APBI 497 - Q&A With Past Students

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Animal Science Projects

Kenny Go | Public Perception of Dairy Cow-Calf Rearing Methods

B.Sc. Global Resource Systems, Expected Graduation 2021

Kenny Go, BSc. Global Resource Systems, 2021

How did you go about finding a supervisor?

I was referred to work with a graduate student (Lara Sirovica) in the Animal Welfare program through Nina when I took APBI 398. I enrolled in that course later than usual, so she helped me find a supervisor on short notice. I reached out to people recommended through the course guide based on my interests and decided that Lara's research is interesting and more relevant to me.

What was your process for choosing a topic?

Given my background, I wanted to find a topic that revolved more in social sciences. I wanted to learn how to better present qualitative data (such as identifying keywords or poll responses from a survey) since I am more interested in that type of research. I believed that research and information should create a more immediate impact in society and everyday life. Prioritizing research that fulfilled those categories was my main process for choosing a topic.

Could you please share a bit about your project and your research objectives?

The project I helped with is looking at the public perception of dairy cow-calf rearing methods within the Canadian public. The research project wants to compare how the public views different rearing methods and gain an understanding as to how they perceive animal wellbeing. By using a survey shared online, a respondent is given a brief explanation to one out of four rearing methods used in the dairy industry and answered questions regarding their impression of their rearing method.

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion? How do you feel these skills will complement your academic and/or career progression?

The main skills I have developed from this experience is establishing my professional communication. As I'm working alongside my supervisor, I made sure to schedule meetings with her accordingly and be clear on what I can do to help improve her research as well as contextualizing the findings to a broader audience. It was a process to learn how to be flexible and adapt with regards to scheduling meetings as well as managing my time. However, it was very rewarding once the class ended and I have something to showcase for it at MURC 2020. I feel that the skills I have refined in time management and communication will complement in the future as I will be involved with different types of stakeholders and need to quickly and effectively understand how and why they approach a problem the way they do. As I want to work in bridging gaps between sciences, business and politics, I need to better understand how each discipline operates and identify ways to best help each of them cooperate in creating solutions that are rooted in a systems-thinking approach.

Tamara Dolotova | UBC Farm Biodiversity Monitoring Through Use of Camera Traps

B.Sc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

Tamara Dolotova, BSc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

How did you go about finding a supervisor?

I found my supervisor through taking classes that I was particularly passionate and interested in. Specifically, I had taken several classes with Kristen Walker that focused on wildlife and conservation. I ended up approaching her after she mentioned she had some projects she was working on that students could participate in and that is how I found out about the directed studies opportunity.

Could you please share with me a bit about your project and your research objectives?

The project was a long-term biodiversity monitoring study taking place on the UBC farm. It involved several methods for monitoring wildlife however I was involved with camera trapping in particular. By putting up cameras across the farm property we aimed to quantify and understand the diversity of mammals present on the farm. My part in this was to go out in the field to set up the cameras, collect data from them and then sort this data.  

What was your process for choosing a topic?

The topic I chose for my directed studies paper was individual identification of mammals using camera trapping. I came up with this topic with the help of my supervisor as this was something we were both interested in and a topic we had discussed in her classes.  

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion? How do you feel these skills will complement your academic and/or career progression?

Personally, this directed studies was a great fit for me as I love nature and wildlife so I truly enjoyed everyday I spent in the field. I now have a better understanding of what its like to do field work and have more confidence that this is something I would like to pursue. Some skills that I gained included setting up camera traps, using GPS and using software to sort image data. In addition, I have also grown skills in communication, problem-solving and flexibility which I can apply to any academic or career pursuit I have in the future.

Overall, I truly enjoyed having this experience and would recommend doing the same to anyone. It was amazing to see how I could apply the research and wildlife knowledge I gained from my classes into a project I was so excited about.

Graham Matheson | UBC Farm Biodiversity Monitoring Through Use of Camera Traps

B.Sc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

Graham Matheson, BSc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

How did you go about finding a supervisor?

I approached Dr. Kristen Walker more generally to learn about her area of research. I had just started a couple of her classes and was interested in doing a Directed Study, so I emailed her and asked her if we could schedule a time to meet to discuss research, to see if her research interests aligned with my own.

What was your process for choosing a topic?

During our initial conversation, Dr. Walker and I discussed our mutual interests of wildlife biology, conservation, and non-invasive methods in wildlife research. Dr. Walker brought up the possibility of doing a Directed Study with an organization external to UBC. That opportunity ended up falling through due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, but another opportunity came about through the UBC Farm's Biodiversity Monitoring Program.

Could you please share with me a bit about your project and your research objectives?

My project saw the deployment of 19 remote camera traps at UBC Farm in order to assess the biodiversity of mammals and birds at UBC Farm. Our research objectives were to determine the relative usage of various sites at UBC Farm by different species and across time. The efficacy of camera traps as tools in biodiversity monitoring for different species was also investigated in a literature review.

