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Creating a sustainable future for the oceans sector

Posted by Becca Rawcliffe, Dal News on October 4, 2017 in News, Students
New grad Emma Sylvester. (Provided photo)
New grad Emma Sylvester. (Provided photo)

For new graduate Emma Sylvester, a background in Computer Science has been instrumental in setting her up for success since finishing her studies at Dalhousie.

Emma is graduating with a Masters of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (CBBI) but has already secured a role in her chosen field as an aquatics systems biologist for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“There’s no better place in Canada to work in the oceans sector,” says Emma. “I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology, but in order to take my career and research interests to the next level I felt I needed some background in Computer Science.”

Using technology to make decisions


Upon completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, Emma headed to the east coast after discovering the CBBI program would allow her to combine her passion for biology with computational education, all while being next to the ocean.

“It couldn’t have worked out better,” Emma explains. “Coming from a biology background, the analysis side of things isn’t always a key focus. An interdisciplinary approach is essential to learn and develop new methods and make advancements in the field. It’s necessary to approach the ocean sector with a focus on technology and a consideration for how data is analysed to make decisions.”

In her role with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Emma focuses on genetic analysis of fisheries populations. Her work helps to protect at-risk populations and also plan strategies for the long term, sustainable management of fisheries and their resources.

“I’d like to believe I’m playing an important role in protecting the future of our marine populations,” Emma says. “We are at a crucial time in making key decisions that can have a really positive impact, Nova Scotia is playing a huge role in this and I feel that Dalhousie is instrumental in preparing students to enter the oceans sector and make a difference.”   

Getting involved with student life


Reflecting on her time at Dalhousie, Emma has some advice for current students.

“Take advantage of networking, both as part of your program and socially,” she says. “I found out about my current role through networking. Take every opportunity to attend conferences and get involved with activities that can expand your horizons.

“There are lots of ways you can engage with the Faculty of Computer Science and wider university. I was a member of the Computer Science Graduate Society and the undergraduate Computer Science Society as a graduate representative. I was also actively involved in the DalKing’s Swing Dance Society. Make time for social activity where you can make great contacts!

“Other than that, perseverance is key!”