Valedictorian Hengda Liu makes nature his office

Dream big, take on challenges, and don’t quit.

Hengda Liu says this is his credo in life and he wants to share it with fellow graduates of the School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences at convocation, where the Forestry Technician graduate will serve as Valedictorian this Friday.

Hengda came to Fleming College’s Frost Campus as an international student from China, wanting to learn everything about nature.

“Just like many other Forestry Technician students, instead of working behind a desk we want nature to be our office,” he said. “I want to be one of those forestry professionals to seek the harmony zone between our economic needs and ecological sustainability. This is why I chose the Forestry Technician program: its outdoors, meaningful, hands-on – get my hands and boots dirty – and I get to stay in the environment where I’m supposed to be in.”

He credits the College for its efforts on making Frost Campus sustainable, and appreciates the warm and welcoming campus community.

“The faculty, staff and students here at Fleming are incredibly friendly and warm. They have never treated me differently because I am from another country or because of my language barrier,” said Hengda. “I have always felt like a part of the Fleming family, and I am really proud and grateful for that.”

Hengda said the Forestry Technician program combines theory with hands-on experience to prepare students for their careers, including fundamental skills courses like communications and applied mathematics, as well as forestry skills courses like forest inventory and forest management using GIS, among others. He describes the faculty as very supportive, helpful and “lightning fast” to respond to emails.

“I’ve truly learned a lot during my time here at Fleming and I want to pat my own back to thank myself for choosing Fleming. Great job, Hengda!” he laughs, patting his back.

The programs two field camps were Hengda’s favourite experience at Fleming. At The Canadian Ecology Centre and Haliburton Forest, students learned how to safely operate a chainsaw, canoed to an island to do a stream assessment, participated in tree planting, took forest inventory, and more.

“We basically combined the knowledge we learned in school and applied it to the real world during these two camps, with the help and supervision of forestry professionals who are working in the industry,” said Hengda, who also enjoyed networking with experienced technicians and forest managers at the field camps.

Outside of class, Hengda worked part-time at a local Chinese restaurant, Friendly Restaurant, which improved his English speaking skills and cooking skills.

“I am an okay chef now,” he said. “I love to cook some Chinese food for my friends sometimes and the smiles on their faces while they are eating my dishes is such a priceless reward.”

Moments such as this are treasured memories to Hengda, who enjoys documenting life and has a passion for video editing. He created a YouTube channel to share his Fleming experiences with others, including this beautiful tribute video for the teachers, technicians and staff of Fleming’s Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Video by Hengda Liu as a tribute to Fleming’s teachers, technicians and staff from the 2019 Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Now that Hengda has completed classes at Frost Campus, he is working full-time as a Forestry Technician at Spectrum Resource Group, a forestry consulting company in Prince George, British Columbia.

“Last shift, we went to a logging camp in a place called Ospika, BC, where you can’t even find it on the map! It’s a mountainous area and we were constantly climbing a 75% slope with tons of blowdowns and devil’s clubs,” he explained. “It’s tough but I loved every single piece of it. It’s a dream come true for me.”

He plans to continue growing his career in this field, and hopes to one day lead others in sustainable forest management and to enhance communication between Canada and China in terms of forestry.

“What I love about the Forestry Technician career path is that it is outdoors,” he said. “As a Forestry Technician, we are literally getting paid to walk in the forest. The forest is my office, birds and wild animals are my sidekicks. Nature is where I came from and I want to be there for the rest of my life.”

Michael Tamosauskas builds a ‘golden’ resume in the geological field

A thick fog quickly rolls in while Michael Tamosauskas collects glacial till samples atop a mountain in Nunavut. With his nearest colleague at least 100 metres away, Michael’s radio alerts him that an emergency helicopter pick-up is on its way before the pilot loses more visibility.

When the roar of the helicopter sounds close, all Michael can see is the thick, white fog enveloping him. “I was kind of panicking because if they couldn’t pick me up for a certain period, I would have to camp out on the tundra overnight,” said Michael.

The helicopter pilot, with Michael’s crew on board, struggles to spot Michael and, when he does, there is nowhere nearby to safely land. 

“I made the decision to sprint – and fall – down the side of this mountain to flatland, where he was able to pick me up… with him and my crew laughing at my tumble down the mountain,” said Michael.

Fleming Career Fair leads to summer employment at GroundTruth Exploration

The opportunity for Michael to spend his summer working at GroundTruth Exploration, a mineral exploration company, came from attending the annual Career Fair at Fleming’s Frost Campus. At the time, Michael was an Earth Resources Technician Co-op student looking for work experience in his field.

