Outdoor enthusiast and elite skier Taylor Weixl hones in on research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology studies
September 2, 2016
Alumna (Class of 2016)
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
Bachelor of Science (2016)
“There are a lot of cool jobs in biology that involve outdoor activities.”
IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE, ask a busy person.
It’s a motto Taylor Weixl embodies and the reason she has been able to squeeze so much into her experience at UBC Okanagan.
“The more I do, the more productive I am,” says the fourth-year Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEBI) student. “When you don’t have time to spare, you have to be present.”
Weixl is an outdoor enthusiast and elite athlete who could just as easily be playing softball at a US college. Instead, she decided to stay close to home where she could concentrate on university and continue enjoying truly Okanagan activities such as skiing, rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, biking, and working as a ski instructor at Silver Star Mountain Resort just outside of her hometown, Vernon.
She says specializing in EEBI was a natural choice for someone as passionate about science and the outdoors as she is.
“What I like about biology is that there are 10 different directions I could go rather than being limited to one certain path. There are a lot of cool jobs in biology that involve outdoor activities—something I want to incorporate into whatever I do.”
Winning undergraduate research awards provided Weixl with a greater variety of university experiences, she says.
In 2015 she was awarded an Irving K. Barber Undergraduate Research Award to study and compare methods used to classify organisms as specialists or generalists.
Jason Pither, assistant professor of Biology and Physical Geography, agreed to supervise her research—despite the fact Weixl had never taken his class.
“I needed a faculty supervisor but I didn’t know any of the profs because I was a transfer student so I researched their work and then made appointments to meet them,” she says. “Professor Pither and I had mutual research interests so we continued to meet and he eventually agreed to supervise my work, including my honours thesis studying research methods used to reconstruct historical lake conditions.”
Irving K. Barber School Undergraduate Research Awards include up to $6,500 plus $1,500 in expenses per recipient.
“Having some financial relief allowed me to focus on schoolwork, spend time doing research, and get involved in groups on campus like VOCO (Varsity Outdoor Club Okanagan), while still being able to coach skiing.”
Weixl was also fortunate to work alongside Janice Brahney, a post-doctoral student who included her in a three-day trip to Kootenay Glacier Park, where they collected water samples from remote alpine lakes. The samples are being used to study the effects of changing glacier cover in the Columbia Basin.
Weixl says having the opportunity to take part in research while being an undergrad has been an invaluable learning experience that has helped her develop friendships, network, and learn from grad students she’d otherwise never have met.
“That trip (with Brahney) allowed me to see what research is really like in the field and to gain sampling experience. More than anything, I learned how passionate Janice is about the work she’s doing and what it takes to be a successful researcher.
Despite all she’s learned, Weixl is unsure where her future lies and is in no rush to decide. Her post-grad plans include cycling with friends for several months, taking a family vacation, and looking for work. Eventually she may return to school to get her master’s and PhD.
“People ask me what I want to do and I don’t have an answer for that quite yet, but that’s not because I’m not interested in anything—it’s because I’m interested in too many things.”
—by Anne-Rachelle McHugh