Brynn McLellan’s Story
Brynn participated in a variety of Applied Biology (APBI) and Animal Welfare Program (AWP) research opportunities during her undergraduate studies. Her first research opportunity was through a third-year research course, APBI 398-Research Methods in Applied Biology, where she assisted a PhD student in the Faculty of Forestry with research on amphibian conservation. The following year she completed an undergraduate thesis on human-coyote conflict under the supervision of Dr. Kristen Walker in partnership with the Stanley Park Ecology Society Co-Existing with Coyotes Project. After graduation, she then worked with the AWP as a National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) recipient located at the UBC Dairy Research and Education Centre. Here she was involved with several research projects, including investigating the effect of outdoor access and farm procedures on dairy calf welfare.
Brynn’s undergraduate research journey began in APBI 398! Here she got to know professors and graduate students in AWP as students were connected with them in order to assist on their ongoing research projects. She subsequently pursued her own research through her theses (APBI 499) and applied for her NSERC USRA. She also notes that APBI 398 helped develop the communication skills necessary to reach out to professors and graduate students to inquire about research opportunities. Further, several other APBI courses (specifically APBI 416
– Compassionate Conservation and APBI 495 – Human Wildlife Conflict) were instrumental in connecting her to her undergraduate thesis supervisor Dr. Kristen Walker.
Brynn notes that to her, one of the most valuable aspects of the APBI program and AWP is the small faculty where students and faculty members work collaboratively and support each other, which ultimately lends itself to unique, hands-on research opportunities for undergraduate students. Having exposure to a variety of research projects and support from graduate students provided insight into the process of conducting an independent research project and helped Brynn develop valuable quantitative analysis, writing, and other communication skills. Further, by working on a variety of projects and being exposed to a diverse set of research areas it helped her solidify her interests in quantitative ecology and wildlife management and conservation. Her undergraduate thesis supervisor also acted as her mentor throughout her degree and has been instrumental in helping her navigate the academic world as she continues as a master’s student studying the spatial and population ecology of black bears.
Brynn’s advice for students considering getting involved with undergraduate research would be to encourage students to take courses in areas they are interested in and, if possible, focus on courses with smaller class sizes as it provides the opportunity to connect with faculty members and graduate students. Further, don’t be afraid to ask professors and graduate students if there are opportunities to become involved with research, even if it means proposing a new project that is in partnership with a community group, industry, or another faculty at UBC that you are interested in. The undergraduate thesis or directed studies are unique opportunities that can be beneficial to figure out if you like conducting research and, if so, what type.
Please note that APBI 398 Research Methods in Applied Biology is a required course for APBI Honours students and is also open to other APBI students. It is open to non-APBI students with the permission of the instructor. Courses like APBI 497 and 499 are open to non-APBI students. Consult their wiki pages to learn more about the application process. You will see more about how to reach out to potential supervisors! Domestic students enrolled at UBC can explore the opportunity of research through NSERC USRA alongside a faculty member; International students enrolled at UBC can explore opportunities through the Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Awards.