Jessica Sánchez-Jasso (Provided)

Jessica Sánchez-Jasso (Provided)

Jessica Sánchez-Jasso

PhD student, University of Manitoba (2022–present)

Jessica Sánchez-Jasso, Weston Family Conservation Science Fellow at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), feels as though her dreams have come true being awarded the Fellowship. With a love for butterflies, she hopes to bring her expertise in land management, GIS and landscape ecology to show the important role that local butterflies play within ecosystems.

Originally from Mexico, Jessica is no stranger to the hard work that goes into conservation and the systems that go into creating successful conservation projects.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have been interested in conservation. Enjoying time outdoors and enjoying time in my grandma’s garden — seeing the changes that occurred when the seasons change. Those things inspired me to study how living things work together to survive.”

That inspiration turned into her passion for discovering the ways that insects, plants and other ecological factors interact with one another in all sorts of environments.

In fact, for her undergrad thesis, she researched the life cycle of the Mexican silverspot butterfly to better understand it’s effect as a pest on passionfruit plantations. This also led her to spending time in Costa Rica where she took a field course with the National Biodiversity Institute in lepidopterology (the specific branch of zoology that deals with moths and butterflies). This allowed her time out in the field and grew her passion for butterflies.

“But it was in my master’s [in natural resource management at the Autonomous University of Mexico State] where I really became passionate about land management and landscape ecology, as I was able to develop a management plan for a local park in my hometown,” she says. “Due to the results of my degree, I was hired by the local government to help in parks rehabilitation. Having seen my thesis applied was a great motivator to continue down the path of natural resource management.”

Jessica has lived in Winnipeg for the past four years, where she will continue to be based at the University of Manitoba as she completes her PhD and Fellowship with NCC. Her research will be conducted in the tallgrass prairie ecosystems in Manitoba to understand the effectiveness of disturbance-based prairie management activities in maintaining and recovering prairie habitat for Poweshiek skipperling and Dakota skipper, two endangered butterfly populations that live only in these rare ecosystems. She began her research in summer 2022 by evaluating plants and the quality of these habitats.

“Through the Fellowship, I will be able to continue doing what I love to do, which is to produce and apply science out in the field,” she says. “NCC is a leader in this, and I am so excited to be able to work with an organization that allows me to conduct applied research. I am so grateful and honoured to be a part of the Weston Family Conservation Science Fellowship Program.”

Going forward, Jessica hopes that her work will increase people’s understanding of insects and the various ways that each part of an ecosystem interacts with one another. She wants to continue studying land management in Canada and looks forward to the opportunities that come her way that allow her to do so.

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