Environmental

Keeping it Green

As luck would have it, I started my new job on Day of Geography (DOG) to kick off Geography Awareness Week!

meMy name is Ashley. I have made a few posts here for DOG, and today I returned to the Regional Municipality of Niagara to start my new position as the Engagement & Education Coordinator for Waste Management Services. In this role I will be responsible for developing and managing public outreach programs including promotional/educational material development, coordinating presentations, and implementing strategic communication strategies for waste management.

With schooling in geography and education and a passion for the environment, I am excited for the days ahead.

Friday I said farewell to my previous position working for a wonderful company that is also in the field of waste management and technology. ReCollect is a software company that specializes in digital solutions to help improve waste diversion, communications, and engagement with residents. I was part of the Customer Success team assisting clients (municipalities and haulers) in fully utilizing their digital products, while acting as trusted advisor for personalizing their tools to reach their goals. With customers in both the United States and Canada, it is fascinating to see the differences in solid waste programs and helping communicate these programs to their residents.

To those Geo-professionals out there who have not yet found their area of specialty, I would say to you it may be in the last place you expect. After completing my post-graduate certificate in GIS, I was granted with a few opportunities as a recent graduate, and one of those happened to be with the Niagara Region as a Waste Management Intern.

It is hard to explain to others how I fell in love with garbage, recycling and all things perceived as icky, but when you are educating others about something that is so important and necessary for the environment, it is a great feeling. I am fortunate enough to focus on what I am truly passionate about, promoting environmental education and engagement through Waste Management.

Keep it green!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Ontario Oil, Gas & Salt Resources Library

The Ontario Oil, Gas & Salt Resources (OGSR) Library is a not-for-profit organization that provides prospectors, drillers, consultants, the general public, and numerous other interested parties with information related to Ontario’s petroleum industry.

Currently, the Library is staffed by three employees: one Manager, one Data/Operations Administrator, and one Geographic Information Systems Technician (myself). During the summer, we usually employ 1-2 students: one with a Geology background and/or one with a GIS background. At any given time, we tend to be working on a few special projects that sometimes require additional staff hired on contract as needed. The office of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s (MNRF) Geologist is also located in our building. The main MNRF building is conveniently located a few steps away from the Library, which is quite useful considering the inter-connectivity of our operations.

In Ontario, there are over 26,000 known petroleum wells. In 2007, Wells Cards containing general information about every single one of these wells became available to the public online through our website. To date, there are 26, 705 Well Cards available for public viewing online…click this link for a sample well card.  In early 2012, a project began to scan all 26,000 + of our physical well files. Each well file is a folder containing Well Licences, location maps, licence applications, and various other paperwork that is relevant to a well’s history. As well files were scanned, they became available online to paying members, and in April of 2015, the project was completed. To date, well files consist of over 500,000 images and in 2014, our members viewed over 14,000 of these images! This barely scratches the surface in terms of what is available online, however, as you can see that there is a lot more additional information that can be accessed from the well cards page (most of this information being reserved for paying members). Ultimately, the accessibility of this data has reduced the need for the public and members to phone/e-mail us to request information, and there is even less of a need for people to physically be in the library to access our data. In 2014, 150,000 well cards were accessed online by members alone. This, of course, gives us more time to work on other projects and allows members to retrieve data more efficiently, but we always enjoy visitors to the library as some days it can get pretty quiet!

logsGeophysical logs (above) comprise some of the data that is reserved for paying members and are an on-going project to keep up to date. Geophysical logs vary in what they represent, but basically they contain some sort of measurement (such as gamma ray or neutron density) that provides useful information to operators and prospectors. Various instruments are lowered into a well borehole that gather data which is then represented visually on a log. These logs are then sent to us at the library and we scan them and add them to our database. In 2014, our members viewed over 10,000 logs online! Currently, we are in the process of catching up with our backlog (no pun intended) of logs by scanning a certain number of logs each week. We are on track to be caught up in a few months, and from there we will scan logs as they accumulate. Roughly 100 new logs are generated each year, and all of these can be scanned in 2-3 days of continuous scanning.

