Fleming Environmental Technology graduate Joseph Gentile performs essential environmental services for City of Toronto

Joseph Gentile is putting his Environmental Technology skills to use by delivering essential environmental services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

As one of six summer student technicians in the Environmental Monitoring & Protection Unit of Toronto Water, Joseph is responsible for environmental water quality monitoring of surface waters in the City of Toronto.

“I think seeing the piece of the puzzle my co-workers and I contribute to the larger picture, on a daily basis, has made me aware of just how important it is to continue environmental monitoring, even during a global pandemic,” said Joseph, who monitors stormwater outfall and public beach surface water.

“Continuing these efforts is crucial in providing the public, specifically Toronto’s three million residents, the information they need to make informed decisions about where to safely swim,” he said. “Consistent environmental monitoring also allows councils and other decision-making authorities to access concrete, reliable data for making informed decisions about the fate of projects and how to best re-evaluate them in the future.”

Performing environmental service duties amidst the pandemic requires Joseph to be adaptable and to follow media sources closely for information, as the situation is evolving daily. “My team and I had to be aware of the timely decisions made by politicians,” he explains. “In the month of June, we received confirmation that beaches would re-open, hence the kickstart of the 2020 beaches water quality monitoring program. We continue to work and communicate with public health officials, city council and leaders from other departments to ensure this program is being fulfilled while adhering to new protocols and procedures.”

Working as a summer student technician has been a fantastic experience for Joseph, who enjoys trekking through dense vegetation and exciting terrain to access waterways, managing datasets, and assisting with data entry and technical reports.

His favourite experience thus far is working in a watershed within East York, sampling stormwater discharge from remote stormwater outfalls. On route, Joseph and his colleagues spotted a family of deer, a Blue Heron, and several rare wildflower species. For an ecosystem within the Toronto area, Joseph is amazed at the diversity it offers.

He is grateful for this career experience and feels confident performing duties thanks to his Fleming College education. “From sampling effluent water exiting stormwater outfalls to collecting beach water samples and analyzing them in the lab, the Environmental Technology program has prepared me to work in this dynamic workplace environment quite well,” said Joseph, who has been passionate about protecting the environment since childhood.

Joseph chose Fleming College’s Environmental Technology advanced diploma program for its mix of field and laboratory learning experiences, and the variety of careers he could pursue. He highly recommends this program to anyone interested in learning about the natural environment and monitoring and protecting it for future generations.

“My experience at Frost has been nothing short of amazing!” said Joseph, who graduated in 2020. “The people on campus – professors, faculty, and peers – are all friendly and will know you on a first-name basis. This program is really dynamic and has supplied me with some amazing certifications and interactive learning opportunities, which allow me to feel confident in my ability applying my acquired knowledge in a real-work setting.”

Joseph will be continuing his education this September in Trent University’s Water Sciences degree program, which he applied to at Fleming College’s annual Education Pathways event. “The Environmental Technology program has exposed me to so many fascinating components of our natural environment and is allowing me, as a graduate, to specialize in a component that I find intriguing,” said Joseph.

“My time at Fleming has certainly played a role in preparing me for my next chapter at Trent University,” he said. “While I am sure some parts will be new, I know that the experience – not only through academics, but practical experience also – I have gained will help me make a seamless transition to university.”

Environmental Technology grad Ben Colgan creates more conscientious campus community

ben-colgan-focus-on-fleming“I have fun with waste,” says Ben Colgan, Sustainability and Waste Management Intern at Fleming College’s Office of Sustainability. “This is a great place to work.”

For the past six months, Ben has been interning for the Office of Sustainability through the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Clean Tech Internship program. He is responsible for implementing the waste diversion strategy developed by the Office of Sustainability.

During his internship, which ended on May 11, Ben worked closely with Fleming’s Physical Resources Department and created a centralized sorting system to increase waste diversion, organized waste diversion and reduction events, conducted waste audits to understand waste generation on campus, and helped develop a marketing video to raise awareness.

