Taking a Step back and Lessons Learned

There was a several challenges I experienced throughout the summer primarily due to my high ambition.

First, I didn’t take into consideration the amount of mental strain one could experience in terms of communicating and interacting with so many people every day. Given that I’ve had the opportunity to work on several projects with businesses in Camrose, I took advantage of that skill and really tapped into it and thought “yeah I can talk to 7 businesses a week”, “figure out our schedules” “drive to their locations” “conduct personal interviews that takes absolute active listening and understanding”.

It was rewarding in a sense that I am learning so much, feeling closer to community and tuning my abilities in management and connecting with people. But in turn, I felt like I was running around and constantly trying to be better learning too much. To make matters worse, I was experiencing the biggest writers block in my life. Given the format of this interview was straightforward, it was simply writing their answers and not producing a whole new article, my expectations were high and envisioned smoother results. Where I contact the business, do an interview, take pictures, write them, and post them. Instead, I found myself transcribing for hours and finishing up only a quarter of what I am supposed to do.

That definitely took a toll which led me to step back from any interviews from last month and concentrated on what I have. Also, thankfully I have great advisers, Clark and Jayla provided really good insights and guided me into accepting the different path I have envisioned and especially my supervisor who gave a lot of encouraging words throughout the days where I’d be in my office and lights are out cause I’m having a migraine from all the writing.

However, with all the difficulties I have experienced, I believe the work I have done achieved the initial results I imagined. I adapted and reminded myself harder the purpose of this project and the opportunity I have been given.

Therefore, I managed to do over 40 interviews and have received feedback from business owners that they have read the postings online and are glad to learn about their fellow business owners.

The social media reached about 5,500 views over the course of the 2 months that I was posting Meet the Member Monday.

Let’s Get Down to the Nitty-Gritty!

My project was achieved by creating Member Profiles and posting them on the Chamber’s website. The interview’s format takes after a Question-and-Answer dialogue pertaining to their story and the challenges the business owners have faced throughout their careers.

It also worked as a marketing tool for them to show off any type of services and products they would like to showcase, and the messages they would like the public to know. In addition, the member profiles worked as an information tool for Commerce, as one of the questions pertain to what benefits they value the most being a part of the organization.

But as you all know, it’s very hard to get information out there even with this digital age, so my supervisor and I devised concept of Meet the Member Monday to attract more people and have it easier access through social media.

For my project to come to fruition however, it took precise logistical planning. It started by sifting through the membership list of the organization, which encompassed around 150 members. We sorted through the ones that are solely involved with the insurance plan and the ones that are somewhat active with the other services the Chamber offers. We then narrowed them down and formed a list from different industries to categorize the business I would like to interview. I tried being diverse as much as I can to have a sample that is somewhat representative of what Drumheller’ business profile is, which left me with:

I also had to consider what kind of questions I am going to ask:  How does this help? What message am I trying to convey? Would it be easy enough for folks to read? What time are we posting this interview? What kind of social media website? What format do I want? Those were some details I had to pay attention to for a successful release of the member profiles. Here are some samples of the interviews I have made:

Adjusting To New Beginnings

Hi again! Before I detail the logistics of my project, I would like to describe my workplace. I believe its an important aspect of my internship and something that others might relate to if placed at a professional setting.

Although my project could be worked from home, the Chamber of Commerce has given me the opportunity to use one of their offices. My supervisor and I agreed that it would be challenging for me navigate my interactions with their members with their members/business owners with limited insider knowledge, therefore, would be beneficial to work where I can direct my questions in-person. That then started my 8-4 office life from Monday to Friday. I looked forward to this new environment as its a refreshing experience apart from the retail services I worked for before. I was responsible for answering the phones, connecting business inquiries to my supervisor and occasionally receiving packages for them.

The first two weeks however, the Chamber was hosting its annual awards event called Celebration of Excellence. It was an event in collaboration with the Rotary and the Town of Drumheller, awarding individuals/businesses of their outstanding work. This pushed my project for a little bit, as I helped organizing some logistics for the event and wrote descriptions for the nominees to be read at the ceremony. Nonetheless, it was fulfilling work as I was able to grasp the businesses Drumheller has and how they have built a community within their companies. It was great to read about their submissions and the practice that they’re applying to their own businesses. Also, to honor these individuals are quite exciting considering the amount of work that they do to treat their employees.

