Three Minute Thesis winner competing at regionals

By Costa Maragos Posted: April 29, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Graduate Biology student Kayla Balderson
Graduate Biology student Kayla Balderson Photo: Trevor Hopkin - U of R Photography.

Kayla Balderson is returning to the pressure packed arena known as the Three Minute Thesis (3MT).

Balderson, a U of R Biology graduate student, is competing at the 3MT Western Regional Championship April 30 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. You can see the competition live starting 3 p.m. Saskatchewan time.

You can also support Balderson by casting your vote online for the People’s Choice Award.

To qualify for the regionals, Balderson beat out more than two dozen fellow graduate students in a very tough competition at the U of R’s inaugural 3MT competition March 21.

As the competition suggests, a student must explain his or her thesis in three minutes, tops.

“I really want to stress how important the 3MT opportunity was for me in terms of helping build effective communication skills,” says Balderson. “Condensing what you've been working on for two years, into three minutes, is not an easy thing to do but it forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. My 3MT experience at the U of R has helped me appreciate the quality and quantity of research going on here.”
 
Balderson is researching the greater sage-grouse, an endangered bird in Canada. It’s estimated there are 150 of the birds left in Southwest Saskatchewan and Southeast Alberta.
To boost the numbers, 41 of the birds were brought into Alberta from healthy populations in Montana and released onto active breeding grounds.
It was a delicate move, as sage-grouse do not like any type of vertical or noise-making structures on the landscape.

“I am using the location data from the translocation to study the birds’ movements in relation to man-made features such as power lines, roads, oil and gas sites etc.,” says Balderson who hopes to defend her thesis in the fall, 2015.

“My hope is that my research will help strategically guide habitat enhancement efforts for sage-grouse. I'm also looking at their post-release movements and nest success rates to help improve future translocation strategies.”

Professor of Biology Dr. Mark Brigham has watched Balderson grow as a student.

“She came as someone who was very keen on helping sage-grouse, with a lot of data which she didn’t really know how to deal with. Through her perseverance and willingness to learn she’s made huge strides,” says Dr. Brigham.

Balderson plans on continuing to work with species at risk in “some capacity” she says.

For now she’s looking forward to the next stop of her 3MT journey.  

There are 16 competitors and the winners move on to the Canadian National Championship.

The U of R’s Biology Department has a history of success in the classroom and in the field.