What education have you taken?
I graduated from Rossburn Collegiate in June 2014. In September 2014, I began my Brandon University career as I entered the Bachelor of Science Program with a major in geography and double minor in geology and biology. In May 2019, I convocated my Bachelor of Science degree and decided to jump into the deep end and continue my university education by pursuing a Master of Science. Currently, I am enrolled in the Master of Science (Environmental & Life Sciences) here at Brandon University. And I am happy I decided to give it a try. My study interests are paleoecology with a focus in herbivorous dinosaur diet and feeding ecology under the supervision of BU’s resident fossil plants expert, Dr. David Greenwood.
What accomplishments are you proud of?
For five years, I was a member of the BU Bobcats Women’s Soccer team, and although this made for a chaotic schedule, it was rewarding for many reasons. The team won two silver medals and one gold medal while I was a member. The lessons that I learned on the field transferred to real life, including effective communication, time management, and the power of a positive attitude. Additionally, being on this team granted me the opportunity to travel, have new and fun experiences, and meet and be mentored by countless great people.
Beyond athletic accomplishments, I have been lucky enough to receive many scholarships and bursaries through the university, which allowed me the luxury of not working during my BSc. This gave me enough time for studying, soccer, my own hobbies, and some down time. The scholarships that mean the most to me are the ones that I was recommended for, as it was validation of my hard work and effort. Additionally, graduating, I was granted the opportunity to travel, enjoy different experiences, and meet different people. I have received several scholarships and bursaries. These afforded me time for studying, soccer, my own hobbies, and some down time. These financial awards validated my hard work and effort. Additionally, graduating with greatest distinction, receiving the silver medal in geography, being on the Dean’s Honour List for the 3 years, and the President’s Honour Society two years are rewarding for me as well.
In addition, earlier this year I was awarded the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology Cooperating Society Student Research Grant. This allowed me to travel cost-free for 10 days to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta and meet with some of the best minds in Canadian paleontology. The first peer-reviewed journal article I get to be a part of is in collaboration with some of these researchers — pretty exciting!
Lastly, I am honoured by this nomination as an “outstanding woman of 2020” at Brandon University and would like to thank my nominator for the recognition!
Give a brief bio about yourself/ your background/ your history
Although having lived briefly in California and Indiana, I consider my hometown to be Rossburn, Manitoba where I attended school from grade 2-12. I grew up alongside my older sister (Holly), who really set the bar high as she is not only an extremely driven individual who aims for perfection in all aspects of life, but she also rarely fails at achieving her goals. Of course as a younger sister, sibling rivalry was alive and well, and seeing Holly do great things pushed me to do better in my own life. I believe part of my determination to do good work comes from this healthy competition (fun fact: in 2017, she too was nominated as an outstanding woman at BU-so now we are even again haha!). In addition to my sister, my mom is also a huge part of my upbringing and identity. She not only showed me what hard work and perseverance is, but how to laugh through life even when times are tough. She is the best (Hi Mom!).
Growing up in a small community (about 500 residents), I had many opportunities to contribute. I was a member of the student council and the local 4H club for 10 years. My free time was usually spent playing various sports including soccer, volleyball, and rugby with a brief appearance on the track team.
Today in my spare time, I am still playing soccer in the indoor and outdoor women’s league in Brandon. I also like to garden, cook, bake, eat good food, nap, read, play board games with friends, and cross-stitch. I am happiest spending time at home with my dog, boyfriend, friends, or family.
How did you become interested in your field of study?
I think my interest in the natural sciences stems from the fact that there is not a lot to do in a small town besides get outside and explore. Growing up, I enjoyed fishing and going for walks/hikes. This time spent outside inevitably led me to wonder about many aspects of the environment that I was seeing. For example, I was interested in how the landscape has to look the way it does today (why is Manitoba so flat?) or what kind of creatures used to roam the prairies thousands or millions of years ago? These types of questions made my BSc in geography, geology, and biology feel like natural path to go down. One of my favourite parts of my BSc is that what I was studying was all around me, in the air, the ground, the plants, and the animals. My MELS thesis work also satisfies a lifelong interest of mine: studying past environments and organisms through the fossil record. I think my area of research is very exciting which is key when doing research—you have to think it is interesting!
What is your philosophy in life?
Not sure if I have life philosophy per se, but I do think this quote is great: “Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, “it’s all small stuff”. Basically, what this means to me is I do not take life too seriously, don’t forget to laugh at yourself, and don’t forget to give yourself a break every now and then. You don’t have to be “on” 24/7.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Who knows! Really, who knows? If you do, please contact me. For real though, I am excited and open to all possibilities that my future may hold. Ideally, ending up in the paleontology world would be a very interesting and exciting career, but in Canada, it is a competitive field that would involve a PhD (something I do not foresee at this time).
More generally, though, I would like to end up in a research position within the government or private sector with a nice balance of fieldwork and deskwork. All my work experience has been based on agricultural research, so that is something I may pursue as well, but in the end, I would like a career related to environmental science. Possibilities are endless!
I would like to nominate Jessica Kalyniuk – a current master’s student in the Faculty of Science (in MELS). I am her thesis supervisor/advisor. Jessica also completed her Bachelor of Science (Geography) at Brandon University and was a member of the women’s Bobcats soccer team at BU, with the following accomplishments:
- 2019 Department of Geography’s 25th Anniversary Scholarship, Brandon University
- 2019 Brandon University Silver Medal in Geography, Brandon University
- 2019 Graduated with Greatest Distinction, Brandon University
- 2018 George Thorman Scholarship in Geography, Brandon University
- 2018 Bobcat’s Athletic Awards for Women’s Soccer, Brandon University.
- 2018 George Thorman Bursary in Geography, Brandon University
- 2018 Inducted Into President’s Honour Society, Brandon University
- 2017 Don Raleigh Bursary, Brandon University
- 2017 John Warkentin Scholarship for Academic Excellence in Geography, Brandon University
- 2017 Placed on Dean’s Honour List, Brandon University
- 2014 Brandon University Board of Governors Entrance Scholarship, Brandon University
She was also awarded a $3,000 research grant for her master’s thesis research from the Tyrrell Museum of Co-operating Society to cover the costs of working at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta as part of her master’s. Her master’s research is to determine the last meal of an armoured dinosaur that was so well preserved, not only is its last meal intact but its skin and armour have revealed what colours it was in life. In this project she is working with paleontologists at the Tyrrell Museum and also at the University of Saskatchewan. Jessica is a thoughtful, hard-working and very insightful early career researcher who is not only a delight to work with, but has shown a very rapid ramp-up in her understanding of her research topic. All of the scientists she has interacted with have been very impressed with her approach and attitude towards research, and the pleasant and informed manner in which she has interacted with them. All of us agree that Jessica has a very bright future ahead of her as a researcher no matter where she ultimately ends up.