I’m Sara Cannon, a Ph.D. student and Ocean Leaders Graduate Fellow at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada (where I also recently finished my M.Sc.). Before moving to Vancouver, I lived for five years in Santa Cruz, California, where I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. My research interests involve attempting to understand the ways that people affect the health of coral reefs, and how the health of coral reefs affects people.
I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay in rural Maryland, and water has always been an important part of my life. My parents were avid scuba divers and I was exposed to the underwater world at a very young age. I have always wanted to be a marine scientist.
My M.Sc. research was based in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (if you’re interested, you can read more about the project here). I worked in the Micronesia region before; as an undergraduate student, I worked in the Ulithi Atoll, Yap, Federated States of Micronesia as a part of One People One Reef (a group of community members and researchers combining science and tradition to find innovative ways to manage marine resources). I worked with communities in Ulithi from 2012 – 2016. I hope to continue working in the Marshall Islands and the wider Micronesia region in the future.
As a graduate student in Geography at the UBC, I have had an opportunity to benefit from the interdisciplinary nature of the department through being exposed to approaches that are not traditionally a part of a graduate education in marine ecology. Students in Geography are encouraged to participate in research that may be outside of the purview of their graduate studies; for example, I recently co-authored a study investigating gender and racial biases in how presenters were received at an academic conference (the publication is currently in review). My coauthors and I hope that this work will inspire new ways for conference organizers to create welcoming environments for underrepresented minorities at academic conferences.
I’ve learned a lot about science, conservation, and community outreach through all of these experiences. My primary interests involve integrating biology and social science to understand how human activities impact coral reef health, and how the health of reefs affects the people who depend on them. In this way, I hope my work will give communities the tools they need to make empowered decisions about resource management.