A study in landscapes

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

Khan backpacking in El Chalten, Argentina. Credit: Karson Sudlow.

Persia Khan, graduating this month with a BSc in geography and a minor in environmental studies, grew up surrounded by big mountain landscapes in Cochrane, Alberta.

After touring the UVic campus, Khan knew she wanted to trade the Rockies and Kootenays for a coastal environment and a future in conservation and ecology.

“My path at UVic was largely shaped by my recreational interests; exploring my environment through hiking, biking, skiing and climbing sparked my initial interest in conservation and ecological research,” says Khan. 

“This year I really fell in love with mountain biking on Vancouver Island. There is no better study break than chasing dirt with your friends,” adds Khan.

Growing up, Khan says her parents were always very supportive of her achieving a university education and they made it clear early on that she was free to study whatever inspired her the most.

“My father immigrated to Canada in the 1980s; born in Bangladesh he completed his education in London, England before making his way to Calgary,” says Khan. “He focused on a professional program because of circumstances and my mother did not have the opportunity to attend university.” 

Khan started her degree in general studies in social sciences, where she felt lucky to sample a few different disciplines before ultimately landing on geography and environmental studies.

“I was lucky to get a few really exciting volunteer and work opportunities early on in my degree, where I was so inspired by the graduate students and scientists I was working with, particularly a few female mentors,” says Khan.

Khan’s honours research project investigated how mammals use time in high disturbance landscapes in the Canadian Rockies. She also had the opportunity to be a research assistant with UVic’s Mountain Legacy Project. A highlight of Khan’s degree was participating in research at UVic, and she intends to pursue a master’s of science program, specifically in wildlife ecology.

When she reflects on her time at UVic, one of the most important things Khan learned was how the local community matters.

“After learning on unceded lands over the past few years, specifically on the lands of the Songhees, Esquimalt, W̱SÁNEĆ peoples, I have had the privilege of learning from elders and community members about the ways that my growing Western science education can be used to complement already existing Indigenous perspectives and knowledge,” says Khan.

Moving forward, Khan wants to decolonize her own research and continue to learn from those who have engaged with western ideals of conservation and environmental management.

She's currently working as a field technician monitoring wildlife in the Alberta Rockies, where she is looking forward to lots of hiking and biking all summer before beginning more studies in wildlife ecology.


In this story

Keywords: convocation, student life, geography, co-op

People: Persia Khan

Publication: The Ring

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