How was I adjusting to the office life?

At first, it was daunting especially understanding the work that I am doing, represents a bigger entity. However, my relationship with my supervisor help managed my concerns and challenges. She made point for me to read the organizations manual and comprehend the vision and the mission they stand for. That helped me align my own responsibilities and the weight of my position as an intern. It also helped that I have established some type of rapport with Chamber beforehand, as I worked previously in Travel Drumheller and the Visitor Information Centre, to which they also handle. But all things considered, there were some parts I was unsure of, such as interacting with other employees and maintaining professional relationships with them. I advise future students who are participating in this internship to be willing to push your boundaries and actively interact with the people in the organization. Dressing the part, asking questions and participating in team-building events contributes to the future you also imagine. They’re small investments of your time and energy but provide perfect opportunities to shape the course of your career.

Hi everybody!

Hi peeps! I apologize for the late introduction, but my name is Veronica Felisilda and I am excited to be a part of the Rural Pathways Program. I am 4th year student studying Economics and Global Development Studies and currently living in Drumheller.

This summer, I will be working with the Drumheller Chamber of Commerce, an organization focused on promoting a vibrant and diverse local business community. My overall focus is to integrate community members with local merchandisers and allow them to interact differently with other members. How I will achieve this is through interviewing Chamber members and asking about the background of their business and their experiences as owners. Then, I will be posting them on the Chamber’s website and their social media accounts as featured member profiles.

My interest in this project dates from my work with Travel Drumheller a couple of years back and my research for a Capstone course last semester. As Drumheller is known as the “Dinosaur Capital of the World,” our town is visited by thousands of tourists yearly. They come to see the Badlands and explore the area’s rich heritage. I was hired as a Travel Ambassador for two consecutive summers and acted as a travelling visitor information centre.

To be exact, I was designated in various high-traffic viewpoints in town to direct tourists to other areas. My purpose was to analyze the patterns tourists explore in the valley and lead them to different locations they might miss. What I have noticed is the lack of traffic in our downtown district and the hesitance of many to visit local businesses while in a small town. As a result, I started questioning why local businesses don’t appeal as much to vacationers. For this reason, when I had the chance to choose a topic to explore for my Capstone Course, I decided to examine the economic development of rural areas in Alberta. Given the population size and available resources, I learned that there is limited research in rural areas. However, economic development officers recognize that community members have difficulties communicating as a whole and establishing unity. Especially during the pandemic, when many business owners relied on each other’s traffic, there was still hesitation in collaborating with one another due to a lack of established relationships. For this reason, I am drawn to understanding the interests of various industries and how they could connect and find a commonality. I realize that there are factors that have yet to be explored beyond economic research, and an on-ground inquiry is a practical application to learn about this matter. Furthermore, it represents an intersection between community engagement, social aspects and business attitudes, allowing me to engage a diverse ray of interests.

Granted that I will be enquiring about the challenges and experiences of businesses, I hope to discover the different values that locals hold significant the most. Most importantly, the elements that drive their passion for establishing what a good business should be. With increasing market difficulties due to the pandemic, partnerships leverage diverse ideas and solutions for tough problems. I intend to encourage open communication and celebrate the stories of local owners by providing a platform where most can learn about each other.

The Consulting World

If you had asked me what consulting was at the beginning of the summer, I would have struggled to define it. Now I would tell you that consulting is a fast-paced work environment with great learning opportunities. With the wide variety of projects I have worked on, I now understand consulting as a business that values its professionals. WSP Golder submits proposals and bids on contracts, when they win them, professionals work with the client to create a method to reach the client’s goals. WSP Golder’s greatest assets are its employees and the skillsets they offer. Often consultants need to pivot and adapt to challenges that arise in the fieldwork. I appreciate the balance of creating a plan and then performing the practical work of applying that plan in the field, this provides learning on the inefficiencies and gaps. 

