PhD candidate Kyle Bobiwash wins Aboriginal Student Award to pursue pollination research.
PhD candidate Kyle Bobiwash is one of 25 Aboriginal students who received the 2015 Irving K. Barber Aboriginal Student Graduate Award. With the $5,000 renewable award, Bobiwash (age 31) is free to undertake his doctoral research in pollination at Simon Fraser University without having to worry about working on the side.
Pursuing a PhD in Biology, the focus of Bobiwash’s research is pollination ecology – looking at which native pollinators are important for crop pollination and how pollinator diversity impacts crop yield. By planting wildflowers next to blueberry fields, for example, he examines whether increased floral resources leads to greater native bee pollination and fruit yield as compared to a field with only honeybees.
By understanding the relationships between pollinators and crops, Bobiwash, of the Mississauga First Nation, intends to develop farm systems that are productive and profitable to create opportunities for First Nation communities.
Growing up with traditional farming practices like wildfire burning taught Bobiwash about the relationship between land and food and how to manage land in an ecologically sustainable way.
“Many communities have lost their traditional agriculture practices,” says Bobiwash, “I soon saw the direct benefits that understanding ecology could provide to native species, farmers and communities.”
Once he completes his research, Bobiwash wants to help create sustainable farms on reserves using everything he’s learned. By creating productive and profitable farms, Bobiwash wants to demonstrate the opportunity that First Nations communities have in sustainable agriculture. He wants to incorporate research and academia, jobs, economics, scientists, and accountants to show that agriculture can truly sustain a community.
UBC Okanagan Student Nathan Sletten wins Aboriginal Student Award for Master’s Studies.
The 2015 school year was made a little more manageable for health sciences student Nathan Sletten who was awarded a $5,000 renewable Irving K. Barber Aboriginal Student Award. Undertaking a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at University of British Columbia Okanagan in the fall, Sletten’s focus will be exercise physiology and health-related conditions in children and youth.
During his studies, Sletten saw an opportunity to bring knowledge and awareness to Aboriginal communities about the connection between physical activity and lowering instances of disease.
“Maintaining health is so important in Aboriginal communities,” says Sletten, “Metabolic diseases, like Type 2 Diabetes, are much more common in the Aboriginal individual and there is a lot we can do to reduce these negative impacts.”
Sletten’s research helped him to develop an acute understanding of the impact that exercise has on cardiorespiratory function, health, and body composition. His research and concern for the growing health issues in many Aboriginal communities led Sletten to focus specifically on children and youth; he sees his work in that area having the greatest impact.
“If we can find strategies to improve the health of children and youth before they develop sedentary habits and health issues, we can increase the number of healthy years of living and the overall health of our communities,” says Sletten.
Sletten studies efficiency in processes of the body; it’s no surprise that he leads his life efficiently as well. Over the years, time management became a very important skill, and he uses it to help him live his life as fully as possible.
UBC Psychology student wins Aboriginal Student Award to pursue graduate studies.
Ryan Tomm of the Seton Lake First Nation was awarded a $5,000 renewable Aboriginal Student Award. With an undergraduate degree in psychology under his belt, Ryan is heading straight into a combined Master’s/PhD program in Behavioral Neuroscience at UBC this fall.
The combined program allows Tomm to earn a master’s degree on the way to earning his PhD and provides an opportunity to continue his research, which looks at alteration in cognition and the effects of aging on decision making. Behavioral Neuroscience is offered as a specialization through UBC’s Department of Psychology.
Tomm and his sister moved in with their grandmother after they lost their mother to cancer. It was Tomm’s grandmother that pushed him to lead by example and prioritize education as a means to serve his community. She saw education as a way for Tomm to make a difference.
Through his studies Tomm saw an opportunity to help Aboriginal people by addressing mental health and wellness of First Nations on a systemic level.
He learned that environmental factors like poverty and stress can affect the brain and, in turn, impact mental health. Through Behavioral Neuroscience, Tomm wants to gain knowledge that will one day help him affect First Nations policy decisions to improve health and wellness from within the community. “I want to use the knowledge I will learn in graduate school to help my community and First Nations communities across Canada. Many leaders within our communities are rising up in all fields of research, and I feel humbled to be a part of this very exciting time.” says Tomm.
Spending summers doing research and the rest of the year studying is taxing, and it doesn’t leave much time for work. The scholarship has allowed Tomm to have a better quality of life while in school and purchase important computer equipment needed for his research.
“I never thought to ever apply for a scholarship, and then I realized how much they can help,” says Tomm. “I almost dropped out of school! Even if you think that you won’t be successful – apply anyway. It’s worth it.”