Fiera’s Co-op Student Program: A challenging and Rewarding Summer

By Taylor Lowe, Masters in Environmental Management Candidate, Western University, and 2018 Co-op Student & Intermediate Biologist, Fiera Biological Consulting

During the summer of 2018 I completed a co-op term with Fiera Biological Consulting, to complete my Master’s in Environment and Sustainability at Western University. The summer provided a one-of-a-kind opportunity to understand the inner workings of Fiera Biological’s multi-disciplinary team while contributing to a variety of projects. By working directly with the principals, Shari Clare and Joseph Litke, I was able to gain an understanding of the consulting process, environmental legislation, wetland assessments, and various types of reporting. With mentorship from colleagues adept in a wide range of disciplines, including wildlife ecology, wetland ecology, environmental policy, conservation planning, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, machine learning, and glaciology,  I was able to gain confidence in assisting with aspects of projects that I did not know I had the skills to complete.

Soils, wetlands, wetland delineation, wetland assessment, ABWRET, ABWRET-A, ABWRET-D, wetland ecology, wetland conservation, public lands, historical air-photo review
During the first few weeks of Fiera’s Co-op Student Program I learned to identify indicators of soils formed by wetland processes.
Wetlands, research, research and development, protocols, standards, monitoring, conservation planning, environmentally significant areas, riparian assessment, remote sensing
Alberta takes its wetland conservation pretty seriously, with detailed standard protocols, historical imagery assessments, soil and vegetation indicators, and valuation reports. Wetland assessment and conservation research & management are a big part of what Fiera does, and so it has also been a big part of what I’ve been doing!

With the firm’s wide variety of skills, comes a wide variety of projects as well as research & development that Fiera Biological completes, so there was always a new challenge to overcome or project to plan for.

Riley, Draganflyer X4-P UAV, Drone, and sensor, conducting wetland research. Fiera Biological Consulting
I was able to work with Fiera’s UAV on a wetland research project that Fiera has initiated.

Understanding the project management system and communication pathways used to update the team about the status of projects gave me an appreciation for the strong organizational skills required to keep schedules on track.

QAQC, quality control, quality assurance, high quality work, high quality service, check-lists, check-list manifesto
Managing data and complex projects is super important, and I leaned to use the arsenal of Quality Assurance processes, check-lists and file structures that Fiera uses to ensure high-quality work.

This  private consulting process is unique in the diversity of opportunities that present themselves, and I was able to assist in many different aspects. Although many new tasks initially seemed daunting, I was able to find answers to my questions along the way.

Weekly meetings to determine and update my learning outcomes for this co-op term ensured that my work was contributing to Fiera’s ongoing projects while also advancing my knowledge. Additionally, weekly goal setting presented an opportunity to align my learning outcomes with ongoing projects. Fiera’s small size contributed to an open working environment where everyone was enthusiastic about providing advice or assistance when needed. It also allowed the entire team to meet weekly to provide updates on each project, and to discuss any pending issues or schedule any required project-specific meetings.

My experience with Fiera Biological exceeded my expectations in gaining experience in the private consulting sector while contributing to active projects.

WAIR, wetlands, delineations, value and function, alberta wetland protocol, alberta wetland policy, ABWRET,
Co-op students at Fiera get lots of great experience writing technical reports!

I was unsure about moving to Edmonton, but it was definitely worth it to gain the valuable experience that working with Fiera has offered. Last summer was the second year that Fiera has participated in a Masters level co-op student program, and all indications are that they will renew the program next year. If you are looking for some great work experience, with nice people doing important work, I highly recommend a co-op student term at Fiera.