Sarah Costa is a fourth-year honours student in the Sustainable Environmental Management program. She is interested in terrestrial and aquatic restoration, mycology, and conservation, broadly. From her first year of study, Sarah knew that she wanted to pursue Senior Honours Work (SHW) as a culmination to her degree. As such, she was interested in seeking out a topic that aligned not only with her interests but that called upon the experiences she had gained and lessons she had learned throughout her studies. “I wanted to make use of this opportunity and gain hands-on research experience”, she explained.
Sarah’s SHW is a thesis-based project assessing how breeding birds have responded to restoration actions in the Flats, specifically station 7, on Tommy Thompson Park. Her research involves analyzing various datasets collected by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) over a period of 10 years by using measures of biodiversity and ArcGIS software. She selected this topic as she was drawn to the research and the capacity for the project to draw on skills she has acquired throughout her studies. “This project has given me the opportunity to work with datasets from the TRCA and use various metrics from first year, GIS concepts and skills from third and fourth year, and has enabled me to grow in various other ways”, she explained.
Sarah’s SHW is supervised by Professor Gail Fraser, the Undergraduate Program Director and Sustainable Environmental Management Coordinator at EUC. Their research and work in avian ecology is widely recognized and served as an inspiration for Sarah in seeking out a thesis topic. “I have admired Professor Fraser and her research since I was in first year, so I was very excited at the prospect of working with her and having her supervise my thesis”, she explained. Sarah had the opportunity to visit Tommy Thompson Park with Professor Fraser, TRCA staff, and senior naturalists to become familiar with Station 7 and the tests and surveys conducted in and around the site. “This experience helped me feel more connected to my SHW”, she noted.
In completing her SHW, Sarah most enjoyed working with datasets from the TRCA using various skills she had acquired throughout her studies. As she looks forward to starting a career in conservation or restoration, she believes these skills and this experience will undoubtedly prove to be useful in the field. Her advice for students considering pursing Senior Honours Work is to start contacting professors early to find the project and supervisor best suited to your research interests.