I was born/grew up in: Windsor, Ontario
I now live in: Calgary, Alberta
What I do at work
As a Wetland Specialist at Jacobs, I make decisions about possible impacts a project could have on wetlands. My goal is to identify ways any impacts can be reduced. I do field surveys to collect information about wetlands such as type and boundary. I access the wetland on foot, by helicopter, or by ATV’s. The information I collect includes the types of plants present and the soil conditions. I also note the water conditions in the area. I create maps of wetland areas as well. I do this using satellite imagery and identify the boundaries of the wetland.
I use my mapped wetlands and field survey results to identify how a proposed project could affect the area. I also help our clients complete regulatory permits related to doing construction in wetlands. I collect specific data using standardized methods. This is very important because it helps me make decisions using data. My background in STEM helps me with this part of my job. I also mentor a team of wetland specialists. It’s great to work as part of a team because we all bring different strengths and skills to the job.
My career path is
I had no idea I would end up in this career. I always loved nature and wildlife but in school I preferred social science classes. In university, I started out with an Undeclared Major because I did not know what I wanted to study. Even though I really enjoyed the courses I was doing, I realized I did not want a career in any social science. I shifted gears and started to do a degree in biology.
I got a part-time job in the Dean of Science office. I also worked in an avian sound analysis lab for a professor. I ended up taking a field course in Costa Rica with that professor. When I graduated, I was offered a summer job as a field technician there as well. This led me to enroll in a MSc. in biology. In this program, I did research on a tropical bird in Costa Rica. I got a lot of field skills from these experiences that I apply to my current job.
After I graduated, I took another field job in Northern Alberta studying birds in wetlands. I applied to my current company (Jacobs outlining all my skills to see if I would be a good fit. The wetland team called me and I was offered a job. Even though I had a steep learning curve, it has been the best decision I could have made! I still get to watch birds while I work in wetlands and my wildlife knowledge has been an asset.
I am motivated by
Working with biologists of all different skillsets, is very exciting. The people I work with have skills and knowledge in such areas as vegetation, reclamation, wildlife, fish, soil, as well as wetlands. I learn something new everyday and get to share my skillset with others. The work I do at Jacobs changes all the time so I don't get bored! There are always new challenges to meet or questions to answer. Travelling across Canada to do field surveys and working in remote locations with helicopters is a very cool part of my job. I am passionate about the environment. Being able to positively effect change keeps me motivated.
How I affect peoples’ lives
Wetland conservation is a global issue and very important. Wetlands have many benefits and help in preventing floods and filter water. These areas also provide important habitat for wildlife. As a result, it is very important that we protect wetlands and reduce possible impacts to them. Helping companies make responsible environmental decisions is very rewarding. People and wildlife benefit greatly when wetlands are conserved.
Outside of work I
I have a passion for birdwatching, wildlife photography and citizen science. I really enjoy travelling. I volunteer with the Calgary Bird Banding Society. I assist in catching, banding and taking measurements of songbirds and owls. I also volunteer with Bird Studies Canada and other nature-based organizations. I assist with various citizen science programs such as contributing to eBird.
My advice to others
Get experience doing fieldwork in the summers to learn skills in biological surveys such as fish sampling, bird or vegetation identification. Your career does not have to follow a direct path. If you are open to learning, say 'yes' to all opportunities, you never know where it will take you!