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Esquimalt High student lone Canadian in international fisheries program

Sophia Teghtmeyer studying the effects of noise pollution on fish at UVic
Sophia Teghtmeyer is this year’s sole Canadian in the American Fisheries Society’s Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program. She has worked this summer in the University of Victoria lab of researcher Francis Juanes. (Sophia Teghtmeyer)

Sophia Teghtmeyer will tell you her passions for swimming, scholarship and environmental conservancy have kept her privately studying until midnight.

It’s the same passion, she said, that allowed this 11th-grade Brentwood Bay resident to become the sole international attendee to the 2021 American Fisheries Society’s Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program.

The program recruits Hutton Scholars from senior year high school students across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with the goal of increasing women and underrepresented ethnicities within the field.

Teghtmeyer has spent the summer as a paid lab and fieldwork intern in the lab of Prof. Franis Juanes at the University of Victoria. The Esquimalt High student and her mentors are studying the effects of human noise pollution on fish behaviour and physiology, while cataloging underwater soundscapes across marine habitats.

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The work has seen Teghtmeyer collect data on the ear stones used for hearing and coordination in juvenile fish.

“I was always interested in aquatics and biology, so marine biology was like a common ground for two of my passions,” she said of what she considers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She became aware of the program through her school’s scholarship coordinator, she said, and is the third Hutton Scholar to work in Juanes’ lab.

To hook the position, Teghtmeyer had to rank in the top 20 of 300 international applicants. School field trips hearing from Peninsula Streams Society members sparked her familiarity with the decline of B.C.’s sockeye salmon and bolstered her application, she said.

Teghtmeyer had previously been excelling as a student and aquatics enthusiast.

“Swimming is a huge part of my life,” she said.

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The former competitive athlete enjoys swimming with friends the most on her time off, and she is gearing to become a swim instructor after earning her lifeguard certification. Until then, she is content instructing voluntarily at her community pool.

“I’m also kind of a geography nerd,” she said. Teghtmeyer has memorized all the countries of the world and is currently working on the capitals, usually until midnight, when not learning Mandarin as well.

Those interests, along with “a fat essay” and volunteering stints at COVID-19 vaccination clinics and long-term care homes, are what earned her the Hutton Scholar opportunity, she said.

“I’m not too sure about what I want to do in post-secondary, but I think (the Hutton program) really opened my eyes to all the opportunities … I’m really keen on research.”

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