Youthink PS

Fall 2018

Youthink PS is Western Canada¹s post secondary resource guide for high school students planning on attending university, college or other Canadian post secondary institutions and is distributed to 400 high schools across BC and Alberta.

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YOUTHINK.CA 14 > YOUTHINK PS > FALL 2018 Beyond the Classroom A UBC co-op student heads into the wild M arcos Kavlin is studying Natural Re- sources Conservation in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Brit- ish Columbia. Since joining the Fac- ulty's co-op program in his second year, he has gained 16 months of work experience that has given him the opportunity to travel and make a difference in the world. "What I liked about co-op is that it gave me a platform to practice what I was learning in class, while also allowing me to make contacts in my field, make some money, travel and grow as a pro - fessional and as a human being," Marcos explains. Like all co-op students, Marcos alternates academics with practical experience. He is cur- rently completing a 12-month work term in Bolivia with the Wildlife Conservation Society where he is helping to develop a management plan for Jatata (Geonoma deversa) palm trees. The Tsimane peoples of the Quiquibey River have used the leaves of these trees as a roofing material for centuries. Marcos' co-op work is es - sential because the indigenous communities that use this resource are located in a protected area where the extraction of natural resources is illegal without a management plan. A typical day for Marcos depends on whether he is at a planning stage or collecting data in the field. During planning, he typically woke up to a cold morning surrounded by mountains, bark - ing dogs and chirping birds. He could really feel the altitude as he walked up a steep road to the La Paz office. After greeting the guard and chat- ting with colleagues in Spanish, he'd set up his computer and begin planning his field trips to collect the data required to develop the manage - ment plan. He consulted maps, charts, and made detailed calculations. During the data collection phase, Marcos worked in the field and travelled by boat to visit indigenous communities along the river. On these days, he would wake in his tent at 6 a.m. to find it was already hot out. He'd hear the river flowing nearby, and myriad other jungle sounds. Gathering his tools and packing up his tent, Marcos would begin the day by meeting with the people of nearby communities. They speak Tsimane, a tongue Marcos was not familiar with; however, he was able to pick up some of their language and eventually communicate quite well. Marcos was eager to learn from the people who have been harvesting Jatata for hundreds of years. Part of his duties involved listening to sto - ries about the jungle from the Tsimane people. After breakfast they would head into the trees, following the trails used for hunting and har- vesting Jatata, to obtain geo-reference points to make the polygons they needed for maps. When- ever an animal made a sound, they would stop abruptly while the locals analyzed whether or not it could feed them for the next few days. Between the birds, beasts and falling leaves, the forest was never quiet. The whole time, Marcos was gath- ering information on where they had harvested the resource, where they were going to harvest the resource in the upcoming year and where the resource was untouched. After gathering this data, Marcos would head back to the community with his colleagues and pack their materials into a boat. After hitting the water and travelling to the next community, Marcos and the team would set up their tents again. Before dark they bathed in the river, washed their clothes, cooked a meal and then retired to their tents. When the sky was clear, they could see an infinity of stars in the sky. "I honestly don't think I've seen anything so beautiful" says Marcos. "We went to bed ex - hausted, but those beautiful nights, the moments we shared with indigenous peoples in each com- munity, and every animal we saw would fill us up with energy and make everything worth it." Over the course of 12 months, and after sev - eral trips down the river meeting with indigenous populations, Marcos helped to create a manage- ment plan for the sustainable extraction of Jatata by the Tsimane peoples of the Quiquibey River. Marcos realized that the ancestral practices of the Tsimane were already sustainable and that his job was to "help them present this knowledge in the form of a management plan" rather than to im - pose a foreign management structure that might negatively impact their community livelihoods. Approaching the end of his co-op experience, Marcos reflects on what being a co-op student has given him. "When I started at UBC, I was ambitious and had many dreams, but I was shy and didn't really trust my own work. I had doubts about what I wanted to do professionally. After these co-op work terms, I feel more centred. I now trust myself to do a good job." Upon his return to UBC, Marcos is headed into his final year of academic courses. His am - bition is to follow this with graduate studies in environmental policy, energy policy or sustain- able development. "Once that's done, I'd like to find a job that allows me to travel," he says, "and continue working with people around the globe." Follow UBC Forestry co-op students as they continue their adventures @forestrycoop on Instagram.

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