This past weekend I carpooled to Conklin with Paula Bentham, a wildlife biologist, to do some caribou habitat restoration planning. Woodland Caribou are an endangered species due to land use disrupting their habitat. The seismic lines used for resource exploration and tree clearing for industrial sites, well sites, and cut blocks are high-impact issues. Another cascading impact is climate change causing the range of deer to expand north with exploding population. With the increase in deer as a food source, wolf populations are also increasing which puts more pressure on the caribou. The caribou frequently walk along the seismic lines because it is easier to walk with no obstruction, however, this is detrimental because the wolves then have an advantage with visibility and mobility. To restore the habitat, we aim to create obstacles that discourage the Caribou from walking there and block the line of sight, as well as build the soil to regrow trees. The treatments used include: tree planting – to return it to a forest, tree felling – cutting some trees from beside the line and laying the logs across the lines to make it more difficult to walk down and this will also build the soil as the woody debris breaks down, mounding – which is a machine that makes little piles of soil to create a microsite to plant trees in bogs, this also discourages wildlife from walking there, screef – which exposes soil in upland areas to create a microsite for trees. We would also call ‘no treatment’ for lines that already had natural regeneration of trees.

Our crew flew in a helicopter over two large compartments using Avenza maps to follow our location, find the line and then mark what treatment should be prescribed on paper maps. Where the pilot could find a place to land, we would take ground plots to analyze the soil, vegetation community and height, and drainage to further inform our prescriptions. This work involves an irregular flight pattern and you’re always looking down which can cause a lot of people to get motion sickness, but my stomach handled it. Caribou habitat restoration is a relatively new science, with trial and error to find what works best. 

Visible seismic lines in a grid pattern. 
I enjoy the windy patterns of the rivers!
The natural regeneration of trees is visible in this line which is great, but there are still defined game trails meaning animals are walking along the lines. We would treat this with tree felling to discourage the game traffic, provide protection for the saplings, and build soil. We would possibly also prescribe some tree planting in areas with natural regen. 

A couple things I am looking forward to for the remainder of the summer are two youth camps where I will be facilitating learning sessions about outdoor skills and wildlife. I am also joining a vegetation specialist for a rare plant survey in an ecological assessment. This will be good for me because I have been teaching myself plant identification this summer, trying to learn one species per day. 

This summer placement began with setbacks and I was disappointed with the progress of the sewage sludge project. As the summer progressed, this position got better and better. My supervisor was considerate and understanding, offering me every opportunity she could find to get involved with different projects and gain a wide range of experience. I have learned that I am more invested in a research project if there is a practical work component to it.

Some Future Directions and Updates

           As we are closing in on the end date of my placement, there is still a lot of work that needs to be completed. My main focus over the past few weeks has been adding various content on the platforms I wish to present and experimenting with the online design tool Canva. Last week, I met up with the Town of Provost mayor, Peggy, and the CAO, David, as a mid-placement check-in. It was great conversing with them and they seem very passionate about water. It is funny because I made a brief itinerary for the meeting and budgeted roughly an hour for the meeting as they are both very busy individuals. Well, the meeting lasted roughly an hour and a half and we were all nerding out about water. Overall it was a great time and I gained valuable insight and some ideas for future directions for my project.

           One of the future directions for my project that I plan to explore in the upcoming month is how professional corporations and organizations problem solve and determine ways to rehabilitate contaminated ecosystems. There is a small trout pond that is having trouble maintaining a fish population. David and Peggy expressed interest in trying to make this pond suitable for fishing and recreation. I hope to contact some organizations such as Ducks Unlimited in the upcoming weeks and see what kind of insights they hold. Maybe I can initiate a relationship with the Town and the organization so that they can work together and create a nice recreation area for the community in the future. Another interesting piece of information that we talked about is that the local golf course uses lagoon or wastewater (treated) to water its grass. I thought that this was a very interesting and unique approach that the town and golf course utilize to conserve already treated water. Furthermore, this week I am meeting with the public work superintendent Keith Heintz about some ‘nitty gritty’ details. Keith and his coworkers are very passionate about water treatment and providing the community with a safe and sustainable reserve of water. I hope to give Keith and his co-workers some well-deserved recognition for the hard work they do for the community!

