VIU Biology Grad Wins $30,000 in Scholarships and Fellowships

VIU Biology grad Katie Davidson is conducting research at one of the most prestigious research facilities in North America.

November 13, 2015 - 9:30am

When Nanaimo high school graduate Katie Davidson began her studies at Vancouver Island University (VIU) five years ago, she never imagined that one day she’d win more than $30,000 in academic scholarships and fellowships.

Nor did she imagine that she’d end up conducting research at one of the most prestigious research facilities in North America.

Davidson conducts field research at the Hakai Institute on Calvert Island, situated in the Great Bear Rainforest on the BC central coast. The island is a four-hour boat ride north from Port Hardy. (

Davidson graduated from Wellington Secondary School, and then with distinction from VIU’s Bachelor of Science (Biology) degree program in June 2015. She won many awards, including a $17,500 Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

She is using the award, along with Hakai Institute and University of Victoria fellowships, to complete a Master of Science degree at the University of Victoria (UVic). Together with advisor, Dr. Chris Darimont, she’s part of the “mammal diversity team” for the Hakai Institute’s 100 Islands Project.

“A team of researchers from UVic and Simon Fraser University are collecting baseline information to understand how mammals, birds, plants and invertebrates rely on marine food sources and how that affects island environments,” Davidson explains.

“The research is important because it will enhance our understanding of the marine and terrestrial (land) environments on the BC central coast.”

Davidson says she learned how to conduct research at VIU. In her final year, she completed a year-long Biology 491 independent research project. Under the supervision of Canada Research Chair Sarah Dudas, she studied the accumulation of microplastics in clams.

“This was an ambitious project that required a significant learning curve, meticulous attention to details and extraordinary patience, initiative and perseverance,” says one of Davidson’s former professors, Dr. Tim Goater.

“Katie received an A+ grade and one of this year’s Outstanding Independent Research Awards in the Biology Department.”

Davidson also received NSERC’s Undergraduate Student Research Award, the Dr. Andy Spencer Legacy Award, Michael L. Warsh Law Corporation Award and the Donald F. Alderdice Memorial Award, among others.

“All of us are very proud of Katie’s success,” adds Goater. “In addition to her academic achievements, Katie also ranks number one for her volunteer efforts.”

While at VIU, Davidson served as President of the VIU Biology Club, and as the student representative on VIU’s Animal Care Committee.

She also volunteered with VIU’s Peer Success Program that helps first-year students with difficulties adjusting to university, and with the Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society.

Davidson was the only undergraduate student to complete two courses at the world-renowned Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC). The Centre later recognized her leadership and mentorship abilities by employing her as their VIU ambassador to promote Bamfield’s courses and learning experiences.

“My good friend and VIU colleague, the late Dr. Andy Spencer, was a former director of the BMSC,” says Goater, who nominated Davidson for the Dr. Andy Spencer Legacy Award.

“Andy would be proud to know that Katie devoted so much time to promote Bamfield as an exceptional place to learn, and to conduct research. Katie will be an awesome person to continue his legacy of excellence.”

Davidson says she’s grateful for the support of so many donors, adding that her future plans may include obtaining a PhD. “Who knows?” she adds. One day, I may end up teaching at VIU where I can mentor other students.”



Janina Stajic, Manager, Vancouver Island University

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