Alumni Spotlight: Erin Ryan

Erin Ryan


Name Erin Ryan
Grad Year 2014, 2021
Program BSc, MSc
Major Applied Animal Biology

From a very young age, Erin’s love for animals influenced her career ambitions. Erin advocates strongly for the rights of animals as relations, rather than mere resources. She moved from Kamloops to Vancouver to pursue her undergraduate degree in Applied Biology at LFS. While studying, Erin worked part-time at a veterinary clinic. Later in her career, she worked to address urban wildlife and pest control challenges at the BC SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). While continuing this work part-time, in 2019 she returned to LFS to pursue her Master of Science (MSc) degree from 2019.

More recently, Erin joined Humane Society International (HSI) Canada, where she works as a Campaign Manager and continues to advocate for wild animals. Erin is excited to share a little bit more about her story and provide some advice to our LFS student community.

Why did you choose to major in Applied Biology?

I first learned about LFS and the Applied Biology program in 2008 while attending a ceremony for distinguished UBC alumni. That year, my grandfather received an LFS Centenary Award. The idea of applying animal biology to tackling real world problems really spoke to me.

How did your time at LFS influence your personal and professional development?

LFS is a very special Faculty. It was such a privilege to feel supported and understood by faculty members and peers. From the roots and the soil to the animals we share our world with, everyone in the faculty seems to share a passion for trying to make the world a better place. I think what influenced me most was the applied nature of the studies - all of our learning was centered around trying to understand and find solutions for real-world problems. Much of what I do in my life is exactly that - understanding and communicating science to find an applied solution.

Reflecting on your academic and career journey, is there anything you wish you knew or wish you had done as a student?

I would love to go back in time and tell my first and second-year self how much fun third and fourth year is going to be. Grinding through the prerequisites can be a slog, but in 3rd and 4th year, you get to focus on so many amazing offerings. First year math, physics and chemistry will feel like a burden, but fourth year ornithology, marine ecosystems, applied animal behaviour and more, are SO worth the wait.

What was the biggest learning for you in your part-time role at the vet clinic?

To be honest, one of the most valuable things I learned there was that I didn’t want to be a veterinarian. I LOVE my veterinarian and I have the utmost respect for the career, but having that experience helped me realize it wasn’t right for me. I think a lot of people don’t appreciate that finding out what you DON’T like is just as valuable as finding out what you do like.

How did your involvement with the BC SPCA shaped your career path?

During my time at the BC SPCA, I was so privileged to work with an amazing manager and mentor, as well as so many talented and passionate people. My work there allowed me to really grow in the field of wild animal welfare in a way that resonated with me. I think I’m drawn to the non-profit sector because part of me likes being a jack/jill-of-all-trades - I had the opportunity to really practice the “communication” aspect of science communications, through all kinds of writing/editing, graphic design, presentations, and more.

What makes you excited to work with the HSI? How did you make the decision to start something new?

After 9 years with the BC SPCA, and completing my MSc in 2021, the time felt right for a new challenge. Humane Society International Canada is a leading force for animal protection and is part of Humane Society International, which is one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world. I was excited by the prospect of tackling animal welfare issues at the national level, and seeing what else I could do to make a difference in the field.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

I’m really happy doing the kind of work that I do. My hope is just to continue making change for animals and doing work that’s consistent with my core values. It means a lot to me to be able to put my whole heart into my work.

What is the one thing you'd like to share with current LFS students who want a career working with animals?

Keep an open mind, and get experience anywhere that interests you. I think a lot of students come in thinking they want to be a veterinarian - and we need veterinarians - but there are so many options out there. Try volunteering for an organization you love, do a co-op or practicum, or even just take the time to sit down with someone you think has an interesting career and ask them about it.

What are your favourite places to eat at UBC?

There are few things I love more than fresh-out-of-the-oven Agora granola bars, and Blue Chip’s marbellous cookie. It’s probably for the best that Rain or Shine opened a location after I graduated - I would have visited far more often than my wallet wanted.