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Love of local aquatic ecosystems coming full circle for Port Moody masters student

Alyssa Nonis is working towards her masters in science and management at UBC and is getting some extra help from the Freshwater Fisheries Society.
Alyssa Nonis of Port Moody is currently working towards her masters of science degree at UBC specializing in salmonid habitats.

From one coast to another, and back again.

Alyssa Nonis is studying her lifelong passion for aquatic ecosystems and marine biology at UBC and is currently working toward her master's degree in science and management.

Upon graduating Heritage Woods Secondary, the Port Moody woman first took her schooling to northeastern United States — as well as her athletic ability as she joined the American International College's field hockey team in 2014.

However, she decided to return home to the Tri-Cities after a year in Massachusetts.

"My short time away made me realize how fortunate I was to be living in B.C. where there is a great awareness of the importance of aquatic ecosystems," explained Nonis in a release sent to the Tri-City News, noting she spent many hours fishing on the Burrard Inlet waters and elsewhere on the south coast growing up.

"I made a switch to the Natural Resources Conservation program with a major in Science and Management at UBC’s Faculty of Forestry. This is where I got my first taste of fisheries science, inspired by the Pacific Salmon Ecology and Conservation Lab."

As a result of her dedication and educational pursuits, Nonis was recently named one of four students across the province to each receive a $1,500 scholarship from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.

The focus of her degree is on salmonids and their habitats.

More specifically, she's exploring the use of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to link salmonid freshwater habitat with advanced remote sensing approaches to assess habitat potential in small coastal streams.

Defined as ray-finned fish like salmon, trout and graylings, Nonis believes her salmonid studies can help contribute to B.C.'s freshwater conservation.

"This research is important because it will allow resource managers to gain a holistic understanding of salmonid habitat potential at the landscape scale, a typically difficult task due to the logistics of stream sampling."

Nonis' undergraduate stint included time spent in local hatcheries and volunteering at the Pacific Science Enterprise Centre in West Vancouver.

Freshwater Fisheries Society spokesperson Tammy Longbottom says Nonis' experience is a prime example of how local residents and students have gained a greater appreciation for the outdoors, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The talent, passion and dedication these students have demonstrated bodes well for conservation and freshwater fisheries in B.C. We look forward to seeing what they accomplish."

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has awarded over $72,000 in scholarships to more than 40 students since 2008.

Nonis was also a key player in UBC's run to the national women's field hockey championship in 2017.