Applied Research Project

Students within the ER Master’s program must design and defend a capstone project, or Applied Research Project (ARP). This is a major component of the program, and is developed over the course of two years.

Purpose

The ARP provides an opportunity to gain expertise on a specific topic related to ecological restoration. This may be a particular ecosystem type, species, or area of restoration ecology. Students will develop skills related to sampling design, experimental design, data analysis, project planning and management, and creative thinking. A wide variety of project types are accepted as ARPs. The ARP may take the form of an experiment design in order to assess current gaps in scientific knowledge and provide an empirical basis for future restoration. Alternatively, designing a detailed restoration plan for a study area based on existing literature is also an acceptable project type.

Each student will work with a faculty supervisor and project partner(s) to develop their ARP. The ARP is a self-driven project and students are responsible for developing research questions, procuring funding, aligning with a faculty supervisor, and finding project partners to work with.

The quality and sophistication of an ARP must align with what is expected from a MSc. Thesis however, the project scope is smaller due to the condensed time frame of the program. Students must complete any data collection within a single field season (the summer between year one and two). Although the official courses associated with the ARP (ECOR 9300 and ECOR 9400) are set in the second year of the program, it is important to begin planning the ARP as early as possible within the first year.

Supervisors

The role of the faculty supervisor is to help students refine their ARP, and ensure the project meets the program requirements. Each student will have an internal supervisor from within the ER program at BCIT or SFU. Additionally, students may also work with an external supervisor from outside the ER program at SFU/BCIT, or from a different institution. By the end of year 1, students must align themselves with a supervisor whose research interests match their own, and work with them to develop the project.

Current candidates for internal supervisors include:

  • Dr. Ken Ashley (BCIT; limnology/aquatics)
  • Dr. Douglas Ransome (BCIT; terrestrial – small mammals/wildlife)
  • Dr. Anayansi Cohen-Fernandez (BCIT; terrestrial – plants/soils)
  • Dr. Susan Owens (SFU; climate change/marine/social sciences)
  • Dr. Ruth Joy (SFU; statistics, marine mammals/birds)

Contact information for BCIT supervisors can be found here.

Project Partners

Students can collaborate with a partner organization involved in managing a degraded site or with an interest in a restoration related issue. Partners can include industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and First Nations.

Examples of organizations that students in the program have partnered with in the past include:

  • Canadian Wildlife Services
  • City of Vancouver
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Metro Vancouver
  • Parks Canada
  • Port of Vancouver
  • South Coast Conservation Land Management Program
  • Stantec Consulting Ltd.
  • Taseko Mines Limited
  • Teck Resources Limited

Students are responsible for reaching out to potential partners within their area of interest. Before taking on a project with a partner organization, it is required to contact one of the internal supervisors to ensure that the project fits the program requirements and can be completed within the two year timeframe.

Funding

A variety of funding sources are available to students, including research scholarships, grants, bursaries and TA positions. Students are responsible for applying and securing funding. Having a project lined up early increases your chances of procuring funding, as many deadlines occur early in the year. Additionally, up to $1,000 is available to each ER Msc. student for expenses related to ARP field work.

See links below for examples of funding obtained by students in the past:

Developing your ARP

While students are not required to have a project lined up going into the program, the sooner you start developing your ARP the better. This is especially relevant when it comes to applying for funding.

As you prepare to enter the program and go through the beginning of term 1, ask yourself the following:

  • What do I want to be a specialist in when I graduate (habitat type, species, or specific area of restoration ecology such as invasive species)?
  • What species, habitats, or ecological restoration concepts do I find interesting?
  • What specialization will be most strategic for finding employment after graduating?

Once you narrow down an area of interest or a potential site, it is important to contact supervisors and potential partners. Supervisors may also have ideas of potential partners or projects based on your interests, and will be able to indicate whether a potential research project will be compatible with the ER program requirements.

ERSA Mentorship Program

In fall of 2018, ERSA is offered a pilot mentorship program. Both mentors and mentees committed to 4 months (the first semester) in the program. The program was volunteer based and intended to connect students across cohorts and to facilitate the process of the incoming students to developing their ARPs. One first-year student was paired with one second-year student, and each pair determined their own meeting schedule and time commitment.

This program is intended to make it easier for students to develop their ARPs, and give everyone the opportunity to forge lasting connections. As the 2018 pilot program was successful, we plan to continue the mentorship program in 2019.

Have questions?

If you would like to get in touch with students in the program, you can get in touch using the ERSA email (erstudentassociation@gmail.com) or find individual contact information on the SFU website.

For assistance with applications and official information on program requirements, you should contact one of the program administrators (Giti Abouhamzeh at BCIT (Giti_Abouhamzeh@bcit.ca; 778-331-1392) or Rebecca Ho at SFU (fenvprog@sfu.ca; 778-782-9032).

Disclaimer

The information provided here is accurate to the best of our knowledge (and up-to-date as of April 2019). As the program is still in development, it is possible that some details may change for future cohorts, though we will do our best to keep these pages current. For official information on the ER Master’s Program, please see the SFU or BCIT websites, or contact one of the program administrators.