Spotlight on Macdonald Alumni: Integrated Water Resource Managers Dive into Great Careers

April 2013

Threats to global water resources, and challenges in their sustainable management, are increasing due to a number of significant factors including climate change and competing needs for water. Through the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Graduate Program, the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has been training the next generation of water professionals in interdisciplinary concepts and methods for adaptive, integrated, and participatory water resources management. We contacted three of our alumni from the IWRM program to learn about the directions they have taken in their career path. Each of them shared a glimpse of their work in this featured article: IWRM Alumni in Action.

Carolyn Lee (MSc’10)

Carolyn is working as a planner in the Water Business Group at CH2M HILL in Toronto, Ontario. CH2M HILL is an engineering firm that serves the energy, water and wastewater, transportation, power, manufacturing and communications industries. Her area of specialization is helping municipal clients in the Greater Toronto Area conduct environmental assessments for water and wastewater infrastructure. She works with engineers and stakeholders to identify and select preferred solutions to meet the needs of growing communities.

She joined the IWRM Program with the intent of gaining technical skills in water management, balanced with knowledge of water policy. “The IWRM Program met my objectives and complemented my environmental science education to enable collaboration with planners and engineers.” For Carolyn, it provided a good context of water management, particularly in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence watershed, which was beneficial for understanding project drivers around Lake Ontario. Her summer internship with the watershed organization AGIR pour la Diable gave her an opportunity to participate in a Stakeholder Advisory Committee and witness first-hand the practical challenges of implementing a water master plan. Public consultation and engagement skills acquired during the internship have proven to be very useful in her current position at CH2M HILL. “The ability to see the larger picture and communicate common goals with people from various technical backgrounds is integral to the work that I do.”

Paul Reig (MSc’11)

As an IWRM student Paul conducted research under the supervision of Dr. Jan Adamowski, applying an indicator-based evaluation method to assess the adaptive capacity of a watershed management regime in North America. This work was later published in the Journal of Environmental Hydrology and helped Paul gain an internship at the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global environmental think tank in Washington DC.

His IWRM internship and project at WRI focused on constructing and testing a framework of indicators that would allow for quantifying and mapping water-related risks to businesses. As an intern at WRI, Paul evaluated the availability of indicators and their capacity to accurately measure water-related risks to business in a clear and comprehensive way. He then tested the selected indicators in the Orange-Senqu River basin in Southern Africa. Using publicly available data and engaging with key stakeholders across the basin, Paul and his team calculated and mapped the indicators, using hydrological models and GIS software. This work fed into a larger effort that resulted in the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, a global and publicly available online platform for measuring and mapping water risk.

Penelope Ma (MSc’10)

Penelope Ma is currently in her third year of the Juris Doctor program at Queen’s University and expects to graduate in May 2013. Prior to attending law school, she completed her Bachelor of Arts at Cornell University in Biology and Society, with a theme in Environment, Health and Society. She then obtained her Master of Science at McGill University in Integrated Water Resources Management.

In the summer of 2011, Penelope’s strong desire to combine her passion for the environment with her interest in law led her to Anchorage, Alaska. There, through the Canadian Lawyers Abroad program, she conducted research on Aboriginal water rights as a Legal Intern at the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC). The YRITWC is a cross-border, Indigenous grassroots organization, comprising over 70 First Nations and Tribes in the Yukon River Watershed. Their goal is to protect and preserve the Yukon River for present and future generations, while their vision is to “to be able to drink water directly from the Yukon River.”

The highlight of Penelope’s internship experience that summer was the Healing Journey and the Biennial Summit. The Healing Journey is YRITWC’s annual canoe journey along a stretch of the Yukon River or a tributary of it. In 2011, the journey was one and a half weeks long, starting at the Yukon Bridge and ending in Ruby, Alaska. During that time, Penelope was able to put her knowledge of Alaska Native history and legislation into context. She canoed with six others as a part of this journey, connecting with the river and those who live by it. “At the Biennial Summit, I witnessed international inter-Tribal collaboration and decision-making for the first time. I watched as youth, elders, government agencies and partnering organizations all came together to discuss issues important to them, to learn from each other, and to work together as One People along One River.”

The following summer, in 2012, Penelope worked as a Summer Law Student at Ecojustice Canada (Toronto, Ont.), where she assisted staff lawyers and scientists in their litigation and public education efforts towards environmental protection. In particular, she conducted some legal research for the Darlington Nuclear case and Sarnia Chemical Valley Charter Challenge. She also looked at the threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes ecosystem and at Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Furthermore, Penelope was involved with scientific research regarding regulation of toxic substances, and collected data for Ecojustice’s Great Lakes Sewage Report Card publication.

The work at Ecojustice exposed Penelope to environmental issues that arose in the context of development, rezoning and property naturalization. This piqued her interest in addressing environmental interests at the municipal level. In July 2013, Penelope will be working for the City of Toronto (Legal Service Division) as an Articling Student. There, she will rotate through six practice areas: Employment and Labour, Land-Use Planning, Litigation, Municipal Law, Prosecutions, and Real Estate. “I am excited for this opportunity to continue my work in the public interest, combining my newly gained legal skills with my passion for the environment.” Penelope finds that her legal studies have opened many doors for her in terms of pursuing an environment-related career.

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