Grad profile: A change of course

Kelsey Torak, Faculty of Agriculture

- May 12, 2017

Kesley Torak. (Nick Pearce photo)
Kesley Torak. (Nick Pearce photo)

This article is part of a series on graduates of Spring Convocation 2017. Read more grad profiles or, to learn more about the ceremonies, visit the Convocation website.

From the age of five, Kelsey Torak has been involved in the sport of horseback riding. With her love of horses and her experience in 4-H, she had always pictured herself working with animals.

“When I was in high school I had my heart set on becoming a veterinarian,” Kelsey explains. “After my first semester in the pre-vet program, I realized that pre-vet wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.”

Her friends suggested perhaps looking at some of the Aquaculture courses at the Faculty of Agriculture. Now, the Shelburne, N.S. native is about to graduate with a degree she never imagined taking in the first place.

“Aquaculture is such a unique industry and still relatively new,” she says. “There is so much research that still needs to be done in order to find optimum growth conditions for all the different species being commercially grown.”

She even has a full-time job lined up after graduation. During the summer between her third and fourth years, Kelsey worked for Scotian Halibut Ltd, currently the only Atlantic halibut juvenile producer in North America. It’s a fairly small company with 11 employees at the hatchery location in Clarks Harbour and seven employees at the grow-out location in Woods Harbour. (The Clarks Harbour location where Kelsey worked is managed by Shelley Leblanc, also an alumnus of the Faculty of Agriculture.)

Working hard and making great connections, Kesley was offered a full-time position with the company following completion of her degree.

Starting her career

When she’s at Scotia Halibut Ltd., Kelsey can often be found behind a microscope looking at the development of fish larvae.

“I look at the development of the jaw, heart, gut, kidney and tail very carefully to see if any of the larvae contain any abnormalities and if any bacteria are present,” she explains.

She will also be responsible for cleaning tanks, feeding fish, ensuring oxygen saturation systems are working properly, updating data files and creating graphs of important data such as the weight of the fish over time as they grow. Kelsey will also work with the hatchery manager in the brood stock tanks collecting eggs and milt (sperm) from brood fish that will be used to produce larvae.

“The company is constantly doing research in order to increase the amount of juveniles produced each year,” she says.

The larvae that is produced will be grown at the facility for a few months before being are shipped to Advocate Harbour, PEI and Norway where they will be grown to market size.

Discovering Dal

Kelsey first learned of Dal’s Agricultural Campus through 4-H, the global youth program focused on agriculture, citizenship, science and healthy living. She came to the campus annually for a 4-H weekend on the campus.

Kelsey adds that she owes some of her academic success to her time spent in 4-H growing up.

“The 4-H motto is ‘learn by doing,’” Kelsey says. “By providing so many different types of projects for members to try, I found it has shaped me into a very well rounded individual. I learned how to balance my school work while still attending weekly project meetings and monthly club general meetings. 4-H showed me that by being organized and working hard it is possible to achieve the goals you set for yourself.”

And with her career about to begin, she looks back fondly on her Dal experience.

“Of all the things I love about AC, my favorite is the small class sizes,” Kelsey explains. “Most of my professors will stop and talk to me while passing each other in the hall. I’m very glad that I chose to attend the AC.”

This article is part of a series highlighting the graduates of Spring Convocation 2017. It has been adapted from the Faculty of Agriculture website. Learn more about Convocation ceremonies at the Convocation website.

Read more Agriculture grad profiles


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