“The best experience of this internship is seeing a more conscientious community on campus and raising awareness on waste,” said Ben. “And doing the video with marketing was a lot of fun and very different from what I’m doing.”

Ben has enjoyed working at the Sutherland Campus for the past six months, but holds a special spot in his heart for the Frost Campus, where he went to post-secondary school. Ben is a 2014 graduate of the Environmental Technology program.

“I took the Environmental Technology program based on what I heard for employment and I was interested in protecting human health in the environment— protecting against adverse effects of pollution and misuse of the environment,” said Ben.

“It was great, it’s a fantastic program. The faculty were extraordinarily knowledgeable, friendly, and always willing to help. It was a positive and fun experience,” he said. “This program lets students take in a broad knowledge of the environmental industry and prepares you to take off in a direction that suits you best.”

For Ben, the direction that suited him best was waste management. During his third-year placement, he gained industry experience with the County of Peterborough in their Waste Management Department, which led to contracts on-and-off for two years. Following this, he worked for the City of Greater Sudbury in waste and sustainability on a six-month contract and then was hired as the Sustainability and Waste Management Intern at Fleming College.

Ben said the skills he gained in the Environmental Technology program are applicable to his internship, including project planning, coordination, data analysis, and sampling procedures.

Now that his CICan Clean Tech Internship is complete, Ben is leaving Fleming College for a full-time permanent position in Peterborough in the environmental field.

His advice to current Fleming students is to get involved and focus on your goals. “Get involved and be a part of the community. Get to know your professors and start thinking early about where you want to go to make it happen, whether it be an internship, professional development courses, networking with people in the industry,” said Ben.

AWSOM grad Matthew Fraser lands an awesome internship at the CAWT

matt-fraserMatthew Fraser didn’t have to travel far for a career opportunity after graduating from both the Environmental Technology and Advanced Water Systems Operations and Management Co-op (AWSOM) programs at Fleming’s Frost Campus. Matthew is now the Colleges and Institute Canada Water Research Intern at the Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment (CAWT). The CAWT, which is located at Fleming’s Frost Campus, is an internationally recognized research institute that conducts research in water and wastewater treatment science.

“What I enjoy most about my internship is feeling like a sponge,” said Matthew. “There are so many knowledgeable minds around me on a daily basis, it is almost impossible not to absorb archives upon archives of information. I feel like my colleagues are so thorough in their work, I think sometimes they don’t even realize they are shedding a light on a certain subject or giving me some sort of useful tidbit of information. Either way, I very much appreciate hearing their two cents and their willingness to share experiences.”

On a typical day, Matthew said his responsibilities include running a Biochemical Oxygen Demand test, Ammonia test, sample collection, chain of custody tracking, balance verification and keeping the lab clean and tidy. He said his internship highlights thus far are picking up water samples from a military base, designing a Zen garden, and wearing a Tyvek suit and full face respirator during peak temperatures to dismantle a project.

“This experience has been great. I have been able to apply my skillset attained from my educational background in a real world setting, while expanding it all at the same time,” said Matthew. “I believe this position will really help me build a solid foundation to stay working in this field of work for the long term.”

“Matt has been a great asset to our team and brought lots of energy and enthusiasm to the Centre,” said Brent Wootton, Associate Vice-President Business Development, Applied Research, Government and Partner Relations.

Matthew attributes his Fleming College education for being prepared to hit the ground running at the CAWT. “The Environmental Technology advanced diploma and AWSOM graduate certificate without a doubt helped me be as prepared as I could be before starting at the CAWT,” said Matthew.

“My AWSOM studies have given me a thorough understanding of health and safety regulations and standards, water and wastewater treatment, environmental monitoring, use of industry related computer software, as well as assisted me in gaining relevant technical skills in field sampling applications, in-lab practices, quality assurance and quality control measures and testing procedures.”

He added, “I had an awesome (AWSOM) time in this program! No pun intended.”