is coming up in August (!) and Tanya and Brett hope to just go someplace warm to suntan and relax!

2001 Graduates

After graduation, Jackie Bochek moved out to Calgary, and has since returned to the island.  Presently, she is working at PBS doing research on sablefish and is learning new things every day.  The project is based on trying to develop a probiotic for sablefish that would be used in the commercial industry.  Jackie will be finishing her term with DFO at the end of July, and then leaves for Australia on August 3.  "I plan to be travelling around Australia and Fiji for a year and then come back to Canada in hopes to figure out my next "step" in life."

Shannon Derksen is two years into a Master's in Pest Management at Simon Fraser University.  Since last summer, "I have been attending classes and continuing to do research on the semiochemical (message-bearing chemicals)-mediated host-seeking behaviour of Peachtree borer (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae), a pest of stone-fruit trees in BC. (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae).  In fall, 2002 I was very fortunate to receive a Graduate Fellowship from the Department of Biological Sciences as well as the Dr. John Yorston Scholarship in Pest Management.  I'm also very excited to be co-author of a recently published journal article, which appeared in the February 2003 issue of Chemical Ecology.  This summer, I plan to deploy a lure that we have been developing to attract both male and female adult moths.  The lure contains semiochemicals naturally found in the Peachtree borer's host and thus may provide farmers with an environmentally-friendly way to monitor/trap this pest in their orchards.  Outside of academia, I have been living in Surrey for the past two years with my boyfriend Mike and our cat Soni.

Tanya Giesbrecht is coordinating the Bullfrog Awareness program for Mid-Vancouver Island again this year and continues to work on various Species at Risk projects.  "One of the highlights of my year was returning to my home town of Houston, BC, to give a bullfrog ecology presentation at the Ms. Infinity workshop."

2002 Graduates

After working a grueling 7 months for MSN Tech Support at RMH International (the call center in Country Club Mall), Nolan Hopwo started a job with the Stock Assessment Division of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  His main duties have been writing technical reports for Chinook Salmon on the Nanaimo and Cowichan Rivers.  His first publication as a primary author was just recently printed "Adult Chinook Escapement Assessment Conducted on the Cowichan River During 2001."  Besides working for DFO, he has been enjoying rides on his new dirt bike (a Honda XR400R) and learning to play a borrowed 1920's upright bass.

After graduation, Jodie Neufeld traveled Europe for a few months with her fiancé before intensively searching for meaningful employment.  After a brief search she was hired through the Youth Internship Program by Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, of all places.  Since they work on mostly wheat in Swift Current she has had to take a crash course in wheat types, wheat genetics, wheat diseases and wheat pests.  This isn't too harrowing though because she works mostly in the biotech lab (just wheat DNA there) and is thoroughly enjoying herself.  When the internship runs out she will hopefully get a job closer to home.

For the past 22 months, Liane Orrey has been working for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada as a Molecular Genetics Technician at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo.  "My responsibilities include DNA and RNA extractions from marine species tissue, bacterial DNA extractions, cloning, and recently some fisheries forensics work.  I am really enjoying working at the Station, particularly the environment and people I work with (who happen to be a lot of recent Malaspina graduates!).  Aside from my career, Shawn Stenhouse (Malaspina graduate 2002) and I recently purchased our first house and are engaged to be married this coming summer."

For the past year, Shawn Stenhouse has been working for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  "My main position is with the recreational sport fishery and salmon stock assessment.  I am responsible for surveying the angler effort and catch in the sport fisheries throughout the Strait of Georgia, along with enumerating and sampling adult salmon as they make their way back to local rivers to spawn.  Much of my time is spent on the rivers or on the water during the summer and fall (which is fun), but that is quickly made up for when the winter is spent behind the computer (which is warm).  Outside of my career life, I have purchased a house with my fiance Liane Orrey (yes, we are engaged, and plan to marry in July, 2004) and take care of our cat Darwin."

Heather Williams was accepted into the After-Degree Nursing Program at the University of Alberta in September, 2002.  "I have completed my first year of studies which included two clinical sessions; one in a medical-surgical hospital and the other was in a mental health hospital.  It is a stressful course but I am learning lots and enjoying it.  I will be graduating in August, 2004."

2003 Graduates

Upon graduation, Hitomi Kimura was hired by the Biology Department this summer to look after the lab animals.  "However, thanks to all people in the biology lab for their great support, I was allowed to participate in a whale survey conducted by Dr. John Ford at the Pacific Biological Station from May 21 to June 6.  Although I missed my own convocation, it was a wonderful opportunity to see and learn about fascinating marine life.  The primary purpose of the survey was to conduct research on the species diversity of marine mammals around the Queen Charlotte Islands.  During the survey, I encountered many magnificent marine mammals such as Fin whales, Baird beaked whales, Sperm whales, Minke whales, Killer whales (resident and transient), Dall's porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and Northern fur seals, as well as a great diversity of sea birds.  It was particularly exciting to recognize the humpback whales in the photo ID catalogues that I have been staring at for the last 8 months during my 491 research project.  It seemed to me that I finally met friends whom I have known for a long time!  However, what I witnessed the most was a gigantic living ocean with a remarkable drama of life and death.  One time we saw transient killer whales actually killing a Dall's porpoise in front of our eyes.  Another day, we encountered a dying old humpback whale.  These were the moments that I deeply appreciate life and everything I learned from school.  Now I am back to work at Malaspina for the rest of summer and have no idea what will happen in September.  However, I hope that I can get a job associated with the study of vertebrates."

Louise Massey was hired for the summer to work with Rosemarie Ganassin.  "The position allowed me to continue research that I started during my 491 project.  The summer position is coming to a close, but I won't be leaving Malaspina just yet.  I will be doing the post-baccalaureate education program starting this fall."

Branwen Phillips is working at Vancouver Island University this summer on a National Science and Engineering Research Council scholarship working with John Amaral doing research with termites and bacteria.  This fall she is starting the Doctor of Optometry program at the University of Waterloo.

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