Megan Adams

UVic Women in Science presents an interview series highlighting women in the scientific community on Vancouver Island. Here, we target women who are brainy, creative, and passionate. Megan Adams is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at UVic who is incredibly passionate about her research,  focused on understanding the bear-salmon-human system in temperatE coastal rainforests, and promoting engagement between academia, communities, and resource managers. 

What level of your education are you at? I have a BSc in Biology and am currently a doctoral candidate in the UVic Geography department.

What is your field of research? I am a conservation biologist. I work with the Hakai-Raincoast Applied Conservation Science lab with Dr. Chris Darimont and team. I am most passionate about applied research that is driven by community interests. Studying in the Geography Department affords me the freedom to not only do fascinating science, but also to think about the hows and the whys of the work we do.

Be bold and pursue what you are passionate about. Great science is driven by both curiosity and tenacity – surround yourself with experiences and mentors who can support you in this

When did you first become excited about science? I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love science! My parents are both trained as scientists, so it’s a way of asking questions and a knowledge system that I grew up with. I have always had a deep love and respect for the natural world. Linking that passion for nature with the practice of science really began for me in junior high and high school, where I had fantastic teachers.

Describe your research focus. I study predator-prey systems across large landscapes. My focus is on the bear-salmon-human system in temperate coastal rainforests. I collaborate with the Wuikinuxv Nation and their stewardship department to monitor coastal black and grizzly bears, where we ask where and how much bears are accessing salmon and how this can inform local resource management. Our work is part of a broader collaboration with four other Nations and conservation organizations on the central coast of British Columbia. In addition to the ecological focus of my research, the beginning of my dissertation focuses on why and how we do science with communities.  In a nutshell – what can we do to decolonize the scientific process, whereby collaboration throughout the research process engages community and academic colleagues from start to finish? In our experience, transparency about the motivations behind research, the reward systems involved, and the anticipated objectives (shared or not), can lead to productive collaboration and interesting outcomes (e.g., potential new habitat protection for the bear-salmon system).

What do you enjoy about this field of study and your specific research? It is my job to be curious and to think critically. I love that the information I help gather can build our understanding of the world around us and support decision-makers in how we engage with that world. Specifically, I love that I get to work with knowledge holders and resource managers in communities to ask interesting and applied ecological questions.

What are your career aspirations? My goal is to be an applied conservation scientist. I am committed to practicing science with academic, non-profit, and community colleagues, with a focus on both ecological research and science communication. Essentially, I want to do work that can support decision-makers to manage natural resources (and that gets me outside!).

What has been the most rewarding part of your education? Working with a lab so open to women in STEM has been supportive and rewarding. I love that I get to be outside and ask questions about the humbling and complex natural systems that surround me. I love that I get to do this work through the guidance and collaboration of Indigenous colleagues. What I love the most, however, is the science I do gets out of the ‘academy’ and onto the ground. This is the responsibility (and the opportunity!) that comes with the privilege of my education.

What are you passionate about outside of graduate studies? When I’m not hunched over my computer arguing with R or bouncing around in a boat collecting data, I love to garden, backcountry ski, and sing and play my guitar. I’m also increasingly addicted to poetry. I try to pepper my databooks with watercolour paintings and my journals with field notes.

What advice would you give to young females interested in science? Be bold and pursue what you are passionate about. Great science is driven by both curiosity and tenacity – surround yourself with experiences and mentors who can support you in this. I had inspiring mentors who fostered wonder and rigour in me as a young student. Find allies who are open to acknowledging gender inequalities in science (oh look, another white male!) and are asking what they can do to change that. When I was looking for a graduate supervisor, I wanted someone who was rigorous AND creative in how they asked research questions and who they worked with.

Photos by Andy Wright and Jeremy Koreski

Karen Lithgow