Mentor of Distinction
A geology adventure far from home gave Marie-Eve Caron life lessons she would never forget.
“I wanted to see the northern landscape and experience the culture, so I worked two months in Tuk, a community of 900 people who live along the Arctic Ocean,” she says. It’s an entirely different life up there and so it was like culture shock.”
During her first summer up North, Caron worked as a swimming instructor and lifeguard and enjoyed the opportunity to meet the local people. By the time she had to leave, she knew she wanted to return up north one day, which she did a couple of years later while working on her Masters Degree.
“I was able to return to Northwest Territories to do field work with The Geological Survey of Canada. Although I had less direct involvement with the people and more focus on the technical aspect of my role, I was able to apply my earlier experiences to my work,” she says, which involved a proposed expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada, nestled in the Mackenzie Mountains.
In spending time with First Nations people, Caron says she gained greater understanding of their culture and became intrigued enough to want to work closer with them.
“Because I study the environment and because their culture is naturally very observant of nature and its cycles, I think I naturally responded to them,” she says.
Upon completing her Masters in 2007 and beginning work at Matrix Solutions, an environmental and engineering consulting company based in Calgary, Caron decided to continue her affinity with First Nations people in a new role – as a mentor in the APEGGA (Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta) Aboriginal Mentorship Program. They also appreciate storytelling and participating in activities they can do with their friends, which is what we try to do to make the demonstrations fun for everyone.”
She says that it’s difficult to tell what lasting impact the mentoring activities will have on the students, but is encouraged to see how much they enjoy it.
“I feel like we’re doing such a small thing, but hopefully by coming back month after month, we can share our enthusiasm and show the kids all the different options that are available to them,” she says. “The purpose is really to help students understand what they like, what they want to do and realize what their passions are – whether it’s related to science or not.”
Caron believes that the mentoring program is especially important in reaching kids who haven’t been exposed to the scientific world of possibilities.
“If you don’t know any engineers or don’t have a scientist in the family, you might not see it as an option for you. So once I discovered the university’s environmental program, I knew it was right for me.”
In her work, Caron focuses on ground water, specifically working with energy companies or government groups to do pre-assessments before a project goes into development or getting called upon to conduct evaluations of contaminated areas.
“When I started out, I did more field work such as collecting water samples from water wells or springs, drilling for soil samples and bringing them back to the lab,” she says. You want to be able to predict whether or not you can proceed with the development while still protecting the environment.”
Caron tries to convey how much she loves her work to her students so that they are inspired to discover their own passions and reach out to other mentors who will help them find their way.
Once you find your natural abilities and go in that direction, you’ll find mentors who can provide you with the support and guidance you need.