Figure 1. My ‘mock-up’ social media post on transpiration. This was made through the online tool, Canva. I hope to supplement this information with a brief description as follows. “It is a common misconception that most of the water plants take up is used for photosynthesis. In fact, most of the water is used for transpiration (water evaporating from the leaves). Transpiration is used for transporting nutrients, with the ‘vessels’ being the plants’ xylem and phloem. Xylem transports water and dissolved minerals, whereas phloem transports sugars and amino acids throughout the plant. Transpiration works because as water evaporates through the stoma of the leaf, cohesion and adhesion ‘pulls’ these nutrient-rich substances upward throughout the plant against gravity. A large tree oak tree can transpire upwards of ~151 000L of water per year! Learn more -> https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/evapotranspiration-and-water-cycle

Figure 2. Page one of my 2nd draft of the brochure. This creation was made through canva. There are still some ‘things’ that I am unhappy with such as it is very wordy and could use some more infographics. In particular, the middle page on drinking water advisories may be redundant and some of the information on point-of-use methods is repeated on the following page. I also hope to get ahold of a good camera to take higher quality photos. 
Figure 3. Page two of my 2nd draft of the brochure. This creation was made through Canva. I like this page more than page one. There are some things that could be improved. Once the website is more developed and has more content on it, I plan to add a QR code that will have supplementary information. The overall design and aesthetic could also be improved but is not a current priority. In addition, I would like to add some logos to the brochure and other various tweaks. Overall, much refining still needs to be completed. I hope to attach my final projects to an upcoming blog post!

As a portion of my project has been focusing on making a brochure that the Town can send in with their water bills, my cohort and I discussed using Canva as a tool. Before my meeting, I constructed the second draft of my brochure and brought the digital copy to the meeting. In addition, I made a few ‘mock-up’ social media posts as Peggy expressed interest in the Town having a stronger social media presence. I will share my draft creations through screenshots but there are still improvements that need to be done. For the social media posts, my goal is to make them easily read within 10-30 seconds, provide adequate information, and have eye-catching clipart. During my studies, we sometimes have to use certain machinery such as an IR spectrophotometer. As a young student who hasn’t used this machinery before, the University of Alberta lab technologists and professors have created a ‘how-to-use’ guide. I plan to create ~20 social media posts and a similar “how-to guide” so if the Town of Provost decides, they can purchase and utilize Canva to create social media posts and other things if they desire.

Thank you for reading, there is still a lot of work that needs to be completed, my goal is quality over quantity but if I stay focused and on track, hopefully, I will be able to get everything accomplished by the end of my placement!

From Biosolids as Fertilizer to Rural Economic Development

The fieldwork for my project about using sewage sludge as an agricultural amendment is about to begin now because the funding has just been approved. The plan was to apply the biosolids on the fields prior to seeding in the spring, however, the proposal approval came through too late. We may pivot and apply biosolids in midsummer and plant a crop that grows for a season and a half like Fall Rye. For the past month, I have compiled research on the existing literature around sewage sludge being used as fertilizer and assessing what the emerging contaminants of concern are. My goal is to write a literature review by the end of the summer summarizing this learning that incorporates an Indigenous knowledge lens to create something applicable for Louis Bull.

I have been involved in some other applicable projects WSP is part of. I am continuing to work with Louis Bull Tribe on their housing records to write a proposal for funding that will enable them to implement necessary repairs and address their housing shortage. I have been going to the Louis Bull Administration building and helping the housing unit organize their files into something we can use for the proposal. I am also working to develop a new form for collecting housing renovation requests that would collect more useful information.

For the caribou habitat restoration project, I have been mailing site maps out to stakeholders and tracking the engagement correspondence ensuring we are communicating with Indigenous groups that may want to be involved. Next week I will be up in a helicopter with coworkers surveying the landscape to collect data.

