Environmental Monitoring Technician

Environmental monitoring technicians observe the environment and the impacts of human and industrial activities. There are two areas of specialization for environmental monitoring technicians: regulatory and research. Regulatory monitors are responsible for monitoring the activities of the industry to ensure project terms and conditions are met, whereas research monitors assist technicians and technologists in monitoring factors of the environment, for example, wildlife counts, surveys, or sampling. Environmental monitoring technicians communicate valuable information to stakeholders to work toward mitigating negative environmental impacts.

At a Glance

Imagine you are standing on the land your family has called home for many generations, where they have hunted, fished, and lived off the land. You are an environmental monitoring technician for a private company that has been contracted to build a landfill for the local Aboriginal community.

As a member of this community, you have a vested interest in the landfill project and want to ensure all environmental regulations are followed. As an employee of the construction company, you will be closely involved in the project in a position where you can address your community’s concerns. As an environmental monitoring technician, you are responsible for observing industry activities to ensure compliance with land-use and other environmental impact agreements.

Before construction on the landfill can begin, the company must conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to identify strategies to minimize and mitigate the potential effects of the landfill on the environment. You will work with the company’s environmental team to collect baseline data on the area, including soil and water samples. You will also make certain special consideration is given to the possible impacts of construction on traditional land-use areas and ecological species.

Once approval is given and the company is ready to begin construction, you will be responsible for monitoring how the company clears the land. For example, you’ll ensure that it follows regulations for the removal and storage of topsoil and sub-surface materials, stays within authorized zones, and avoids sensitive areas.

During construction, you will also observe the site to make sure necessary permits are posted, waste is disposed of appropriately, and fuel and other hazardous materials are handled properly. Until the landfill is complete, you will monitor the activities and environmental impact of the project and report any issues to the appropriate person, whether it is the company, the regulatory agency, or the community.

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an environmental monitoring technician:

  • Collect samples, for example, air, water, and soil samples.
  • Record data and observations in an accurate and well-organized manner.
  • Assist in the operation and maintenance of equipment, including laboratory, field, and monitoring equipment.
  • Identify and locate landscape resources.
  • Read maps and navigate variable terrain, including operating vehicles.
  • Prepare technical reports detailing monitoring activities.
  • Communicate effectively with project team members.
  • Prepare for jobs, including attending daily meetings to discuss upcoming jobs.
  • Review Job Environmental Analysis (JEA) reports that detail project-specific environmental issues.

Work Environment

Environmental monitoring technicians work in a variety of locations, including:

In the office:

  • Doing paperwork and entering and analyzing data for reporting
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field

In the field:

  • Inspecting sites and recording data and observations
  • Taking photographs of sites and construction projects
  • Operating and maintaining equipment
  • Collecting samples and specimens

Where to Work

There are a number of places environmental monitoring technicians can find employment. They include:

  • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Firms in other industries, for example, oil and gas, mining, and forestry
  • Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations

Education and Skills

If you are a high school student considering a career as an environmental monitoring technician, you should have strong marks or an interest in:

  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Geography
  • Chemistry
  • English

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as an environmental monitoring technician is a high school diploma. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an environmental monitoring technician, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Environmental Technology
  • Environmental Science
  • Toxicology
  • Ecology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry

It is not mandatory to be certified in order to work as an environmental monitoring technician.

Role Models

Carol Mills

I think my career choice was related to constantly being outdoors as a child. I grew up with a strong regard for the health of our environment. I learned early in life how to treat the land with respect. I started university planning on studying medicine and then switched to environmental biochemistry. I recognized that there are not enough Aboriginal people who studied or remediated environmental contaminants.

The switch wasn’t instant. I took time off from university a couple of times and traveled. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Honours, in Biochemistry. I have been working in the environmental field for 14 years: ever since I graduated from university. I update my skills annually by taking short courses such as risk assessment, toxicology, and dispute resolution. I want to continue to develop other scientific skills and apply them to living on the land and using our resources wisely.

Environmental monitoring is a job that combines western science and traditional knowledge so well. In many cases, traditional ecological knowledge has provided a more affordable and better method for studying environmental contaminants than western science studies has. Aboriginal youth are in a great position to bridge knowledge between Elders and scientists. Historically, these two groups did not work well together.

As Aboriginal people working in Aboriginal communities, we are able to hear the people’s concerns. People will talk to us, because they trust us. We can help to establish trust between the groups. Once these groups trust each other, they can communicate what they need. Then, scientists can more effectively design programs to collect data, and to answer the Elder’s questions.

Your Impact

Occupational Classification

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