Organization of American States Scholar Michelle Wauchope is Making our Water Safer

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Michelle Wauchope-Thompson is an Organization of American States Scholar from Jamaica who is pursuing a PhD through the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan in Western Canada.

During her childhood, Michelle Wauchope-Thompson dreamed of making a difference and helping people in the medical profession. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology at the University of West Indies, Mona and then going on to obtain a nursing diploma, anyone would have said she was well on her way. However, it was at this very moment that Michelle had an important realization: she did not want to continue in nursing but was instead interested in environmental sustainability. This understanding would start her on an educational path that would eventually land her almost 3000 miles away from her native Jamaica at the University of Saskatchewan in Western Canada.

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Michelle Wauchope working in a cold room in the laboratory at University of Saskatchewan.

Currently, Michelle is completing her PhD in Environment and Sustainability and is a student member of the Global Institute for Water Security, an interdisciplinary research center that focuses on sustainable use of the world’s water resources and protection against natural hazards such as flood and drought. Water security is a key issue for global efforts towards environmental sustainability and ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” is among the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030. Specifically, Michelle’s current research examines water quality, as well the rate of release of certain nutrients (such as phosphorus) in lakes, ponds and river systems to better understand seasonal and climate changes.

Michelle had always been interested in environmental sustainability, and accepted a job offer as a Quality Assurance Technician while studying her Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville, Jamaica that narrowed her focus to issues of water security. For the first time, she was exposed to the areas of water chemistry, soil chemistry, waste water management and potable water management. This experience, combined with her studies, support from her family and mentors and a childhood spent outdoors in an island nation, made her surer than ever that she wanted to purse environmental sustainability with a focus on water security.

Michelle wanted to continue her studies at the PhD level but knew that studying abroad on her own would be financially out of reach. Luckily, Michelle’s advisor at NCU suggested she apply to the Organization of American States Scholarship which was awarded to pursue a PhD at the University of Saskatchewan. Michelle still has several years of study and research ahead of her but she is already planning ways she can positively impact her home country. She hopes to focus on natural resource management when she returns in order to help Jamaica reach its goals as outlined in the Vision 2030 National Development Plan.

For individuals who are considering applying to a scholarship abroad as she did, Michelle offers sage advice and encouragement: “Go for it! Do not think you are not worthy of applying or cannot get a scholarship, you won’t know unless you try.”

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