Climate Change and Supply Chains: Student Treyton Zary on undergraduate research

Treyton Zary is passionate about climate change and wanted to bring that interest to his love for learning.

By Alexa Saleski

Treyton Zary is currently in his final year of a Bachelor of Commerce from the Edwards School of Business, majoring in Supply Chain Management. His honours research with Dr. Keith Willoughby investigates how climate change is impacting Saskatchewan companies’ supply chains and what methods these companies are using to mitigate and adapt supply chains to these new situations.  

Addressing Climate Change 

Treyton Zary is passionate about climate change and wanted to bring that interest to his love for learning. “In the past few years, I have become acutely aware of the challenges of a changing climate, and how that will impact the world’s ability to supply the necessities (energy, food, etc.) that everyone in the world needs to survive and thrive.”  

When asked why he chose to do a research project he states, “it was fully out of spite.” At Edwards, the faculty and courses have kept his interest, but he felt like there was a lack of focus on how the world could change in the coming years as a result of climate change specifically how climate change will negatively affect human activities. “While we spent some time in courses such as Business Strategy thinking these concepts, I became concerned that the lack of focus on this issue, especially in my major of Supply Chain Management, was leaving people with little understanding of an issue that will greatly impact their future lives and careers.” 

 “I wanted to contribute to the conversation on climate change and (selfishly) pivot my studies from being completely business-focused, to increasing my focus on the underlying and societal factors on climate change, especially surrounding the feeling of security (food, water, psychological, etc.) for human beings.” 

The Value of Internships 

Taking on projects outside of regular coursework can help mould the kind of learner and professional you aspire to be. Treyton attributes his interest in research to his internship experience. “I took part in the Economics Department’s Applied Economics Internship, in which I conducted an analysis of Saskatchewan’s plan (done in collaboration with the provincial government) to become more active in the Rare Earth Element industry. The experience was invaluable in allowing me to gain a better idea of who I was and what I wanted to study. I’d highly recommend more students check out internship programs if available to you,  as it allowed me to conduct more of an interdisciplinary (economics, business, politics, global security) look at a global problem.” The internship experience ultimately led Treyton to pursue an Honours Project at the Edwards School of Business.  

Diving Deeper 

Treyton says that learning content outside of his degree has been fantastic. He now has “a better understanding of the underlying events that are impacting people all around the world.” The opportunity to dive deeper into issues that are perceived as “complicated” has had an impact on Treyton’s post-secondary experience as well as personal fulfilment. “The flexibility in exploring the literature and meeting different individuals for interviews is much more exciting than watching a lecture in my opinion,” Treyton states. 

When asked what Treyton has learned about his research topic and if it has proved valuable he says, “the most significant thing I have learned about my research topic is the fragility of the systems that human life relies on. From a security perspective, it’s interesting to look back at history and analyze how consequential events can occur because one individual decided on an undesirable course of action. I often think about the memes about how the global economy is held up by Microsoft Excel, or how critical infrastructure is so important, yet can be taken offline with the click of a button (or in real terms, a weather event).” No doubt, Treyton is watching what’s happening in British Columbia, with highways and rail lines down, with great interest. 

Shedding Light on “Supply Chains” 

Treyton attributes his desire to conduct research as a pursuit, to shed light on the concept of ‘supply chains’. “The most important skill that any researcher needs is a hungriness or desire to become more educated on a topic. It’s like we talk about all the time in business: hard skills – technical knowledge and abilities – can largely be taught. It’s the soft skills like how to talk to people, and in the case of research, that desire, that is needed to be successful.” 

“People think of ‘supply chains’ as major container ships, railways, and trucks, but they forget about the people-side of things, all the labour that goes into making sure things operate as smoothly as possible. Understanding this has been a valuable transformation in the way I think about my career – a ‘supply chain’ is delivering on promises in service of a goal.” 

Something Treyton says he will likely focus on in a graduate degree is the second-and third-order consequences of climate shocks on supply chains. “We’re seeing this play out significantly in the global economy right now, with prices of some commodities rising because of a lack of supply, driven by climate changes. This, in turn, impacts related goods and the geopolitical stability of specific regions.” 

Use Your Resources 

When asked what resources allowed Treyton to make progress throughout his research he highlighted the USask Library. Treyton said, “I would not be able to do my research without access to facilities and technology such as the USask Library. Additionally, over the last few years, I’ve had many mentors, whether it’s been professors, my supervisor, program coordinators, or just family and friends that have helped pave the way and foster my passion.”  

Pique Your Interest 

Treyton advises fellow students, “take classes that are unique and outside your discipline as this could change your entire academic or career path.” Lastly, he wanted to share something that a professor once told him, “Don’t search for classes that are ‘easy’. Look for classes that pique your interest, as those will be the easiest one’s for you.”