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September 22, 2017

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Do you remember your first job - where it all started?

August 25, 2017

Do you remember the first time you actually started working in the environmental field? Was it really all that easy? Well like everyone else finishing up university I graduated with a Bachelors Degree thinking the world was my oyster and that there would be long line ups to hire me. Plus in the mid 1970s' I had a degree in marine biology and there was going to be a huge demand for that - yup we were all joining Jacques Cousteau in the new frontier. Well it wasn't meant to be - I ended up in a record store, A&B Sound on Seymour Street to be exact, and although I loved music as a second passion, it barely paid the bills at $3/hour. Then out of the blue, I got a knock on the door (in those days there were no mobile phones, let alone email) and it was Nick Roe of Beak Associates, an environmental company somewhere near Toronto. How he got a hold of me or knew where I was, I don't know to this day. He said would I be interested in doing a bird survey at the Roberts Bank Coal Superport paying at that time an amazing $120 per day (yup I still remember that - needless to say Nick has been a dear friend and mentor from that day on). From there it all changed, I knew from that time on I was born to be an environmental consultant and there was never ever any going back. I found a temporary job at the Canadian Wildlife Service in Delta, B.C. and through those connections I found myself driving up to the Yukon with a group of biologists to do bird surveys along the Alaska Highway Pipeline - I had the best route between Yukon Lake and the Alaska border. Field work at that time was a lot simpler - my equipment consisted of a pair of not-so-good binoculars, a pencil and a field notebook and lots of 100% DEET - no laptops, GPS, data loggers, acoustic recording units or digital cameras - and no batteries to go dead! This was doing basic biology in the trenches, freezing fingers and toes, getting bitten by endless mosquitoes and rained on (a lot!) and having many close and memorable encounters with wildlife. There was data to be written up each day in the evening and the odd report to do but it was all about preparing for the next field day and what other surprises the morning would bring. From the Yukon, I had a number of consulting stints across northern Canada and the Arctic going to places that few had been before and trodding across ground that I knew in about a year or two would end up being a new giant mine or oil and gas development. Getting that field savvy when young (as I said being in the trenches) is so important to an environmental scientist. Nowadays young professionals graduate from school without any field experience, although well versed in computer skills, mapping and modeling, yet without these skills and understanding of where data from the field ends up and how it is to be used, it is difficult to see how you can be an effective manager of environmental projects. No matter what, try to get field experience as soon as you graduate, because it you think you will get it later, it will never be. Much later in life you will always remember those field days and never thoset that you spent in the office. For it is only from the field that you will ever become an environmental specialist.....

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