#STEMSpark: Biologist Micheline Khan’s eco site My Little Green Foot sheds a light on environmental innovations

By Wendy Jacob on November 14, 2016 under Science STEM Spark

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Environmentalist Micheline Khan is a biology grad whose mission is to promote the responsible use of resources, share innovative scientific research, health and wellness information, and improve the quality of life for people and the planet. What started as a humble Facebook group has grown into My Little Green Foot, a platform to share eco information and resources, and guide enviro newbies with tips and advice.

“Always believe in your potential and follow your purpose. Following your purpose is pursuing something outside of yourself. This path isn’t made for everyone, so it will be challenging. The long way is the shortcut.” – Micheline Khan

1. Who you are and what you do? 

My name is Micheline Khan and I work at the Nature Conservancy of Canada in conservation engagement and I run a science and eco blog called My Little Green Foot. Even though my work now is outside the lab, I was always fascinated by nature and its myriad wonders. I loved being outside and learning about different species, so I pursued a Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a concentration in evolutionary ecology at the University of Toronto. I completed a thesis project on how climate change affects the rapid evolution of an insect, In addition I worked in an evolutionary ecology lab at the University of Toronto, and went abroad to Trinidad to study how the evolution of a fish species changed due to environmental circumstances. I have been afforded many incredible experiences and I am so grateful to have learned so much.

2. What’s the most important thing you have learned in your career? 

I have learned many lessons throughout my career, but here are 3 important pieces of advice I have picked up (specifically for young women).

• Ask for what you want! Your employer can’t read your mind. Tell them exactly what it is that you want from them in terms of growth and responsibility.

• Always speak to your colleagues, and especially your seniors, assertively but respectfully.

• Give credit where it’s due. Be honest in your relationships.

3. Did you have a mentor? If so, how did you find them and how old were you? 

I’ve had many mentors throughout my life. Mentors have come to me in different forms, whether they were intentionally sought out or stumbled upon by chance. I make it a habit to reach out to people doing interesting work and try to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with them. I have great relationships with my professors. I also used to search a number of professional websites including ‘Ten Thousand Coffees’ to network with industry professionals.

4. What did you want to be when you grew up and why? 

I always knew I wanted to be a biologist. I love being outside and learning about different species. Solving biological problems is something I find tremendously interesting and rewarding. Through my fascination with living things, I found my purpose — making a measurable impact on people and the planet.

5. What things did you like to do as a teen? 

I enjoyed being outside. Whether that was catching frogs and turtles in a swamp nearby my house, or playing basketball at an outdoor court. I used to bring animals home all summer — to my parents chagrin. I also love sports! I played high school and rep basketball and ran track for my school, in addition to watching sports with my family at home.

6. Are there any activities or hobbies you wish you had become involved in as a teen that would have prepared you for the role you have today? 

I wish there were more science camps or science programs provided by schools when I was younger. There may have been some outside of school programs like this but I was never aware of them. Nowadays, I see so many interesting programs and activities to get girls and boys more involved in science or environmental careers and I wish I could have experienced that as a child. I think I could have really benefited from this exposure at a young age.

7. Any advice for young girls who dream of running a company in STEM? 

Stick it out. Getting into STEM fields isn’t difficult, remaining in the field is the challenge. Push back against gender stereotypes and don’t be shy  about talking about your accomplishments.

8. Have you developed any insights about getting more women involved in science careers? 

I think the real issue is keeping women in science careers. Many women enter the field, but few remain. Representation matters. Having more role models for young women to look up to as well as having enough women in senior positions is crucial to making STEM fields more attractive to young women.

Find out more, or reach Micheline, visit My Little Green Foot or join the group on Facebook.

 

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