"I hope to apply archaeological practices to help with the conservation of endangered species."

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Student Profile: Christine Conlan

Archaeology PhD student in the Faculty of Environment

December 15, 2020
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I was born in the Adirondacks and immigrated to Canada where I spent most of my childhood in Ottawa. I moved out east to Newfoundland after high school where I completed a four year BA (honours) in archaeology at Memorial University. I went on to complete an MSc in zooarchaeology at the University of York in the UK. I have been working in cultural resource management for the past year and have just started my PhD here with Dr. Christina Giovas. I hope to apply archaeological practices to help with the conservation of endangered species.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I began to look at SFU after a few of my previous supervisors recommended it to me, believing I would be a good fit. After looking into the program I knew it was where I wanted to complete my doctoral research. Indeed, the program is more research focused, and less course based than some of the other programs I had looked at. Moreover, the presence of a DNA lab and specialist was another key factor that drew me here, as getting trained in DNA sequencing was the main reason I decided to undertake a PhD. The main selling point however was my supervisor Dr.Christina Giovas whose research and skill set was aligned with my own research goals. More superficially, being able to live in a place where winters didn’t drop below -20 was an opportunity that seemed too good to pass up.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH.

My research seeks  to answer two main questions; 1) to what extent has human activity contributed, both directly (e.g. over-hunting, controlled burning) and indirectly (e.g. carbon emissions, species introduction) to the loss of biodiversity on Curaçao in the Caribbean? and 2) how can this knowledge be used to drive future conservation strategies? Indeed, I believe that the past holds answers that can be used to help cultivate functional conservation strategies for the endangered and at risk species of Curaçao so as to preserve them for generations to come.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AT SFU?

Although I have only been here for a few months, so far I have enjoyed the sense of community within the discipline. Everyone seems very willing to help and uplift each other making my transition back into academia much easier than I had anticipated. My cohort has also been outstanding, managing to foster a strong sense of comradery even over Zoom. I have also enjoyed seeing the working relationship the department has with the local Indigenous communities and their commitment to decolonizing the practice of archaeology. Finally, I have greatly enjoyed being able to focus on crafting a dissertation project that is my own.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I have been fortunate enough to receive a few entrance scholarships: the Graduate Fellowship, the BC Graduate Scholarship and the Dean’s graduate Fellowship. Without this funding I would not have been financially able to accept an offer of admission. The funding has allowed me to pay for the required courses as well as those necessary for establishing a strong understanding of the various facets of my research. Moreover, it will help cover the necessary lab and analysis costs associated with my dissertation.

Contact Christine: crc15@sfu.ca