Earth Resources Technician Co-op is a gem for Fleming graduate Crystal Smith

helicopterCrystal Smith was stuck between a rock and a hard place when considering her post-secondary options for geology. As a kinesthetic learner, the applied approach of college appealed to Crystal; but industry professionals recommended a university degree. Luckily for Crystal, Fleming College’s Earth Resources Technician Co-op program offers the best of both worlds through Education Pathways.

“I still haven’t stopped talking about my experiences at Frost Campus, so I would say it was great! The programs at Frost Campus offered so many opportunities to learn outdoors and gave me the confidence I needed going into outdoor and industrial workplace environments,” she said.

Crystal recommends Frost Campus to those wanting to gain skills for resource and environmental industries, and to those who prefer an outdoor learning and working environment.  “Also with the new GeoCentre being developed, it’s a great time to take the opportunity of using new labs and modern equipment,” she added.

After graduating from Fleming College in 2016, Crystal used Fleming College’s Education Pathway to Acadia University in Nova Scotia and entered into the third-year of the Bachelor of Science in Geology program.

“Nova Scotia has an amazing geological history and the variety of rock types in such a small province makes for a great place to study,” she said.

Crystal said she shares the knowledge and skills she gained at Fleming College with her peers at Acadia, and that Fleming prepared her for university in terms of time-management and hard work.

“I would recommend the Education Pathway to any Fleming grad that thrives to learn more about geology and would like to travel and experience the East Coast,” said Crystal. “Since I have been at Acadia, I have developed a greater understanding of petrology and continue to learn in detail about igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, along with their economic importance.”

This summer Crystal put her knowledge and skills to work as a Field Assistant (Summer Student) for the Department of Natural Resources, Geological Division, where she stayed with three geologists and two other students.

As a Field Assistant, Crystal conducted soil sampling, surficial mapping, operated vehicles (including off-roading vehicles), and navigated using GPS, compass and maps. Once samples were collected and dry, they were processed in the lab; Crystal’s lab duties include splitting samples, sieving, operating a portable XRF for geochemical analysis and performing clast lithologies.

“Exploring by helicopter was hands-down the most exciting thing I did all summer. My field supervisor allowed me to navigate to a site using a GPS and a LIDAR map while in the helicopter and the best part of it all was flying around with the door open,” said Crystal.

Crystal credits Fleming College for preparing her for this job. Through Fleming’s Earth Resources Technician Co-op program, Crystal learned how to navigate using GPS, compass and maps. And through the program’s Digital Image Interpretation course, Crystal learned how to use LIDAR images and remote sensing images, which helped her navigate and interpret results.

“One of the biggest skills that I continually used in the field and lab was safety awareness, mainly on trenching sites,” she said. “Safety awareness was constantly stressed to students at Fleming College and after being in the field I am grateful that I know what to watch out for.”

Crystal’s advice for current students is to know when you need motivation and to seek it. “I’ve always felt inspired to learn more after listening to professional geologists tell their stories and share their great adventures in the field,” said Crystal. “My favorite was a lecture told by a Fleming graduate who also transferred to Acadia, who came and gave a speech to undergraduate students. I could relate to the academic route and at the same time the worldly adventures that person had throughout their career gave me enough inspiration that moment to gladly study more.”