UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 5 | May
Life has Gone to the Birds for Forestry Grad
Solving conservation problems in the field
By April Wilson-Lange
Four years ago Stephanie Topp quit her job in Toronto, packed
her bags and headed west to study conservation at UBC.
“I was working in an administrative position in health
care and I wasn’t happy,” says Topp, who graduates
from the Faculty of Forestry’s natural resources conservation
program this month.
But it wasn’t until the 31-year-old traveled to India,
Singapore, New Zealand and Australia with her sister, that
she made up her mind to change careers.
“This trip made me think about nature and conservation,”
she says. “I really got into birds in New Zealand.”
Since New Zealand is an island, Topp explains, there are
many unique species of flightless birds that didn’t
have natural predators. Now, with the introduction of rats
and other predatory animals, these birds are becoming endangered.
Topp has integrated her desire to protect our feathered friends
into her work at UBC.
In her first year, she worked for the Wildlife Rescue Association
where she spent a lot of time handling birds.
“This experience sealed it with the birds for me,”
she says. “Watching them grow and develop is amazing.”
She also used two of her Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council of Canada (NSERC) scholarships to study the
winter wren on Mount Seymour. Topp won NSERC fellowships in
her second and third years. And this year she was awarded
the highly competitive NSERC postgraduate scholarship.
One of the reasons Topp chose to study conservation at UBC
was the program’s mix of academic and practical experience.
Students are required to attend field school in the fall term
of their last year.
“Whatever I do in the future, I’ll have to do
some field work,” she says.
After her winter wren research ends in July, Topp will be
involved with a bird migration study until October. Then she
plans to work on her master’s degree at UBC next January.