Sample Tray

Sample Chip VialsAside from updating and maintaining well data, the OGSR Library also stores and maintains drill core and sample chips from wells drilled all over Ontario. Drill core is a circular core that has been cut in half lengthwise and placed in boxes; this is what comes out of the ground when a hole is drilled for a well…a picture of drill core can be seen below in the section discussing our Core Photography project. Sample chips are ground up core that comes out of the ground also during the drilling of a hole for a well; operators must gather these samples at least every 3 or 6 meters depending on the type of well. The operator will place these samples in bags labeled with the depth at which they were sampled, deliver them to us, at which point they are washed and placed vials (image to the right). In our 3,600 square foot warehouse, there are over 1,100 drill cores from 1,000 different wells contained in over 100,000 boxes, and there are sample chips from over 10,800 different wells that are stored on over 12,000 trays (image above) inside over 1,000,000 vials! In the image below, you can see all of the boxes that contain the drill core. The grey cabinets under the boxes store the sample trays and vials.

OGSR Library Warehouse

Much of the spatial data that we manage can be found in our PxTools, a file compatible with Google Earth. The file can be downloaded by clicking here. Simply download the file, make sure you have Google Earth (or GE Pro) installed on your computer, double click the downloaded .kmz file, and you will be able to see 35 different layers such as petroleum wells, petroleum pools, and historic scanned and georeferenced maps! We regularly update some of the layers found in PxTools and add new data as it becomes available.

One major project occurring at the OGSR Library on a yearly basis pertains to Production Records for active wells in Ontario; our Data/Operations Administrator carries out most of the tasks involved in this project. Operators are required to submit information about their production, for example how many cubic meters were produced in a given year, to the library annually. We receive roughly 2,000 forms at the beginning of each year, and we plan to have all of them scanned and digitized by the end of June. These scans then get uploaded to our website for members to view, and this is another data set that is frequently utilized; in 2014, 12,000 production records were reviewed by our members.

Yet another project that will always be ongoing is our core photography project. Many clients, members, prospectors, etc. find it useful to view the drill cores that we store in our warehouse. Before our core photography project began, the only way to accomplish this was to physically be at the OGSR Library. Now, upon request, we can photograph drill core and provide it to clients for a fee per box that is photographed. To date, over 2,000 core boxes have been photographed; currently, we can photograph a maximum of roughly 40 core boxes per day. The equipment for this project was generously donated by Charlie Fairbank, who owns and maintains historic oil lands in Oil Springs, Ontario, where much of Canada’s and the world’s first commercial oil production began in 1858. Each core box is photographed three times: once under UV light, once under normal lighting, and once under normal lighting after wetting the core. In the image below, you can see an example of the three different types of photos that are taken for each core box. The bottom (purplish) portion of each core section is the UV photo; this type of light causes certain features of the core to fluoresce, features that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The middle portion of each core section is the wet photo, and the top portion is the dry photo.

Core Photography Project

As the GIS Technician, I am responsible for updating our annual “Oil & Gas Pools & Pipelines of Southern Ontario” map. Each year, I make edits to the petroleum pools layer (which can be viewed in PxTools) based on newly drilled wells and new information that has been made available. Some of the boundaries that still exist in the layer today were derived from geological studies that occurred many years ago. The Pools and Pipelines map is accompanied by tabular data showing Cumulative and Annual Oil/Gas production by pool. The data come from the Production Records project mentioned previously.

From time to time, clients will request maps for projects they are working on, so usually when this happens the client request becomes my priority. We deliver high quality maps to clients digitally for the most part, but sometimes hard copies are needed so we will print them using our in-house plotter. We also create map books for some of our clients that require regular updates to spatial and attribute data.

