Stantec Consulting Ltd.
Sector: Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security, Natural Resources
Type: Career Profile
Biology, Environmental Science, Science
I have always enjoyed a challenge. My work is frustrating, exhausting, and difficult, but it’s definitely never boring. There is no feeling like the one when your team finally makes it through a long and difficult regulatory process. This also great to finish a project that has so many layers of considerations your flow chart of requirements looks like a plate of spaghetti! I have mostly worked on regulatory approvals that are sometimes seen as unnecessary paperwork with little value. So it’s important to remember all regulations were created for a reason. Once you can see and explain the rationale behind a given regulation and start looking at ways to make use of everyone’s expertise and experience, it can be quite rewarding to find a path forward.
As a wetland nerd, I love finding opportunities to show people the beauty and intricate nature of wetlands and how they are resilient and delicate at the same time. Once you can show people the underlying value of these natural systems, you can start to find ways to work with that to get project built while still being respectful of natural systems. There is nothing like seeing teams start to look at features like wetlands and wildlife as valuable pieces of our world that we can work with and around, instead of obstacles to be overcome.
Thinking back, I was always a biologist in training. I was fortunate to grow up not too far from Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary. Here I spent a lot of time watching the rivers, following deer tracks, and playing in the mud. I went into Biology at university straight out of high school. I was not a great student. But I was able to find summer jobs helping professors and grad students with their projects (I literally emailed every professor in the Biology department to see if they could use any kind of summer help). From this, I was able to work on projects including mountain pine beetles, fish habitat assessments, and even completed my own project on flower populations that lead to my first publication. I wanted to go right into a Master’s degree after finishing my undergrad, but I was rejected due to low grades (I really did have poor grades!). This was one of the hardest things to get through in my professional life. I had not failed often in my life, especially academically, but at this point I was left with few options. So, I decided to follow my boyfriend to Edmonton, Alberta where he was doing his Master’s degree (he become my husband and this move launched my career in wetlands so I think it was the right choice ).
When we moved to Edmonton, I had no job and very little money. I was hoping to work at the University of Alberta and upgrade a few courses to allow me enter a Master’s program the following year. I started by emailing every Professor that had a research program I was interested in. As luck would have it, Dr. Suzanne Bayley’s research associate was going on maternity leave, and she needed some help. I was able to start working in her wetland research lab and quickly fell in love with all things wetland. Working in Dr. Bayley’s lab allowed me to work on a wide variety of projects all over Alberta and Saskatchewan, including completing surveys from kayaks and planes. I also learned what it takes to run research programs from finding grant money, to paying invoices, hiring summer students, and budgeting for lab equipment. While working with Dr. Bayley I also had the opportunity to design and complete my own small sub-project on aquatic insect communities that became the basis for my Master’s degree and another publication. After failing to be accepted to a Master’s program for the second time, I took a few additional courses to boost my grades. After two years, I was accepted into the Master’s program in Ecology at the University of Calgary (I never did reach the grade requirement for the University of Alberta). Towards the end of my Master’s degree, I started looking for work, as I didn’t think a PhD program was right for me. I started working on environmental consulting during the last year of my Master’s degree and have continued on that path for my career.
Keep asking questions. People are generally willing to help others better understand their work, but it means that you have to put forward the effort and show a genuine interest. This may mean you volunteer or do work on your own time, but if you really want to learn about something, be brave and reach out. While there are some people that may not respond for a variety of reasons, some will if you show that you’re willing to put in time and effort to better yourself.
I have always enjoyed sports. I continue to enjoy playing floor hockey and squash, as well as hiking and snowshoeing. I have also recently started non-contact kickboxing! I find sports a great way to relax and ‘turn-off’ that over-planning, over-thinking part of my brain for a bit. I also enjoy reading mainstream forensic science fiction, as well as fan fiction for various sci-fi TV shows.
I work as part of a large multidisciplinary team that build communities, roads, infrastructure, transit networks, and park spaces in urban areas. We work on creating new spaces, as well as upgrades and retrofits to existing areas.
I am a Professional Biologist (P.Biol.) and have specialize in wetland assessments and regulatory applications throughout my career. I have worked to broaden my knowledge to include wildlife, vegetation, historical resources, and fish habitat to the point that I can advise clients on regulatory requirements and work through options. I also work on teams that create and manage wetlands and natural spaces in urban communities (which I really enjoy doing as showing off the beauty of wetlands is something I find very rewarding).
I use my knowledge of natural systems basically every day as part of large project teams comprised of a variety of engineers, landscape architects, urban designers, professional planners, as well as other scientists from a wide range of disciplines. We all have to work together to design communities that are functional, sustainable, beautiful, and also meet a whole variety of regulatory requirements. This can be quite challenging and requires a lot of conversations and for us to all learn from each other. With changes in regulatory requirements as well as social understanding, having a biologist on these teams is somewhat new. I have had to find ways to explain complex regulatory and ecological challenges to team members with minimal biology background. To do this you have to really think about why the requirement is in place. You also have to identify the core impact to get your point across while being respectful as well as open to questions and challenges of your own assumptions and knowledge.
I was born/grew up in: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I now live in: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I completed my training/education at: Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) – major in Biology, minor in Chemistry from University of Calgary and Master of Science (M.Sc.) – in Biology, focus on Aquatic Ecology from University of Calgary
When I was
- Literature and Language Arts
- Physical Education / Health
- Other: Outdoor Education was one of my favourite classes!
- Enjoyed doing things on my own
- Always wanted to be outside
- Played on a sports team
- Was motivated by success
- Liked reading
- Played video games
- Other: I very much enjoyed playing in my school’s concert band, and also have always enjoyed science fiction TV and movies including Star Trek, Stargate, and X-Files.