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Environmental issues are among the most complex problems of our time. They demand unconventional solutions that only emerge by integrating knowledge from many disciplines. learn more →
“It’s fascinating that someone’s skeleton can give us so much information about how they lived and died,” she says. From nutrition and socio-economic status to past injuries, cause of death and more, forensic investigations give voice to those who can no longer speak for themselves.
Chantelle has just three terms remaining to complete her bachelor of arts and she plans to make the most of them, even fitting in a field school in Portugal where she can apply her skills to curating human remains from archaeological sites.
She has already taken advantage of other experiential learning—volunteering in a lab to inventory skeletal remains, and working in a co-op education placement at the RCMP’s Integrated Forensic Identification Services where she processed crime-scene exhibits for fingerprints. During a second co-op education placement she trained with an RCMP forensic search and evidence recovery team and is now qualified to attend police calls when human remains are discovered. She says the co-op placements exposing her to different facets of forensics reconfirmed her desire to work in this field.
“I thought archaeology was the Indiana Jones style of digging up treasures of past civilizations,” she says. “And it is that. But it’s also examining skeletal remains to provide forensic evidence in crime investigations."
Jijie Xu envisioned a career where he could crunch numbers and discover environmental solutions. At our new School of Environmental Science, he has tailored his degree to combine his passion with a purpose.
“I thought environmental science was about humans’ impact on the environment,” says Jijie. “Turns out, it’s much more. It’s blending statistics, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics to find environmental solutions.”
A fourth-year student, Jijie studies environmetrics, a discipline that uses statistics and quantitative knowledge to address environmental issues. He applied what he’s learning during two co-operative education work terms at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation at St. Paul’s Hospital. He used data and statistical models to test how air quality factors, like smoke from forest fires or cannabis, can impact lung function.
While the link between environmental science and medical research may not be obvious, our students understand how interdisciplinary statistics can reveal new knowledge and generate new ideas and solutions.
“I experienced and learned more than I could possibly have imagined,” says Jijie. “Data management is more than crunching numbers. It combines different fields, like computer science and applied biology, to solve real-world problems.”
Environmental science: more than you think.
Isaac Cave wanted an SFU degree that could help him tackle environmental issues. But he wasn’t sure where to start—until he discovered geography a field that blends physical, social and scientific issues.
Next year, Isaac will graduate with a bachelor of arts in geography and a certificate in geographic information science (GIS) that will help him realize his career goal. But, as for most students, getting there didn’t happen in a straight line.
“I talked to a lot of people to get an idea of what’s out there, and then I started to see some of the interesting and unconventional things you can do with geography,” says Isaac.
He thought geography meant studying physical spaces, but his degree program opened a door beyond conventional expectations. He discovered human geography, immersed himself in geographic information science (GIS), and even used remote sensing to virtually explore the Earth.
Isaac also spent three semesters gaining hand-on experience with co-operative education placements at the RCMP and Translink. As a member of the Infrastructure Project Management team at TransLink, Isaac created digital maps to highlight how cities can improve existing roads, or build pathways for bicycles, walking and transit to reduce emissions.
“It’s really special to see the impact and reach of GIS,” says Isaac. “I’m working with real-world data like maps of road networks, municipal infrastructure waterlines, hydrology or agricultural land reserves to make informed decisions that will affect us all.”
In addition to developing and improving transportation infrastructure, Isaac can also use his skills for fun: Last winter, I used slope analysis to find the best place to go tobogganing.”
Geography: more than you think.
Food connects us all. More than simply fuel, it’s a part of our history, our traditions and our cultural identity. But behind our favourite meal is a complex global system that requires a diverse group of stakeholders, including planners, to find ways to feed our world population of nearly eight billion.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about planning,” says Tammara Soma, an urban planning professor with the School of Resource and Environmental Management.
“Food security may not be what you'd expect from a planning professional, but it's an important part of building resiliency in individuals, cities, and for the planet.”
“Planners are very diverse and our work ranges from general land-use planning to transportation planning, housing planning, environmental planning, social planning, and more.”
Tammara focuses on food-systems planning. She tackles food issues from farm to table to dump. She breaks down traditional silos and creates communities through food. Her work addresses problems like food waste, access to food, and preserving farmland and ecosystems.
“When we waste food, we also waste water, fossil fuels, minerals, resources and labour. I collaborate with water experts, biologists, ethnobiologists and forestry experts to explore solutions together.”
Planning: more than you think