Introducing DANTAisms blogger: Siobhan

When I think about the key moments in my life that steered me towards an interest in understanding and protecting the natural world, I credit television, books, my parents and the reverence they instilled in me for naturalists such as Jane Goodall . I am the daughter of an ex-hippie and a botanist, so I was raised to think and live rather holistically. As a child, I turned my nose up at processed or packaged foods, was skeptical of microwaves, and would rescue frogs that were “lost” on the sidewalk en route to the ravine behind our house. Science-based children’s programming, such as The Wild Thornberrys, Zoboomafoo, and The Magic School Bus were formative in shaping my naturally inquisitive nature into a genuine, pursued interest as I grew older.11822638_10155807977215405_3711294031628301978_n

When I was six, I asked my mother what the name was for someone who studies animals. She told me such a person is called a zoologist, and that is what I told everyone who asked what I wanted to be when I grew up– even into my twenties!

I may have studied zoology during my undergrad at the University of Guelph, but attending a school renowned for it’s veterinary and agricultural programs allowed me to take a variety of courses from multiple animal-based disciplines. So I took courses in animal production and industry, agricultural animal welfare, animal nutrition, and completed my undergrad thesis with a professor from the Ontario Veterinary College, studying animal welfare legislation. I also competed in the Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Competition, where I met like-minded welfarists from across North America.

In third year I worked in labs that studied the welfare of agricultural animals, and I performed a diverse number of glamorous tasks, including: the centrifuging of mink poop, the wrangling of chickens, and the viewing of seemingly-endless hours of videos footage of mice swimming in buckets. It certainly gave me a taste for the often strangeness (and monotony) of lab work.

It wasn’t until I went to Costa Rica on a DANTA field course (“Methods in Primate Behaviour and Conservation”) that I rekindled my first passion of the mystified place we call “The Wild.” I still felt torn, however, between my diverse interests. Once I finished undergrad, I was tempted to complete a Masters in English Literature. This may seem out of left field, but I had taken a minor in English during my Bachelor’s degree, and felt I had “unfinished business,” so-to-speak, with it. I was (and still am) keenly interested in the intersections of science in literature; and in particular how scientific concepts such as evolution, genetics, and psychological disorders are represented in a narrative.

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Having completed my masters, I am beginning a PhD in Environmental Studies at Queen’s University in the fall. It is a true interdisciplinary program that seems designed to fit my varied and diverse interests like a glove. I hope that through it I can probe contemporary issues of sustainability and wild animal welfare in both Canada and developing nations.

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