Therese Poland

B.Sc., SFU Biological Sciences 1988

M.Sc., SFU Master of Pest Management 1993

Ph.D., SFU 1997


Research Entomologist, USDA Forest Service

Adjunct Associate Professor, Michigan State University




I completed my B.Sc. in Biological Sciences in 1988, then after working for two years, I returned to SFU for my M.P.M. (1993) and Ph.D. (1997) degrees.  I studied the chemical ecology of bark beetles for both of my graduate degrees with Dr. John Borden.   In 1997,  I moved to East Lansing, Michigan to pursue a four-year post-doctoral research position with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service studying semiochemical-based management of the invasive European pine shoot beetle that was devastating Scots pine in the Great Lakes Region.  Upon completion of my post-doc, I was hired as a permanent Research Entomologist and continue to study invasive forest insects including the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer, two of the most destructive insects that have ever invaded North American forests.  My research has taken me to remote areas of China for field work,  led to the development of improved methods to detect and manage these invasive species, and has been recognized with USDA Forest Service Chief’s Awards for Technology Transfer and for International Forestry Research, and a U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.    The location of the Forest Service laboratory on the campus of Michigan State University, allows me to collaborate with university partners and serve as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Entomology.  I have supervised six post-doctoral research associates and twelve graduate students.



Why did you choose to go to SFU?
My family lived in Coquitlam and my father was a professor in the School of Computing Science, so I grew up visiting SFU, attending open houses and movie nights, participating in summer French camp, swimming at the pool, and playing on the grassy hills in the Academic Quadrangle.  As long as I can remember, I planned to attend SFU and never really considered any other options.  During the course of my B.Sc. in Biological Sciences, I completed an insect biology course and became very intrigued with entomology and especially pest management.  After working for a few years, I decided to pursue graduate school and SFU was a natural choice because of the unique and highly acclaimed Master of Pest Management Program.  For my thesis I studied the chemical ecology and competitive interactions among bark beetles under the guidance of Dr. John Borden.  He encouraged me to continue with a Ph.D. degree and although I was concerned about having three degrees from the same institution,  SFU and Dr. Borden’s lab were international leaders in forest entomology and insect chemical ecology.  As Dr. Borden put it, “why go anywhere else?”

Where did you spend the most amount of time on campus?

During my undergraduate years, I spent a lot of time in the lecture halls and labs of the Biology and Chemistry wings and in the Biology Student Lounge.   I spent most of my time during my M.P.M. and Ph.D. programs in the Borden-Winston lab, Room B6220.  Throughout my entire SFU career I spent any spare time in the pool, gym, running on the trails, and cycling up and down the hill every day.

What is your favourite memory from your time at SFU?

Some of my fondest memories are from the summer spent travelling in a van around B.C. and Alberta with the M.P.M. students completing the practical summer courses.  We learned so much through hands-on-experience and presentations by dozens of experts.  We formed lasting bonds and friendships, worked hard, and had a lot of fun.   I also have many happy memories of the adventures of my graduate field work including travelling to field sites by snowmobile, encountering bears, salvaging experiments destroyed by logging or mother nature, and digging out trucks when we got stuck in mudpits.

Who was your favourite SFU professor and why?

Dr. John Borden was my advisor and mentor for my Masters and Ph.D.  He has a wonderful sense of humor, is incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about forest entomology and research, a great story-teller, writer, and editor, is extremely organized, and above-all is very dedicated to and supportive of his students.  I enjoyed countless hours driving together to field sites in McKenzie and Princeton discussing research plans, experimental designs, insect outbreaks, forest practices, and sharing stories about our families and travels throughout the beautiful province.  We worked many long hard days in the field through rain, biting flies, and jungles of devil’s club.  Dr. Borden taught me how to operate a chainsaw, navigate radio-monitored logging roads and forest cover maps, and he was with me when I examined the charred remains of an experiment that was destroyed by forest fire.   I was also very inspired by emeritus professor Dr. Thelma Finlayson, who is a major advocate and supporter of the M.P.M. program and was an amazing student advisor.      

How has your SFU degree impacted your career?

I would not be where I am today without my degrees from SFU.  My B.Sc. degree gave me a solid foundation in biology, ecology, and an introduction to entomology.  Through my graduate degrees I gained experience in the theory and practice of pest management, conducting independent research, mastering highly technical laboratory skills and practical field work, and writing proposals, manuscripts, and reviews.   My research projects on semiochemical-based management of bark beetles provided the perfect background for my position as Research Entomologist with the USDA Forest Service.  Everything I learned at SFU has been essential and valuable to my career and is put to use in my work every day.

What is your favourite SFU snow story?

During the final year of my Ph.D. program, I was pregnant with my son.  In the last week of January, about a week before his premature birth, there was a heavy snowfall, so I could not cycle up the hill that day and instead opted to go for an early morning swim at the pool.  There were only a few of us in the pool that morning when the fire alarm sounded.  The life guard apologized and explained that he had not received any notice about a fire drill or alarm testing; therefore, we had to assume the alarm was real and evacuate the building immediately.  I had only a small white towel from the locker room on the pool deck and tried to dry myself and cover up my shoulders before heading out into the snow.  There I stood in the snow, nearly 8 months pregnant in a wet swim suit just outside the pool at the main entrance of campus.  What was probably only a few minutes felt like hours and it seemed that everyone I knew passed by as they arrived by bus or car that morning.  I had some interesting explanations to give in the lab later that day.

If you could give advice to students today, what would you tell them?

Study something you love and feel passionate about.  Surround yourself with inspiring people.  Strive to do something that will make the world a better place.

What is the one thing about SFU that must not change?

SFU should maintain its dedication to providing students with exceptional classroom and practical cooperative education learning opportunities and experiences.