As I’m sure you can tell, a lot of our work involves keeping our data up to date. This is very important to the petroleum industry in Ontario because our data helps drillers, prospectors, consultants, etc. make informed decisions…this is a perfect example of the infamous ‘GIGO’ acronym (good [data] in, good [data] out).

Every now and then we also like to go on fields trips and learn about the geography that is happening in the real world. During our most recent field trip, we visited Sulphur Springs Conservation Area in Hanover, Ontario. We took a few interesting underwater video’s that can be viewed by clicking here…check out the video’s description to learn more!

Hopefully this post has provided some insights into what we do here at the OGSR Library. It’s such an interesting place, yet many people do not even know it exists. If anyone is ever in the London area, we would be more than happy to give you or your group a tour! Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have and be sure to check out our website at www.ogsrlibrary.com. You can even receive a free seven day membership to explore the data that we have available – just visit www.ogsrlibrary.com/free to create your account!

Rethink Your Waste…

Hello, my name is Ashley, and I am currently on contract with the Niagara Region (sadly, only for a few more weeks) as a Waste Management Intern. Waste management refers to the prevention, monitoring, handling and treatment of various types of municipal waste. The Niagara Region provides weekly curbside collection to low density residential, multi-residential and industrial, commercial and institutional sectors to increase the diversion rate of Blue/Grey Box and Green Bin materials to extend the use of existing landfills and reduce their effect on the environment.

Me dressed as Phil for the Bridges for Autism event before taking the ice.

Dressed as Phil for the Bridges for Autism event before taking the ice.

I work in a team with interns, carrying out various tasks and organizing and maintaining waste management outreach efforts provided by the Region including but not limited to:

  • Outreach (presentations and events)
  • Multi-residential recycling
  • Special Events Recycling
  • Waste/Recycling audits

Although I contribute to all aspects, I am the lead on outreach–booking and organizing presentations to schools, community groups, summer camps and organizations to deliver our waste diversion message. It is great to get out into the community with hopes of inspiring a healthier environment for the future, built on the connections that youth and citizens make with their environment to make informed waste management choices. Depending on the presentation we bring along our friends; Benji the Blue Box, Greycie the Grey Box and Phil the Green Bin! And yes, it is just as fun as you think it is to wear these mascot costumes!

All these coffee cups are not recyclable in Niagara and will end up in our landfills

Five days worth of coffee cups that are not recyclable in Niagara and will end up in our landfills

Today, our intern team completed a week long office building waste audit under O. Reg. 102/94: Waste Audits And Waste Reduction Work Plans. This is exactly what it sounds like, opening up garbage and recycling bags collected by custodial staff and sorting through the material to see how well folks are diverting their waste. Not glamorous, but important and informative.

Aside from office building audits, we also complete audits at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF), Niagara Falls Downtown Business Areas, and residential curbside Green Bin audits in promotion of the Green Bin campaign.  Information collected during these audits is essential in influencing the type of promotion and outreach as well as achieving optimal performance at the MRF.

Our team of interns are the face of the Waste Management Department. We are out in the community promoting best practices in waste diversion! My teaching degree has made this position an easy transition, but it is my background in Geography and GIS that leaves me wanting to explore this environmental field in more depth!

Stay Green, Ashley

My Spatial Career

My Geography Degree was the best thing that ever happened to me on all scales of my life (no pun intended…well maybe a little). I have worked (and yes I mean was paid) in the realms of Economic Development & Tourism, Heritage Planning, Development Compliance, Urban Planning, Geographic Information Systems & Asset Management – IT….yes I said ‘IT’ and now Engineering….what!

Yes my spatial career has been just that – all over the place overlapping multiple disciplines! There is so much I have done and so much I can do! Geographers can understand processes, data, mapping, SPACE! And with that comes many many many many disciplines! I have held many titles throughout my life (Technology Analyst, Urban Planner, Tourist Ambassador, Technician) although they may not all sound geographical they all have been because of Geography! I have been blessed with meeting people all over the world! issued permits for new land uses and buildings! Built spatial databases! Created and manipulated data to create awesome Maps!