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion? How do you feel these skills will complement your academic and/or career progression?

Coyotes at the UBC Farm

I feel like the Directed Study helped me develop some leadership and organizational skills. I really came to feel a sense of responsibility and ownership over my project, and I was focused on carefully checking the data and making adjustments to the camera array as necessary. The project also helped build my communication skills through frequent correspondence with my supervisors and coordination with another student who was working with the camera traps. Further, having the COVID-19 pandemic impact the project midway through helped me become more resilient and adaptable.







Jenny Huang | Shelter Rabbit Preferences on Human Social Interaction

B.Sc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

Jenny Huang, BSc. Applied Animal Biology

How did you go about finding a supervisor?

I got interested in the Directed Studies course by hearing about the great experiences my fellow Applied Animal Biology friends had. Since I knew my interest was mainly towards companion animals, I looked for supervisors related in this field.

What was your process for choosing a topic?

It was by chance that I saw Sasha’s research posted on the Applied Animal Biology Facebook page and found her studies extremely intriguing. I then emailed her stating my interest to participate in the program and we started talking! Once I was officially enrolled in the course, Sasha and I discussed the area of research we should pursue. She mentioned that there are some topics she and her team had previously put down but had not started. One of which was to investigate the behaviours of rabbits. I found that topic to be very enticing and built off of that. We eventually decided on the topic: Shelter Rabbit Preferences on Human Social Interaction.

Could you please share with me a bit about your project and your research objectives?

The objective of the research was to determine the ideal human social interaction shelter rabbits prefer in order to improve positive interactions between the adopters and the animals. We hoped to eventually increase adoption rates for shelter rabbits. We conducted the study at different SPCAs and had the approval of the VRRA to conduct the research there, however, the process was cut short due to the pandemic.

Jenny's research site.

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion? How do you feel these skills will

complement your academic and/or career progression?

I found this entire experience to be extremely rewarding as I had to draft up the experiment from scratch. Although one might think the planning is simple, there are constant adaptations needed to help the study move along. I have learned to really embrace those adaptive skills and make the best of the situation. I have also gained many research skills such as video coding and data analysis. These skills will definitely be useful for any future research project I have. Last but not least, the social skills I gained when communicating with organizations like the BCSPCA and VRRA will aid to any possible connections I need with them as well as other organizations.


Nanqi (Kenneth) Xu | Segregation Behaviours in Rats

B.Sc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

Nanqi (Kenneth) Xu, BSc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

How did you go about finding a supervisor? I remember it was the summer of my second year, and I received an email while I was preparing for my final exam. It was a project led by Dr. Lucia, who was my TA for LFS 252, and they were looking for volunteers for their project. I sent my application to Dr. Lucia, and she invited me to join her team, which I think was one of the most important decisions in my life. Since then, I have participated in several projects, and when in T2 of my third year, Dr. Lucia introduced me to Dr. Daniel, who was my prof for APBI 315 and APBI 398.

What was your process for choosing a topic?

One day, I was changing the cages of rats in our lab, and I found that there were more enrichment materials in one of the cages of a two-cage housing system compared to another. Then I searched the internet to see whether there is a term to describe this phenomenon, but I could not found one. So I discussed this finding with Dr. Lucia and Dr. Daniel, and we decided to design a project to study the behaviour of rats.

Could you please share with me a bit about your project and your research objectives?

The aim of our study was to document whether rats perform segregation behaviours when housed in two-cage systems. Segregation behaviours were being observed in many mammals in nature, but there were only a few indirect evidences suggesting that rats perform segregation behaviours. So, our project was one of the first studies that focus and hope to fill the knowledge gap in the segregation behaviours of laboratory rats. In short, our research compared the mass and percentage of coverage of nesting materials between cages in a two-cage housing system.

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion, and how do you feel these skills will complement your academic and/or career progression?

I think the self-directed project gave me an opportunity to lead a study from its development, data collection, data analysis, and report. In order to complete the project, I had to have a comprehensive understanding of it, and I had to apply skills that I learned from previous courses, for example, using R studio to analyze the data and find professional ways to report the results. I highly recommend this course for students who are interested to apply for grad school, it will give you a chance to recognize your own shortcomings, as well as the potential that lies way down in the depths of your soul.

Sustainable Agriculture and Environment Projects

James Broekhuysen | Plant Growth Effects of Two Biostimulant Formulations

B.Sc. Applied Plant and Soil Sciences, 2020

James Broekhuysen. Major: BSc. Applied Plant and Soil Sciences

How did you go about finding a supervisor?

I had taken two courses with my supervisor (Dr. Riseman) during my 3rd year. During that spring, I emailed Dr. Riseman to set up a meeting where we could discuss my ideas about a summer directed study and if he would be interested in being my supervisor.

What was your process for choosing a topic?

