I was born in Fernie, BC and grew up in Elko, a small hamlet just down the road and at the entrance of the Elk Valley in Southern BC's Rocky Mountains. I am the fifth generation in my family to live in Elko.
I completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Biology on Vancouver Island at the University of Victoria along with a major in the School of Environmental Studies (UVic). My thesis research investigated the role of the ground-dwelling, non-vascular plant community in the uptake of nutrients derived from spawning Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp., which are transferred into riparian habitats by black bears Ursus americanus. I conducted my honours research under the supervision of Dr. Thomas E. Reimchen as part of a collaboration partly funded by the David Suzuki Foundation and collectively known as the Salmon Forest.
I returned to the Elk Valley in 2002 and noted the rise in recreational fishing on the Elk River. Over the next two summers in the Elk Valley, I became curious about the state of the sport fish populations in the Elk Valley, which is also the second largest coal-producing area in the world. I decided to start graduate school and investigate the population dynamics of the two main species of sportfish in this river: bull trout Salvelinus confluentus and west-slope cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus O. clarkii lewesi. I sought out the guidance from esteemed ecologist and fisheries scientist Dr. Carl Walters at the UBC Fisheries Centre. I was accepted into the Fisheries Centre in 2005 and began my master's work in September with Dr. Steve Martell as my supervisor. Dr. Walters is an advisor on my committee along with Eric Parkinson, senior fisheries biologist for the BC Ministry of Environment.