On this Day of Geography I am an Infrastructure and Environmental Technologist with Municipal Works at the City of Niagara Falls. I work primarily with Infrastructure and Asset Management. I map out our municipal infrastructure – sanitary, storm, water, roads etc and attach attribute information to these assets! I get to take care of the infrastructure that supports our daily lives! Nothing beats the knowledge of the space around you! Thanks for reading!

Tree Inventory Intern

me

With a love for nature, erectile geography and the world around us, I graduated from Brock University with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and a Bachelor of Education with a Basic Qualification in Junior/Intermediate divisions with a teachable in Geography. This past fall, I returned to academia and earned a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems/Geospatial Management from Niagara College, and shortly after acquired a temporary internship with the City of Welland. (more…)

How I Became a Geographer

To tell the story about how I became a geographer and what I do every day today, I feel the need to first explain how I first came to the subject, and what geography means to me.

I actually came to geography by chance. Following high school, I was trained as a chemist for a couple of years. At the age of 20 when came the time for me to specialize further, I wanted two things: I wanted to work in biochemistry and I wanted to do research. However, at the time I thought that my grades were not high enough to follow this career path, and so instead I decided a complete change of field entering a geographic science school. I thought that maps were cool, so why not learn how to make them? (more…)

Student: Brock University

Before I begin discussing my day, I’d like to describe my educational background. In 2011 I began my first year of study as a Human Geography student at Brock University. I attended Niagara College last year as part of a joint program between Brock and Niagara College and earned a post-graduate certificate in GIS-Geospatial Management. This was a great decision because I gained a lot of hands on experience working with GIS software and learning about the many applications that are involved with GIS. Plus, I will end up with a Bachelors Degree and a Post-Graduate Certificate after four years as opposed to five. While at Niagara College, I discovered that GIS presents a wide variety of employment opportunities and that I enjoyed the field very much. As a result, I found my career path for when I finish my studies at Brock this coming April. (more…)

