UBC Okanagan's new zoology program will have global impact

Zoologist William Bates, shown here during a research trip to Zambia, Africa, worked with fellow professors Scott Reid and Mark Rheault to establish a new zoology program at UBC Okanagan.

UBC Okanagan is awaiting final approval of an innovative new Bachelor of Science degree with a major in zoology that emphasizes learning in the field.

"Planet Earth will reap the rewards of this program. The consequences are huge," says Associate Professor William Bates, who over the past three years worked with fellow Associate Professor Scott Reid and Assistant Professor Mark Rheault to develop the proposal for the program.

"Our program is integrative zoology," says Bates.  "It covers areas that are not covered anywhere else -- at the ecosystem level, physiology, eco-physiology, developmental, ecology, molecular biology, state-of-the-art molecular techniques, you name it -- and it's all woven together, systematically.

"When a student signs up for this program they are getting a course curriculum that is second to none. We will be training a generation of students in comparative zoology who will understand that there are myriad ways they can use their knowledge and practical experience in the real world."

In addition to the hands-on experience students will receive in the laboratory, UBC Okanagan zoology students will have numerous fieldwork opportunities locally and internationally, tackling first-hand many issues that impact people, animals and the environment.

"Globally we're seeing a huge number of examples of extinction," Bates says. "We're in the beginning of a whole new set of events that requires more zoologists who really understand zoology. This program is going to involve a lot of ramped-up field studies -- not only in B.C., but in other continents, such as Africa."

Offering a solid grounding in a broad range of topics dealing with animal biology (physiology, ecology, developmental biology), the zoology program emphasizes a comparative approach, says Reid.

"The idea within biology and zoology is that there are many ways to solve the same problem," Reid says. "Different animals solve the same problem in different ways. To me, that is the beauty of biology and zoology, and that's what we try to reflect in the course selections of this program. For those students who are really fascinated by the breadth of biological solutions, this is the program for them."

Designed with collaboration in mind, when approved, the new program will provide undergraduate students with a solid foundation of skills, knowledge and practical experience intended to raise their profile for graduate school and other professional programs, ranging from medical sciences to conservation biology.

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