I knew I wanted to be a biologist in grade three. I have always enjoyed interacting with wildlife. There were two people who gave me a good direction towards my career in the environmental field. The first was a biologist who sponsored me in a Junior Conservationist Program during the summer when I was attending high school. The second was the government contractor I worked for during my summers as a university student. I also did volunteer fieldwork and was able to learn current information by talking to project leaders. These experiences led me into a consulting position as an environmental biologist.
After I completed my Master of Science degree I started working for Environment Canada. Government, universities and some of the larger environmental consulting firms hire wildlife biologists. Many of these positions are in Canadian cities but a few are in remote locations. I write scientific papers on my own time and these combine with my fifteen years of experience in wildlife biology to establish my credibility in the field. While some of the efforts of my colleagues in larger urban centers are reactive and involve correcting previous problems I am fortunate to be able to work proactively as my knowledge of the Canadian Arctic increases. Being a member of The American Orthinologists Union, The Wildlife Society, The Arctic Institute of North America, Ottawa Field-Naturalists, Ottawa Duck Club, and Ducks Unlimited Canada provides me with opportunities to network with other professionals and read a variety of publications.
I attend conferences, scan on-line journals and act as a scientific referee to review papers. I have taken courses in environmental assessment, stormwater management, media training, first aid, hazardous materials and rock climbing. My daily interaction with other environmental workers also enhances my current knowledge. I expect increases in employment opportunities related to endangered species and environmental assessment. Consulting positions will become available as demand increases for solutions in these areas. I hope to remain in the arctic and develop an adjunct status with a Canadian university. This would allow me to address research questions in the field with the help of university summer students. The arctic is a place where your efforts in the environmental field can have a very positive impact.
Although I knew in grade three what I wanted to do I didn’t know until later in high school how to go about doing it. Experience is key. Try to find out who’s doing what in the environmental sector. Get involved by volunteering and talking to people. Promote yourself and remember that experience counts as much as education. There are more environmental jobs now than ever before but don’t pass up a job that you think may be below you. To get judged on your record you need lots of diverse experience. Establish yourself by doing fieldwork, writing and publishing scientific papers. I officially work thirty-seven and one-half hours per week but often add fifteen to twenty hours of unregistered overtime. During the field season, work is seven days a week, twelve or more hours per day. I enjoy travelling to remote places where few people go.
I spend most of my time in my office when the field season ends. Financial accounting, updating of budgets, preparation of proposals, report writing and data analyses are common activities. There is great satisfaction in seeing a project through from beginning to end. I have almost completed the work of establishing a new National Wildlife Area in Canada’s Arctic. I also contribute by visiting schools and educating the kids about environmental issues. I plan on writing a book or career guide at some point in the future to provide assistance to others who want to get into wildlife biology.