In the plant breeding course I took with Dr. Riseman, we did a tissue culture lab where we performed a brief experiment with biostimulant formulations in the growing media. That piqued my interest in the particular formulation and in its application to agriculture. During the initial meeting discussing the directed study with Dr. Riseman, we talked about the kinds of experiments that I could do with the formulations, the environments that I could conduct them in, and the amount of hours I wanted to devote to the experiments and report with regard to course credits.  

Could you please share with me a bit about your project and your research objectives?

The project objective was to determine the plant growth effects of two biostimulant formulations synthesized by an agri-chemical company. This was done using tobacco in tissue culture and canola in the greenhouse to see if adding these formulations into the growing media or as seed treatments in various concentrations would have beneficial effects with regards to shoot mass, root mass, phenology, and yield compared to control and hormone treatments.

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion? How do you feel these skills will complement your academic and/or career progression?

  • I developed many laboratory skills, including working in a sterile tissue culture environment. The tissue culture environment introduced me to growing plants in a soilless media and gave me real world experience about what a laboratory career can entail.
  • A very important aspect of the directed study was having the autonomy to design my own experiments from scratch (with guidance from Dr. Riseman), and so being forced to think through every detail during the whole process. It made me realize how much thought and work goes into a well-designed experiment, no matter how seemingly simple.
  • The skills I’ve gained from this directed study will be an asset if I decide on a lab career in industry or academia, if I decide to purse a graduate degree, or if I pursue any career that includes conducting experiments or interpreting scientific research.

Claire Wu | Entomophagy: Insects as Food

B.Sc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

Claire Wu, BSc. Applied Animal Biology, 2020

How did you go about finding a supervisor?

My supervisor (Dr. Yasmin Akhtar) teaches courses at UBC that I am super passionate about - entomology. Dr. Akhtar showcases her research during lectures and that was what first piqued my interest in seeking her to be my mentor. I have a good relationship with my professor from visiting her office and building a mentorship relationship. Through that, it was easier for me to approach her with my project ideas.

What was your process for choosing a topic?

I thought about my topic when I was taking the course taught by my supervisor (during my third year of undergrad). The idea came to me naturally when my professor shared her research in class as it is an extension of what her research was based on. Then during the 2019 summer months (June - Aug), I planned out what I intended to do with the research project, contacted my supervisor and came up with a directed study schedule for Sept 2019 - April 2020 (6 credits) directed study project.

Could you please share with me a bit about your project and your research objectives?

My research involves conducting a literature review and taking fieldwork samples of the edible insects on UBC Farm and UBC Greenhouse (though due to the coronavirus, the fieldwork didn't go according to plan). My research objective was to enhance people's understanding of insects by sharing the health effects of insects as foods.

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion? How do you feel these skills will complement your career progression?

For the directed study itself, I was able to apply once more what I learned from the Applied Biology Research Methods (APBI 398) course again but this time on a topic I was passionate about directing on my own. The processes include researching for pertinent literature, refining the scope of the topic, researching more literature, discussing with my supervisor, writing an outline for the journal article, and learning about the details of publishing an article. I also took the opportunity to go through the process of preparing my project for the MURC Presentation, such as attending the abstract workshop, drafting the abstract and preparing for a final research poster.

Michelle Lim | Assessing the Impact of Diet on Mealworm Development and Growth

B.Sc. Applied Animal Biology, Expected Graduation 2021

Michelle Lim, BSc. Applied Animal Biology, Expected Graduation 2021

How did you go about finding a supervisor?

I enjoyed taking classes related to entomology. I have a good relationship with my former mentor, Dr. Yasmin Akhtar as I used to ask her questions if I had any doubts in class. I respect her as a professor and truly enjoyed learning the subjects that she teaches. During the start of the semester, I met up with her and asked her if she could become my mentor which I am very grateful that she said yes.

What was your process for choosing a topic?

I am very interested in entomology, and I am open to research that is related to insects and the topic that was suggested to me by the mentor. I did not mind the topic as I was already familiar with mealworms and have encountered them while studying insect behaviour.

Could you please share with me a bit about your project and your research objectives?

My project was about monitoring the weights of mealworms using different types of diets. The aim of the study was to assess how different diets affect their development and growth. Mealworms are beneficial in the food industry. Because food insecurity is a global problem, entomophagy is one way of reducing food insecurity. Insects are more digestible, sustainable (as they produce less carbon emission than other livestock) and have higher nutritional content than other animals that are high in protein like cows and chickens. Hence providing them different types of diets will help us to determine which diets will result in superior growth of mealworms and allow these insects to be comparable with other sources that are high in protein and to be able to help reduce food insecurity while being sustainable.

What skills did you develop from having conducted a self-directed project from start to completion? How do you feel these skills will complement your academic and/or career progression?

I learned how to be more organized in collecting data and be more creative in thinking and solving problems. Other skills I have developed include self-discipline, improving my professional communication skills and making a good scientific report. I think that these skills will be useful for me in the future academically and career-wise. It was fulfilling to conduct a self-directed project. I am grateful that I have had all these experiences.