Over the winter semester of my fourth and final year of my undergraduate degree I was able to complete an internship for FRi Ecological Services for a class credit. This internship ran once a week and consisted of working with the staff, completing biweekly reports and creating a culminating presentation for my professors, peers and the staff at FRi.
On my very first day the staff members at the office made me feel extremely welcome and I instantly connected with all of them. I spent most of my time with Rod over the course of my internship and I learned so much from him. On numerous occasions we visited various projects that were out of town so I had extended periods of time in the truck to learn about the industry. I had a limited amount of knowledge about environmental consulting and this travel time allowed Rod to be able to explain various environmental legislations, field work operations and client relationships with me. Being able to have an informative conversation before we reached the project site allowed me to get the most out of my time on site.
Though it was winter, there were still many field work opportunities that arose over the semester that provided me with various skills that I did not have before. FRi uses a GIS Collector app on a tablet in order to obtain field data more precisely. I was able to significantly develop my GIS skills throughout my time here by making maps in the office and using the tablet in order to collect data on various site characteristics. For many projects, we also had to go out and do Ecological Land Classification (ELC) work which required winter tree identification. I was able to learn how to better identify trees in the leaf-off seasons based on many of their characteristic features. I also learned that doing ELC is the most important step in assessing a property because it then allows you to sort which habitat features may be present. For one project in particular we had to go out and use glass prisms in order to determine tree density within Whip-poor-will habitat. I had previously used a prism in my forestry classes at Nipissing University so this was a great way to apply what I had learned to a real-life situation.
Another great experience that I had was the opportunity to complete the Species at Risk training for Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will while in Sudbury. Though I knew a little about the identification of these species, this training gave me in depth knowledge on their habitat, their behaviour and how to capture and release if needed. My time spent in the office with Richard and Rebecca also provided me with knowledge of fisheries related activities and projects as well as database management for sorting through habitat features.
Overall, I believe that the internship class provided through the university is an exceptional way to learn about various industries and be able to incorporate the skills that you learn in school into practical applications in the workforce. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have this internship at FRi as it has guided me towards a path that I would like to pursue in the future. My time at FRi has forever changed my way of thinking as well as my career path. I have found the perfect balance of biology, my love for animals and the environment, and human interaction with environmental consulting. This internship has allowed me to gain the experience that I need in order to get a job within the field when I am done school.
This internship was the single most influential opportunity that I received in university. Though it maybe did not provide me with the same amount of theoretical knowledge that some classes do, they provided me with a completely different skills set: the ability to communicate with others in a work environment, the ability to apply my skills in a practical setting and the ability to feel like you are doing something that makes a difference (something that someone in a long university program would very much appreciate). The point of university is to provide students an education to obtain a future job, however if you ask any student they will tell you that university was about so much more than that. I would argue that the most important part of university is not the technical skills and knowledge that you learn, but rather being able to find yourself as a person. This internship at FRi Ecological Services has allowed me to find myself, be comfortable with myself, and believe in myself in more ways than one and I am deeply grateful for that opportunity.