Lael Parrott is an expert at striking a balance. A Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UBC’s Okanagan campus, she recognizes that compromise is necessary for progress. Her goal is lofty—to solve “wicked” environmental problems—but her means are modest and realistic.
“Growing up in Vancouver with beautiful, wild places around me, and watching them disappear motivated me towards conservation. I decided that I wanted to contribute to improving our quality of life, while at the same time, reducing our environmental impact.”
Life in a living lab
As an eco-hydrologist, Adam Wei’s passion lies in sustainable management of forested watersheds, particularly interactions between forests, water and aquatic habitat.
“If we have a problem with forests, we’ll have a problem with water, such as droughts or floods, which will ultimately affect fish habitat. We are linked by water quality and quantity. There are many processes, and if one fails, we will see an impact in the other. Understanding these connections allows us to manage the future of forests and water resources.”
Brave New Worlds
Erica Massey was part of a specialized team of international scientists that studies Martian environments here and abroad—way abroad. With designs on Iceland, Antarctica and the Red Planet, the UBC graduate student is going places.
Massey’s specialized research focuses on glaciovolcanic geochemistry. Simply put, that involves ancient volcanic eruptions that occur beneath mountainous depths of ice and meltwater. Massey looks at the geochemistry and textures of physical remnants in the aftermath of these Earth-forming fire-and-ice explosions.
Alumna (MSc), EEGS
Studying the Himalayas
Understanding the processes behind mountain formation and why mountains exist is fundamental to understanding our own physical environment. Kyle Larson and his team are studying these processes in the Himalayas and bringing back knowledge that can be applied in BC.
“A lot of the research that we’re conducting in the Himalaya now, the processes that are helping to build mountains — a lot of that stuff is now being applied back here in BC and in Western Canada. There are researchers now that are looking at those same processes for how the mountains around us here formed, so the advances that we’re making in the Himalaya can be applied directly to the areas that we’re standing on right now.”
Associate Professor, EEGS
INSTITUTES AND LABS
Our institutes and labs form the foundation of our research efforts, where our faculty members work with a number of community and industry partners to advance knowledge in the environmental and geological sciences, and provide hands-on research and learning opportunities for students.
The Centre for Environmental Assessment Research (CEAR) at UBC supports research about environmental assessment (EA) processes and methods, and helps integrate this information into practice. Research conducted and supported by CEAR contributes to resource development by furthering knowledge about the role that EA plays in helping to advance natural resource management practices that benefit Canadians.
The Complex Environmental Systems Lab is a new research facility at UBC Okanagan. We study the management and governance of natural resources from a complex systems perspective. We work at the scale of regional landscapes, acknowledging the intricate interdependency of human and environmental systems.
The FiLTER Lab is a new research facility accessible to researchers across UBC’s Okanagan campus as well as external researchers. Made possible by investments from the Government of Canada and the generous donations of Charles Fipke, it specializes in trace element analysis and electron microscope imaging. Services include inductively coupled plasma spectrometry, scanning electron microscopy, and electron probe micro analysis.
BRAES is a group of over 30 faculty members and their graduate students working in ecology, biodiversity and conservation, and environmental sustainability on UBC’s Okanagan campus. BRAES’ special strength is its multidisciplinary focus, with members from departments of biology, mathematics and statistics, literary and cultural studies, earth and environmental sciences, physical geography, economics and creative arts.
The PALEO LAB specialises in the use of midge fossils for the reconstruction of past environmental changes, particularly glacial and postglacial climates, and recent human impacts on lake ecosystems. We collaborate extensively with researchers at universities across Canada, as well as Parks Canada and the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Our research is aimed at examining displacement and distortion in convergent margins. We are currently conducting research programs in the Tama Kosi area of east-central Nepal, the Kanchenjuga region of far east Nepal, the Hindu Kush of northwestern Pakistan, and the cratonic rocks of Northern Saskatchewan. These study areas provide the opportunity to examine well-exposed sections of exhumed middle to lower crust within the youthful Himalayan orogen and contrast that with similar rocks involved with ancient orogensis. This type of research enables us to identify and track common processes across different orogens through time.
Tectonics & Geochronology
What is the timing and nature of processes that form mountain belts and continents? Learn more.
How do human activities and global change impact element and greenhouse gas cycles?
How should biomass be managed at the interface between forests and communities?
Land Surface Processes
How do landscapes evolve and change over different time scales?
Opportunities for Undergraduate Students
The Department of Earth, Environmental, and Geographic Sciences offers many opportunities for undergraduate students to gain valuable research experience. You can participate in research either as a volunteer research assistant, or through Directed Studies and/or Honours opportunities. Explore your options below.
The opportunity: Get experience helping faculty members, graduate students, or a mixture of the two, with their research projects. Students can participate in lab-based or field research, at study sites in diverse forests, grasslands, lakes and rivers, and agroecosystems. This is a non-paid, non-credit based opportunity that will give you the chance to participate in various elements of conducting research. The duties and length of the opportunity is determined by the supervising faculty member.
Prerequisites: Typically, no experience is required, but some research labs may require students to have previous research experience. Some opportunities may also require the completion of certain courses prior to volunteering. Consult your program advisor or a faculty member for more information.
The opportunity: Carry out your own research project under the supervision of a faculty member in earth, environmental, and geographic sciences. You can earn three or six credits, depending upon the project.
Prerequisites: Third-year standing and permission of the department head and a faculty member to supervise the project. Consult your program advisor or a faculty member for more information.
The opportunity: Investigate a research problem under the supervision of a faculty member. You will be involved in all aspects of the research process, such as research design, data collection, and data analysis. Presenting findings is another key component of research, and this option requires completion of a written report and a public presentation of your research findings.
Completion of the undergraduate honours thesis contributes six credits towards your degree, but does not guarantee an honours distinction. To receive the honours distinction, you will also need to satisfy all of the graduation requirements including, but not limited to, a minimum average of 75% in all courses, and a minimum grade of 75% on your honours thesis.
Prerequisites: Fourth-year standing, a minimum average of 75% in all courses taken, and a research supervisor. Consult your program advisor or a faculty member for more information.
Awards for Undergraduate Students
The Undergraduate Research Awards (URA) and the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) provide exceptional research experiences for students at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
The purpose of the awards is to encourage undergraduate students to pursue innovative and original research as part of their learning experience.
Our Partners and Donors
Together, we are making a difference, locally and around the world. Our partners and donors allow us to carry out our mission of helping the community, making advancements in research, and providing quality education in the field of environmental and geographic sciences.
If you are interested in becoming a partner or donor, we would love to hear from you.