I am also involved in a series of government of Alberta engagement sessions on rural development. We give a presentation and facilitate the conversations in small groups allowing stakeholders to express their main concerns around specific topics. These discussions have given me perspective on the local economy and the issues small communities face, as well as forced me to practice my public speaking skills. Last week we ran sessions in Red Deer and Lethbridge. I have been compiling these comments into a summary document for the government of Alberta to use for future action. The biggest takeaway I’m hearing is that collaboration between communities, schools, and businesses would solve many issues and would create a well-rounded workforce. Many of the workforce strategies were focused around keeping people in local communities instead of encouraging urbanization. As I listened to the strengths and limitations of rural economic development throughout Alberta, I contemplated how landspreading biosolids could strengthen communities by making them more self-sufficient.

The Three P’s: Pride, Pain, Priority

As part of the Rural Pathways program, our cohort attends regular check-in meetings. One thing that I have enjoyed and helped me reflect on in my learning and development are the three P’s; Pride, Pain, and Priority. As a senior student attending Augustana, reflection has been a core component of my learning. It is a good tool that can allow self-induced constructive criticism, and organize thoughts, and has helped me a great deal with my overall learning. I believe that if you employ the three P’s, it will help you with whatever you are doing and that it is a good reflective exercise. For this blog post, I would like to give you an update on my project in the three P’s Format.

Pride: I have a few things that I am prideful about so far during the summer. The first main thing that I am prideful about is submitting articles in the newspaper for my water awareness campaign. I have been submitting weekly or biweekly articles (depending on how much content I have) to the newspaper. I believe that this is a good avenue because it is a great way to reach a wide audience and raise awareness of these issues across Provost and the area. So far the topics of my articles have included: An introduction explaining my project and the broader rural pathways program, the properties of water, the water footprint, groundwater, and its contamination, and the water treatment process utilized by the Town of Provost. The articles that I hope to complete and submit over the next couple of weeks include drinking water advisories, point-of-use treatment methods, and two worst-case scenarios highlighting the Walkerton 2000 E. Coli outbreak and Flint Michigan, Unfortunately, due to copyright and other reasons, I will be unable to reproduce these articles but I will link the Provost news website at the bottom of the post.

Figure 1. The news is the local newspaper located in Provost Alberta. I have been submitting articles to the Provost News for the past couple of months

Pain: So far I have completed the first draft of my brochure. Formatting and the overall design have been frustrating. It has been more time-consuming than I initially thought it would be. Space is also an issue and I found my first draft very wordy. I sent it to my supervisor to look over. Since it has been a pain and not a priority at the moment I will leave it as a ‘future Damien problem’. Another one of my pains has been communication. Since my goal is to provide my research to a general audience, I have to be clear, concise, and use language that everyone will be able to understand. This has been a challenge overall but luckily I have has had some help. When I write something for my website or the brochure, and before I send off the newspaper articles, I get my mom to proofread my work. Even though she is an intelligent individual she does not have the science background that I have. I believe that going over my work with my mom has been a big help in allowing me to better communicate my scientific knowledge to the general public, so shout out to her!

Priority: There are a few things that I will be prioritizing. First is ‘putting pen on paper.’ I believe that I have done enough research and have a fairly solid understanding of the content for my project. I will now be focusing on adding information to the website section. I would also like to set up a meeting with the community leaders from Provost at the beginning of July to receive some feedback and constructive criticisms for my project.

Thank you for reading my blog post. I believe that the three P’s are a very good tool for reflection. I hope that whatever you are doing, you try and reflect on the three P’s.

Provost News website: https://www.provostnews.ca/

A Circular Economy Model

Hello, my name is Josie Middleton. I am going into the fourth year of my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Alberta Augustana. I grew up on an organic farm near Morinville, Alberta, and chose to study Environmental Science because I wanted to make a difference in how humans impact the environment. I chose to study outdoor education for my minor so that I could enjoy what I am passionate about. I believe people need to experience some connection to nature in order to feel motivated to protect it. Environmental science is “how” things work and outdoor education is “why” it matters to me. I appreciate initiatives that build community in the outdoors and are creative in redesigning systems and questioning the conventional practices in our society. The last couple of summers I have gone tree planting in BC, this summer I wanted to explore other projects that I could be involved in with my degree.

