I was born/grew up in: I was born and raised in southern Ontario
I now live in: St. John's, NL
I completed my training/education at: I have a Diploma in Outdoor Adventure Tourism from Algonquin College (Pembroke, ON). I also have a Bachelor of Science (Geography and Earth Science) and a Masters of Science in Biogeography both from Memorial University (St. John's, NL)
What I do at work
I help municipal governments find ways to become more efficient, more knowledgeable, and more resilient. I help them develop strategies and plans to manage their community in a way that is sustainable. I also help them reduce their output of GHGs and reduce their risks due to climate change.
My role with the Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador (CCNL) brings with it a fair bit of variety. Some days I am working with a community to help them identify their sources and amounts of greenhouse gases. At other times, I might be helping them determine how climate change could affect the community. Other days I could be doing an assessment of a town’s properties or helping develop a strategy to address problems we have identified.
Much of my work relies on a great deal of organization. I often work with multiple large datasets to account for things like fuel consumption and the resulting GHG emissions. Other datasets include the inventories of municipal infrastructure. This includes everything from roads and culverts to fire hydrants and water treatment systems. Some of these datasets include things you can put into a spreadsheet. Other data sets come in the form of feedback from the public. This type of data could include such things as the areas where they see potential risk due to climate change. It could also include the service areas where they feel there is need for improvement.
Finally, there is a spatial component of my job. Spatial data means that the data connects to a place on the Earth. One of the challenges for municipal governments is to know what they have and where they have it. This is especially true for small municipalities. As a result, I also spend a great deal of time using Geographic Information System (GIS) software to map municipal infrastructure.
My career path is
After graduating high school, I was at a total loss for what sort of career I wanted. I tried a semester learning how to be an aircraft mechanic - that didn't stick. I took an entrance test to become a Mountie - that went nowhere. I always enjoyed being outdoors in nature. As a result, I completed a diploma in outdoor adventure tourism. I worked a year or two in that industry (rafting on the Exploits River, NL and the Red River, AB). I decided I wanted something more academic. Finally, I went to university and did my BSc and MSc in Geography. All these experiences allowed me the flexibility to be adaptable in the workplace. This was very important given the difficult job market I was (and am) in. See my LinkedIn profile for more information.
I am motivated by
I enjoy the feeling of being part of the effort to make a difference on climate change. Raising awareness of issues related to climate change is important. While the small communities I work with do not contribute much to global or national emissions, it is important to help them understand these issues. Climate risk, and the need for adaptation, is very real in small and remote communities. These places are more easily cut off and have less "buffer". For example, when a storm sends a wave that washes out the main road of a small town, it can become a serious problem very quickly. In a larger, more central area, a work-around to this type of problem is easier to find.
How I affect peoples’ lives
Municipal governments often struggle to stay on top of all the roles they must fulfill. For example, some towns have a few as two full-time staff: the town manager and the public works person. These two employees must coordinate everything from accounting and taxation to snow clearing. As a result, it is unrealistic to expect these two people to develop a strategy for how to reduce the town’s emissions or plan for the impacts of climate change. Creating a database of the town’s infrastructure from scratch is just not possible. That is where I come it to lend a hand.
Outside of work I
I have always enjoyed being outdoors, travelling, and growing things. My wife and I do a lot of camping and hiking. We try to get out skiing as often as we can, and we try to get away for trips to interesting places when possible. We recently became parents. Right now that's taking up most of our time. I also sit as a board member for the Environmental Education Commission. This is a non-profit that runs outdoor education programming for local schoolchildren.
My advice to others
If you were interested in working as a sustainability coordinator, I would recommend you complete an engineering degree. It will make getting a job in this line of work much easier. Don't be afraid of taking your time figuring out your career. Be adaptive, be flexible, and be open-minded.