Anna Bishop

MSc Candidate, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

Bachelor of Science (Hons), Environment Science and Contemporary Studies, 2015

As humans we’ve chosen to place ourselves outside of the natural system

There are gap years and then there’s Anna Bishop’s gap year.

Anna took a year off after King’s. She had graduate studies in mind and, in fact, before the year was up she was accepted into a program at the University of Alberta studying wetland regeneration in the area around the oil sands. But she wasn’t convinced that that was what she wanted to do. So after a little hitch hiking, a little fruit picking and a little maintenance work she headed south. Way south.

“I did a yoga teacher training program in Ecuador then I went into the jungle in Peru for some soul searching,” she says. “The Amazon is my Mecca, the lungs of the Earth. I stayed in a little community and I remember asking what should I be doing with my life? What came to me was it doesn’t matter as long as you do it with love. That was reassuring.”

During her time in the jungle Anna also reaffirmed her love for the complexity of the planet.

“The natural world has always fascinated me. Everything interacts. I just find the more that I understand the interconnection the deeper my respect.”

With that in mind and heart Anna did decide to pursue graduate studies. She started with her project on the wetlands but then switched to studying how rivers and streams release carbon dioxide.

“It has direct implications for climate change,” she says. “For a long time people thought rivers were passive connectors between the land and the ocean. Recent studies are showing the rivers off-gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There isn’t very much data globally available on that. In current climate models nobody is addressing this so climate change projections are an underestimation. We want them to be as accurate as possible so we can plan for it.”

The soul searching in Peru helped Anna find her next steps but the first part of this journey really began at King’s. Anna says she knows she is standing on the shoulders of giants. King’s taught her who those giants were.

“The philosophy of science courses I took helped me be a lot more critical of what we’re doing,” she says. “Humanity is amazing and there are so many facets. Going to King’s helped me to understand those facets in a way that most of my peers here don’t. When we have discussions about ecological ethics I feel I have a well to draw from.”

And she draws from that well in her life off-campus too. Anna spends her free time at the Aspen Centre for Integral Living.

“We do permaculture demonstration and education,” she says.

Permaculture mimics the natural structures and processes found in nature. Anna says, “As humans we’ve chosen to place ourselves outside of the natural system… at Aspen it’s basically ecological agriculture that helps to produce food for you but rebuilds local biodiversity.”

While Anna is doing this work as a volunteer she says, “Our dream is to employ year-round staff…  We are trying to craft ecological systems that benefit nature and us. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

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