Analyzing the world around us from every angle and perspective is key to recognizing it’s full potential. We need to project it’s truths and process the day to day interactions that turn seeming coincidences into a statistical model or a landscape to a new red, green and blue classification from a different perspective. This is why I love geographic information systems, remote sensing, geomorphology and generally everything about analyzing this wonderful rock beneath our feet and the physical laws, interactions and processes that it dictates.
It started in the Rockies. At 16 a trip to the west coast of Canada made me realize that I loved the outdoors and land formations and that I wanted to make it a permanent part of my life. So what? I didn’t really know what this meant. What should I do? How do you take an enjoyment of natural beauty, outdoor exploration and driving yourself to greater heights and turn into a career?
The history of the earth.
The processes that make the world go round.
This seemed like a good place to start. This led me to the University of Waterloo where I studied for 5 years for a BSc in Earth Sciences with a specialization in Geology. During this degree co-operative education was a beautiful and enlightening thing that led me into the arms of environmental and geophysical consulting, environmental monitoring and observation, and for a summer, tree planting. During this time I completed many courses in rock identification, geochemistry, mineral deposits, geophysics, geologic structures, quaternary geology and sedimentology as well as paleontology, rock mechanics and hydrogeology.
My co-op experiences took me to new places, taught me about real world application and taught me to adapt to many different environments. I worked all over Canada from the busy streets of Toronto to the rugged snow covered mountains of Northern British Columbia.
I loved it.
My degree taught me more about the world around me and how it formed while my optional courses were filled up with anthropology and languageswhile I learned about how humans developed on an ever evolving planet. And then a dark day came.
What next? Do I work in the environmental field, do I get a job travelling the globe in geophysics or do I try to get a job in the north working at a camp in geology. But, like most new grads after the 2008 crash the only real question was which field CAN I get a job in. The search began.
Although I started out working in sheet metal roofing for my fathers company I soon landed a gig doing an exploration mapping project thanks to networking and my life long skills on a four wheeler. This was great. I got to spend every day out hiking, looking at aerial photography and playing with grid paper and GIS software. How could things get better?
Long term employment.
Summer fun is great and all but at 23 it was time I find something more consistent and responsible. Once again through mutual contacts and networking I got a job working in Thunder Bay for a Mining and Exploration Company. My job description broadened. Suddenly I got to plan sampling programs, site drills, mark out trenches, log core and look for 3d correlations. I got my first exposure to using databases, doing site history research, supervising contractors and working 21 and 10 shift work. I had worked on a mine site before doing environmental sampling in the mountains in Northern BC so this wasn’t new to me. Independent field work was not new to me as I was used to running solo sampling projects and doing solo site visits. What WAS new was drill core. It’s amazing the amount of core a decent rig with a decent driller can pull out of the ground in a day and the amount of water they can use. This meant that my schedule and that of my co-workers was highly regulated by circumstance.
This didn’t change.
When I moved into my next roll as an exploration geologist with an advanced exploration project a few hours east of Thunder Bay I spent my first year snowshoeing, quadding, mapping, logging and generally working ungodly hours. It was great. Work hard and play hard. Over the next 4 years this gradually changed into a job description that included health and safety meetings, field planning, scheduling, budgeting, contractor supervision and a metric ton of GIS work. From ore modelling and drillhole planning to map production for presentations and assessment work, the job shifted to a more computer based role. It wasn’t really until then that I discovered something new about myself.
I love geographic information systems.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love rocks and groundwater and mineral deposits, even geochemistry and structure, but really what’s the point if you can’t query the data, analyze it efficiently and present it in a stunning and convincing manner?
So in a suffering market I left the work force and went to the Centre of Geographic Sciences in Nova Scotia. I spent the first term learning more about ArcGIS, AGOL, basic remote sensing techniques, geodesy, geoprocessing, databases and programming. I had moved to an unfurnished house so I spent much of my free time in the first term building a houseful of pallet furniture. It worked out great but was overwhelmingly time consuming.
With that project complete, school started getting hectic as we moved into the middle/end of the term. Eventually I moved into second term where I decided to focus on remote sensing. This meant taking courses in advanced digital imagery, remote sensing systems and LiDAR. I also decided to do a 5 month term project with the Applied Geomatics Research Group on coastline erosion and how it relates to geologic influences. This project will go until mid June when I graduate.
What should I do next? (I’m taking suggestions)
The next step is figuring out what the new job landscape is and finding something that suits my unique skill set and personality. It’s exciting not knowing for sure where it will take me. The world is full of opportunities after all.