Sherry leads research projects on snow leopards

Last changed: 11 June 2021
Sherry next to a horse with packing.

Sherry Young is a PhD student in Canada where she is leading a research project on snow leopards. A couple of years ago, she did her Master's thesis at SLU Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies, where she learned the methods she now uses in her research.

What are the main tasks in your position?​ 

I am currently a PhD student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where I lead a research project on snow leopard conservation. In the framework of this position, I perform research, teach, secure funding, work on capacity building and networking, participate in training and public outreach.

How did you find the job?

After I graduated from SLU/Umea University, I had the opportunity to go to Kyrgyzstan as an intern with the Snow Leopard Trust. I spent a year focusing on snow leopards but took advantage of this time to build a research project that focuses on evaluating the impacts of climate change on snow leopards and their habitat (i.e. natural resources, associated species and local communities).

With the support of the local team I was working with, I then had a good enough proposal to submit to research teams around the world to help me bring this project to life. It appeared that the best format for me to perform this research would be through a PhD and this is how I arrived to Simon Fraser University in Canada. 

How does your daily routine at work look like?

I absolutely have no routine. Of course due to COVID I have been forced to stay at home which makes me more limited in how much I can move. But I usually wake up at around 6:30, start working almost directly as the morning hours are the quietest before the day fully starts at around 9:30 with meetings, courses, teaching, etc. This moment of the day is usually associated with my first cup of coffee. Around lunch, I would try to take one hour away from the computer or on another task that is not academic. I would then dive into work again until 20:30, which is a big improvement as I used to work until much later as I work with Europe and Central Asia and dealing with time differences has been quite an adventure in addition of doing all of that from a home office.

However, even though PhDs require a large amount of involvement, every student should work at their own pace and clearly express their own limits. I am currently looking forward to going back to in-person research activities so I can more clearly set limits in between my professional and personal life.

 

Sherry with a lot of animals around.
A composed picture of different camera trap images taken on the same location.
Sherry on a horse in water.
Snow leopard.
Snow leopard.
 Coffee break with mountains in the background, cattle grazing and a picture standing parked.

In what way did the education at SLU contribute to your job?

My focus during my master thesis was to use camera traps to monitor both plant and mammal phenology in northern Swedish landscapes. It is through these six months of high training that I got to learn the methods behind the use of camera traps which are the main tools used to study snow leopards and elusive species.

Therefore, I got a very good practical training at SLU on how to design and set up camera traps. However, the main contribution the education I got at SLU had and still has is the novelty of the research I got to work on. We used camera traps to simultaneously study mammals and plants and their potential responses to climate changes. This novelty resulted in a publication and also in a skill set that today allows me to lead this PhD project.

Outside of the direct education, I had the opportunity at SLU to join a community of master and PhD students, as well as professors that really impacted the scientist but also woman that I am today.

Any advice for current or future SLU students finding their dream job?

The advice I have is not from me but from my mentor at SLU, Dr. Navinder Singh, whom once told me: “Some people have a goal and manage to get there in a straight line. But it is okay and normal to get there by zigzagging. By doing so you will actually get on adventures you never thought of and will therefore bring you experiences and skills you never thought of either. So keep going and remember that it is never too late to reach your goal’. So persevere and get out there would be my main advice. And you can only do so by being driven, determined and surrounded by a community.

 

Thank you!

Many thanks to Sherry Young!

And thanks to Amber Mertens De Vry, Pablo Del Rio and Markus Woesner; the master students who during the academic year 20/21 ran the account Masters of Nature on Facebook and Instagram who did this interview.

Facts:

Name: Sherry Young

Age: 27

Program: I was at Umea University but I did my master thesis at SLU

Nationality: France

Graduation Year: 2018

Employer: Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.

Position: PhD Student

Page editor: susanna.bergstrom@slu.se