I was born/grew up in: Kemptille, Ontario
I now live in: Kelowna, British Columbia
I completed my training/education at: I have a Diploma in Ecosystem Management from Sir Sanford Fleming College and a Diploma in Integrated Resource Management from Sault College of Applied Arts and Sciences.
What I do at work
I run my own environmental consulting company. I help the people who hire me keep their construction projects from causing negative impacts on the environment. My work helps them get their environmental permits so they can get their work done.
I travel to job sites make an inventory of the animals, plants and habitats located there. I search online GIS resources for historical mapping records of endangered plants and animals near project sites. I write scientific technical reports about what I find and how it can be protected. I teach people doing construction work how to work in a way that will cause the least amount of harm to the environment. I also watch them working and report the results to the people in charge and regulatory agencies. I work as part of a team. I communicate a lot throughout the day with regulators, engineers, government agencies, contractors and other project stakeholders.
Sometimes the projects are set to take place in a lake or stream. For these projects, I have to remove the fish from the work area. I use fishnets and a backpack electro shocker (electrofisher) to catch the fish. Then I release them to a safe area, alive. This job means I have to have a strong knowledge of species and their habitats (especially aquatic ones). I also need to know the environmental legislation and region-specific best management documents.
Mastering technical writing is vital for this and any engineering job. I often have to make important decisions about protecting the environment. To do that I collect all the background information I can get to help me make those decisions. Often, I refer what the law and what other experts say. When there is no background information, I find my own information by doing field research. When there is no established method, I invent and develop methods to get the information I need.
I rely on a team of biologists, technologists, engineers, contractors, and construction workers to work with me to develop design solutions for projects. I use math every day. This can be for calculating habitat areas, figuring out seed and plant requirements for restoring an area, analyzing field data, or for calibrating equipment.
My career path is
I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was in high school. I was interested in plants, wildlife and the environment. I went to schools that gave me a chance to develop and explore my interests. I have two technical college diplomas. I have taken courses including Riparian Areas Regulation Assessment, Erosion and Sediment Control, Wildlife danger tree assessment, electrofishing, and bioengineering. During my training, I had two coop placements with the Canadian Forest Service. One was for forest fire research and the other was for biological insecticide research.
When I graduated, I had several job options in Ontario but I moved to Kelowna to check it out. Unfortunately, there were fewer options here. For a while, I worked in landscaping and horticulture because I couldn’t find a job in my field. However, this experience turned out to be the reason I was hired for what I do now. My landscape design experience meant that I could easily do habitat restoration designs. It was by word of mouth that I was hired for my first long-term environmental consulting job.
There were challenges entering a male-dominated environment because some old-fashioned work culture remained. I had a few good bosses and a few worse than bad bosses. I was 7 years into my career when I realized that, under the boss that I had, there was no opportunity for innovation, growth, or career advancement. That was when I decided to start my own company. It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done but I’ve never been happier at work! It has led me to working with really good people on very interesting and important projects. Check my LinkedIn profile for more information.
I am motivated by
I like solving problems and thinking of new ways to do that. I like working with people that are like me. I find it very exciting to work with threatened and endangered species such as bats, turtles or amphibians. This is because the animals are very interesting and what I recommend can make a big difference to their survival. I have always loved nature and now I get to work in nature and help protect it.
How I affect peoples’ lives
My work is important because I help people, animals and the environment. I help stop pollution so that people can have clean water for drinking and recreation. I help protect fish and fish habitat, and endangered species. I help minimize the impacts of construction projects and restore environmental damage to keep habitats healthy and beneficial for people and the environment.
Outside of work I
I snowboard, camp, bike, hike and dance. I volunteer to lead stream clean ups.
My advice to others
Take technical writing training. Work on your communication skills. Grow a thick skin. Everyone and anyone can teach you something. Be open to any type of work to get experience – all work broadens your capabilities.