The rural pathways program was presented in an intriguing way that I could design my own project for community engagement. Through the encouragement of one of my professors, I decided to join a project with the Louis Bull Tribe out of Maskwacis researching sewage sludge disposal and the possibility of using that as an agricultural amendment. This would make our waste treatment and disposal systems more sustainable if we could utilize our waste as fertilizer thus reducing our reliance on conventional fertilizer which needs to be mined and shipped. Reusing human waste in this way models a circular economy that mimics natural processes. The more that humans can work with nature instead of against it, the healthier and more sustainable we will be. The health concerns around this application are what I will be researching.  I knew that an ongoing project like this with water chemistry and soil science components would be more momentous than what I could have accomplished on my own during the summer months. I am working as a summer intern for WSP Golder, a consulting company. I have been presented with multiple project opportunities to broaden my scope of experience. I will be part of two community projects in Louis Bull: the sewage sludge experiment and a housing study in which I am focusing on how to make housing more sustainable.  I am also working on a caribou habitat restoration project in northern Alberta partnering with the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA). 

In these first few weeks, I have been working on proposals and research along with some virtual meetings to meet the project leads. I am excited about the variety of experiences WSP has involved me in and to see where this summer takes me!

Bridging the Gap: Academic vs Application

Hello, my name is Damien Reiter. I am a senior student attending the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus. As I love and am passionate about science, I am currently a double major in biology and chemistry. Over the course of the summer, I have had the honour to be accepted into the Rural Pathways program and pursue a project in a rural community. The rural community that I have chosen is Provost Alberta. I was born in Provost and have lots of family members living in this community. The project I will be pursuing is creating an awareness campaign surrounding water. More specifically, I will be compiling and presenting information on the importance of water, its properties, the hidden cost behind water (water footprint), the water table, groundwater and its contamination, the treatment of water (general and local), its conservation and sustainability, as well as some worst-case scenarios like the 2000 Walkerton E. coli outbreak, how you can limit your consumption and more. For this awareness campaign, I will be working with the Town of Provost to raise awareness surrounding these issues by creating a brochure that the town can use to add to the monthly water bill, create a website with all my compiled research, and submitting weekly or bi-weekly articles to the local newspaper focusing on a specific topic. I have had the pleasure of talking and meeting with the mayor of Provost Peggy McFayden, the CAO David Connauton, and the Public Work Superintendent Keith Heintz about my project.

So far the majority of my time has been researching and adding information to the platforms I wish to present. One of the challenges I have faced is having to condense all of the academic information I have found so it can be presented in a way a more general audience will find useful. Being able to effectively communicate this type of information to the public is so important and I will have to work on improving my ability to do this over the course of my project.

Figure 1. This is a picture of the Town of Provost water treatment facility. The groundwater that they draw from is from a large aquifer around Hayter and is of high quality. They use a chlorination-based process that allows residual protection against any microorganisms that may be present in the water after delivery.
Figure 2. This is the inside of the water treatment facility. It is a fairly small building but is very efficient. You can see three large filtration devices (dark green). The pipes are color-coded to help with ease of use. Look how clean the treatment facility is!

Last week I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the water treatment facility by the public works superintendent, Keith Heintz. I received permission to post these pictures from Keith. It was an eye-opening experience in many ways. The first thing I recognized is the difference between theoretical knowledge and applied practice. Since I have been researching different water treatment methods I was familiar with general procedures. I was surprised by how simple yet effective their treatment methods are. In addition, there are many other factors that influence the water treatment process such as the quality of water and the cost. I could not believe how clean their water treatment facility is. I learned many things such as the regulation surrounding drinking water and the different tests they need to conduct (daily, weekly, quarterly, and annually). It is truly interesting to see how theoretical knowledge is used in practice. I enjoyed communicating with Keith as he is a very knowledgeable person and a professional in the field. After our meeting and tour, Keith gave me some water test results. I have been going over the information that these results contain and have been researching supplementary information that will better analyze and understand these test results. I hope that over the course of the summer, you learn something new about water and become a more mindful consumer.