A day in the life of a geographer who is just doing what she does…

A day in the life of a geographer who is just doing what she does…

Today’s schedule is much like any other for me these days – changing, case uncertain, medical and never replicated. My official title includes “Adjunct Faculty” for the Faculty of Environment, viagra University of Waterloo – that means I am on contract to teach a variety of courses, but I am not limited to that.
In the last few years I have taught everything from Fluvial Geomorphology (how rivers work and what role we play in that), to Tourism Management, to Introductory Human Geography, to Environmental Literature, to Conservation and Parks Management (which is the course I am currently teaching). I guess at this point in my career (I graduated with a PhD from UWaterloo just a couple of years ago), I am still plugging away at really creating my own niche in geographic education (hence the diverse course offerings!) – but it certainly takes a long while and I am committed to the journey.
In addition to teaching, I was also recently appointed as the Field Course Developer for the Faculty. I believe that students need the opportunity to go outside and into the field in order to truly engage with the material taught in the classroom. I work with various professors across the faculty to assess current course offerings and look for ways to integrate additional applied experiences; students don’t necessarily need to go to exotic locations in order to learn about the world – often the very best lessons are learned in our own backyards. My motivation for this whole shift in education stems from my own experiences as a student. In my third year of my undergrad, I was quite bored with my education. I chose courses that were interesting, did co-op work terms in great locations, and yet something was missing. I found the solution in a field course in the States, where I spent two months retracing the route of Lewis and Clark across Montana via paddle and foot – and got university credits for the work that I did while out there. I returned with a renewed interest in what I was doing, and most importantly, why it all connected to not only me but to the larger landscape as well. And so today? I am hoping to facilitate similar experiences for undergraduates in the Faculty of Environment. I am working on two proposals for new field courses for this summer – one in an urban national park and a second in an old growth forest in northern Ontario. I don’t know what the end products might be – whether students end up creating environmental interpretation literature, writing advocacy letters to decision-makers, or collaborating on GIS work – but what is important to me is that these students make their education matter. And that perhaps it provokes some significant conversations. In a not-so-distant past life I was a wilderness guide and my heart still sings when I am out there. By bringing my own students out there, I am hoping to inspire a whole new group of folks to see the world in a slightly new light.
Seeing the world differently is important for not only my own students, but those who will follow. Today I am also taking three of my geography undergraduate students into a local high school to talk with grade elevens and twelves about “this whole geography thing”. I am excited to sit on the sidelines, so to speak, and just let my own students explain why this is such an important and exciting field to be getting into. I know that realistically not every student I teach will become a geographer with a capital “G”, but I hope that whether students become planners, teachers, parents, economists, lawyers, or farmers, they continue to do good work connecting people to places and advocating for the causes they believe in. And that they never forget to pause and look at the beautiful world that we all live in.
And, lastly, I am packing. Tomorrow I head to Ottawa for the Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s Annual General Meeting and Fellows Dinner. This year I am being inducted as a Fellow for the Society. For me, this is a big deal. Not only is it a lifetime appointment, but it also adds a significant amount of obligation and yes, perhaps even some pressure to keep up with them all. I feel that I am part of the next generation of educators – a generation that must continue to share Canada with Canadians and also with the world. Through my days, I continue to find great moments of inspiration and opportunity. There is lots to be done in this realm and I am pleased to be playing a small role. Teaching geography is not an occupation, it is a way of being, an approach to life and livelihood that requires open eyes, the willingness to engage with others who may not see the world quite like me, and the constant and conscious decision to keep pushing forward, no matter what barrier may initially appear to be there.
And so I sign off, and head back into the world. I’ll see you out there – be it on the trail, in the city, or somewhere in between…
Be well,
~ Amanda Hooykaas, PhD, FRCGS
Email: alhooykaas@uwaterloo.ca
Website: amandahooykaas.com

 

The day and life of a GIS/Data Management Specialist at MMM Group Limited

MMM Group Limited (www.mmmgrouplimited.com) is an Canadian employee owned engineering consulting firm servicing our clients in the Transportation, order Environmental, Civil, Geomatics, Water Recourses, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Airports, Renewable Energy, and IT information systems sectors.  With over 60 years of professional consulting expertise, MMM Group is a leader in large scale P3 partnerships and providing quality engineering services to our clients. MMM’s moto “Enriching the Quality of Peoples lives” was adopted in 2013 as a reflection of what one of the main goals are for all of our projects.

On a day to day basis, I manage the Environmental Management departments Geospatial information and datasets and support field staff with information pre and post site visits.  Tasks range widely from plotting GPS coordinates of POIs, monitoring locations, to mapping out areas of environmental concerns. Types of projects that I am typically involved with include: Contamination Overview Studies, Groundwater Assessments, MOE Permits to Take Water, Hydrogeological Investigations, and Phase I/II/III Environmental Site Assessments.  Mainly my job involves a lot of data collection from any source that I can get information from, managing requests from Project/Department Managers, mentoring co-op students, and providing technical geospatial help and advice to project managers about where/how GIS can help the project.

Personally, I love that I am employed in the Geomatics sector.  Since high school, I have loved GIS and seeing the cool things you can do with technology and the power it has to help make informed decisions. I like how my position merges regular everyday information with spatial technology and seeing project manager’s eyes just light up once they see the final product and what they can do with it. As all geospatial professionals know, what’s GIS with data, and the more data we collect about our world the more we understand how it works/evolves (speaking from a Physical geography major).

Thanks to my good friend/fellow colleague Darren Platakis for coming up with this idea of sharing what we do in a day to younger Geomatics professionals.  I wish I had a resource like this too see what geospatial professional do on a daily basis when I was in school. I think it’s a fabulous idea, and I hope this day and website will have an impact on our future generation of professionals so they can see how cool the industry is and how they can have an impact on the world/community they live in!

Happy Geography Awareness Week Everyone!