Biology Graduate Determined to Protect Ecosystems

Becoming a biologist was a long time coming for Sofia Jain-Schlaepfer. At a very young age, she already knew that her fascination with animals and plants was not just going to be a childhood fancy.

“When I was six,” she said, “someone explained to me what a biologist was and I decided that’s what I wanted to be. And yeah, that hasn’t really changed.”

All along, it’s been that curiousity of the natural world that encouraged her to learn how to better understand both flora and fauna. Her interest in creatures of all kinds is most evident in her study of aquatic and amphibians species that are in many ways, some big and some small, affected by everyday human activities.

When she realized she could study two of her passions simultaneously at Carleton, Jain-Schlaepfer decided to concentrate her BSc in Biology and major in Environmental Science.

“Carleton felt like the right decision after I visited,” she said. “When I was choosing my program and I saw I could take both biology and environmental science, I thought it could provide a great foundation for conservation work.”

This fall, she graduates with Honours and will be awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for her outstanding academic achievement. Just the wide range of research she’s worked on over the last four years is enough to establish that Jain-Schlaepfer is a proficient pupil. She’s been involved in multiple faculty projects in many labs with several mentors enriching her university experience overall.

“Prof. Tom Sherratt opened my mind to new ways of thinking and going about research,” she said. “I learned an unbelievable amount from him.”

Her conservationist intent enabled her to prosper in the Faculty of Science, a habitat well populated by colleagues and professors of the same mind.

“On top of being TA (Teaching Assistant) for an integrated science course, I got involved in a lot of different research projects in the faculty,” said Jain-Schlaepfer. “Prof. Steven Cooke provided me with an incredible number of research experiences and accompanied me to conferences to present my work.”

With the support of Grégory Bulté supervising her dissertations in Prof. Cooke’s lab, her thesis looked at the effects of motorboat disturbances on freshwater turtles.
Making sure that animals and plants can still prosper in their natural settings is as important to her as researching the effects of commercial fisheries and recreational fishing in different water systems of Canada.

Now backed by a strong desire to minimize human impacts on ecosystems, Jain-Schlaepfer will continue her research after graduation with her goal of helping all living things still as strong, though much more methodical, as it was when she was six.

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