Alumni Spotlight TYLER HERRINGTON Class of 2005 When Tyler Herrington graduated from Mulgrave School in June 2005, he had his sights set on a career in the sciences. He began his studies in Earth Science at the University of Victoria, but he quickly realized that Geology wasn’t for him. After some soulsearching, he decided upon Geography, having always had an interest in weather and climate. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography with a minor in Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University, followed closely by a Masters of Science in Geography, where he focused on Climate Science. Now a Sessional Instructor at SFU, Tyler has kindly shared his experience working in the field of Geography. He notes that the majority of his field work came through co-operative education work terms. “I’d highly recommend co-op education to anyone beginning their university studies,” advises Tyler, “It is a great way to get work experience in your field of study and build your resume while going to school. Most of the positions are relatively well paying, too!”
You have lived and worked in rural Northern Canada; what was the biggest ‘culture shock’ for you upon moving to Northern Canada?
TYLER REFLECTS ON LIFE “UP NORTH” A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY My work term with the Environmental Sciences Group took me to former Distance Early Warning (DEW) Line locations across the Canadian Arctic in 2009. For those unfamiliar with the DEW Line stations, they were a series of radar stations built during the Cold-War era, jointly operated by the Canadian and US military. Their purpose was to monitor the skies and provide advance warning of long-range missile attacks. Many radar stations were abandoned after the Cold War and left as is (though some continue to operate in a reduced capacity as part of the Northern Warning System). In the 1990s, the Department of National Defense began a massive environmental assessment effort in order to identify contaminated areas and develop plans for their remediation. In all, 21 DEW-
Line stations underwent remediation, with the last site being completed in 2013. LOCATION During my summer field work in 2009, I completed two four-week rotations between June and August at two different DEW-Line stations – one in Cape Dyer, Nunavut, (see figure 1) - the easternmost point of land on Baffin Island, and another by Mackar Inlet on the Melville Peninsula in western Nunavut (see figure 2). DANGEROUS WORK I was part of a small field crew conducting soil, water, and waste sampling at the DEW-Line sites, focusing on areas contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), which were once used as a fire retardant in paint (before their toxic effects were confirmed), hydrocarbon spills, as well as heavy metal contamination. The scariest task I remember was entering an abandoned and gutted building about the length of a football field and void of light (for the lights and electrical source had long been removed) to collect samples of PCB-contaminated paint (see Figure 3). SHEDDING SOME LIGHT ON A NEW EXPERIENCE During the summer months, locations inside the Arctic Circle (66.6oN/S and higher) experience 24-hour daylight! Given the timing of my rotations (mid-June through midAugust), I experienced 24 hours of daylight for pretty much all of my first rotation in Cape Dyer, and nearly 24
â€œTheir purpose was to monitor the skies and provide advance warning of long-range missiles (should Russia try to attack the West), as the Arctic is the shortest route between Russia and North America.â€?
“The fact that we had to have an armed ‘bear guard’ (a local Inuit armed with a shot-gun) with us at all times really drove home the dangers that polar bears represented”.
hours of daylight during my second rotation in Mackar Inlet.It was extremely hard to adjust to in the beginning, as 3:00am looks the same as 3:00pm, and the garbage bags over the windows would often fall down while you slept, letting the bright light in! For the first week or two during my rotation in Cape Dyer, I’d wake up multiple times during the night in a panic, thinking that I had overslept, only to realize that my shift didn’t start for another few hours. I think adjusting to the 24 hours of daylight was was the biggest ‘culture shock’ I experienced, followed closely by the vast, open tundra environment, void of trees, or anything taller than a few centimetres. Grass and flowers were the tallest plants I saw! The fact that we had to have an armed ‘bear guard’ (a local Inuit armed with a shot-gun) with us at all times really drove home the dangers that polar bears represented. Day shifts began at 7:00am and finished at 7:00pm, with a 1-hour break for lunch, and we worked 7 days a week for 4 weeks (though I did get two weeks off after my first rotation). Due to the constant daylight, there was also a night shift that began at 7:00pm and ended at 7:00am. If you were on the night shift, your breakfast would have been the dinner that was being served for the day crew, while your dinner was whatever was being served for breakfast to the day crew.
“...the scariest task I remember doing was entering an abandoned and gutted building, about the length of a football field, and void of light to collect samples of PCB-contaminated paint”.
The company that you worked for in the Yukon was doing mineral exploration work. What does this type of work entail?
TYLER EXPLAINS GEOTECHING My work term with Selwyn Resources was my first work term, which I did at the end of my second year at UVic. The job brought me to the Selwyn Mountains in the southeastern Yukon, along the border with the Northwest Territories, where Selwyn Resources was investigating a sedimentary-exhalative hosted Lead (Pb) and Zinc (Zn) deposit. Basically, these are believed to be ancient sediments that once formed in the deep oceans near hydrothermal vents (aka ‘black-smokers’), and over geologic time, would have been uplifted to their present day location in the SE Yukon.
Here, most of my duties consisted of ‘geoteching’ – a term that refers to analysis of drill core (samples of rock taken out by a specialized drilling instrument that represent a stratigraphic sequence of rock and sediment) in order to assess its structural stability. I often worked closely with geologists who would periodically come in to the ‘core shack’ to assess at what depth along the stratigraphic
sequence the ‘active member’ (or rock/sediments housing the Pb and Zn) was located. As a break from geoteching, I’d sometimes be required to cut samples of the active member core using a rock saw (Figure 4), with diamond coated blades. The samples would then be shipped south for chemical analysis to estimate the abundance of Pb and Zn hosted in the rock. It was pretty nerve-wracking operating the saw, since
you often had to hold your fingers just inches away from the blade! Working with the saw was very messy, as it would spray sediments all over the place, and given that the ‘active member’ was hosted in a blackish sediment, you’d often come out looking like a coal miner afterwards (Figure 5)! Occasionally, I would assist the geologists and the surveyor with locating new target drill locations, which meant I would get to ride in a helicopter.
What advice would you give to students interested in the field of Geography?
Tyler Draws On HIS experience Geography is a highly interdisciplinary and varied field, covering both the social sciences (human geography) as well as the sciences (physical geography). Human geography focuses on topics related to populations, the economy, and social interactions, amongst other factors, while physical geography includes the study of how landscapes change over time (geomorphology), the distribution of plants and animals (biogeography), and the field I specialized in – climatology (climate and climate change). Geography also includes the disciplines of cartography (of course!), as well as a field that is quite hot right now – Geographic Information Science (GIS), which uses specialized software to study the spatial distribution of phenomenon. Essentially it is a type of digital mapping. There are quite a wide number of jobs available in the field of GIS mapping at the moment. Given its highly interdisciplinary nature and varied subject matter, Geography could lead to a wide number
of different fields of employment, so I would definitely recommend anyone considering the field of Geography to get involved in co-op education. It is a great way to try out a variety of different types of jobs and in many cases, co-op jobs can lead to full-time permanent employment after you graduate. At a minimum, a co-op placement will help you figure out a possible career area,or as in my case, figure out what I did not want to do.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE? Join us on May 22, 2014 for the University Admissions Information Evening featuring Mulgrave School’s Alumni Meet and Greet This event is a new twist on the Senior School students’ University Admissions Information Evening hosted by Luke Lawson. After learning about the general application and admittance process, students and their families are invited to a reception with Mulgrave Alumni. Alumni will have an opportunity to connect with current Senior School students and share the “pathway” that he or she took to their present career or field of study. We invite you to join us to learn more about our graduates! Come meet Tyler and hear first-hand about his fascinating career in Geography. Please contact Chloe Scott at email@example.com for more information.