Michael has spent the past couple summers working for GroundTruth Exploration; first in Nunavut, later in Labrador. The company, based in Dawson City, Yukon, is involved in gold exploration projects across northern Canada and begins a new project in Alaska soon.

As an Exploration Field Technician, Michael marked soil sample site locations, collected soil samples and described their physical attributes. He worked four weeks on, one week off, and then another 4 weeks on, with workdays being seven to eight hours.

“Nunavut was a very unique place to work,” said Michael, adding that his camp was approximately 200km north of the nearest town, Rankin Inlet, and had about 200 people working there. He describes the camp as well-developed, including a wastewater treatment facility, clean washrooms, and professional chefs who cooked for everyone.

“While working in Nunavut in the summer, I was subject to 24/7 daylight, which took a while to get used to; although I was always so tired by the end of my workdays, I did not need darkness to fall asleep,” he said. “Also, the lack of trees on the tundra made it easy to spot all sorts of wildlife, such as caribou and wolves.”

He returned to GroundTruth Exploration the following summer and was assigned a project in Labrador, where he was one of a five-member crew.

“I found life in Labrador a little more rough,” Michael said, explaining that his crew assembled their kitchen/office tent, dry tent, and personal tents to sleep in. “The scenery of Labrador is gorgeous, although the bugs I had to deal with daily were horrendous. To make my workdays bearable, I needed to wear bug nets and apply bug spray on my skin every 20 minutes or so.’

‘Although, the helicopter rides and the interesting rocks I spotted up there made up for it!” he added.

This summer, Michael will be working in Dawson City, Yukon, as a Geologist, sampling soil and rock using a GeoProbe. He will then utilize X-Ray Fluorescence to determine whether the samples have high concentrations of arsenic and/or iron, which can indicate gold.

Co-op placement and applied learning gives Michael Tamosauskas a competitive advantage in geology field

Michael has always found Earth dynamics extremely interesting, so when he began exploring post-secondary options, his heart was set on geology. But with mainly college-level high school credits, Michael ran into issues trying to get into a university geology program.

He met with his guidance counsellor to research college geology programs and discovered that Fleming College’s Earth Resources Technician program features a paid, six month co-op, which he believes is incredibly valuable. Michael enrolled in the program and describes his two years at Frost Campus as an excellent experience.

“For my ERT Co-op term, I was a Geotechnical Field Technician for Golder Associates. This summer experience was an excellent foundation for my career, as I had no prior relevant work experience,” he said. “That experience on my resume has drawn interest from every job interviewer I have had so far.”

After graduating from Fleming in 2017, Michael used Fleming’s education pathway to Acadia University to earn his Bachelor of Science in Geology.

“Before I went to Fleming, I believed I was not fit to go to university. But I realized my potential throughout my two years there,” said Michael. “I give ERT faculty a lot of credit because they did a great job teaching the complex subject of geology within a two-year span and prepared me well for studying geology in university.”

Michael recommends the ERT program to others because of its applied learning opportunities, including field trips, projects within the Drilling and Blasting facility, and mandatory co-op placement.

“I found that this experience gave me quite the advantage compared to my fellow university students, since the university approach is mainly theoretical rather than practical,” he said.

Michael plans to gain more experience as a mineral exploration geologist and is interested in focusing on the business side of mining in the future. He is currently enrolled to complete his Honours project with an Acadia University professor and, once he graduates from his degree program, Michael would like to pursue graduate studies and conduct research with an economic geology professor.

A life-long interest in Africa takes Samuel Davison to Fleming College

Samuel Davison grew up watching movies and documentaries about Africa, in awe of the incredible biodiversity and ecosystems, and the flora and fauna there.

When he started researching post-secondary schools, Samuel discovered that Fleming College’s Ecosystem Management Technician program includes a mandatory two-week field placement– and one of the three organized placements is in South Africa. 

“It called to me as soon as I researched the Ecosystem Management Technician program,” said Samuel. “I knew that is where I wanted to be before I was even accepted into the program.”

And when it was his time to apply for the South Africa field placement team, Samuel leaped at the opportunity.

“I was all over it,” said Samuel on the highly competitive, rigorous screening process. “I wanted the experience, I wanted to see everything that I have been dreaming of since I was a kid, and the opportunity was right there in front of me so I thought, ‘why not?’”

After submitting his cover letter and resume, completing a fitness test, studying handbooks and project aims, and completing a written test, Samuel was selected for the 2019 Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme team.

Life-changing adventures in the Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme

The Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme gives volunteers the opportunity to contribute to the management, research and monitoring activities on Pidwa Wilderness Reserve. The goal is to secure, increase and improve wild habitats.

During his field placement, Samuel assisted with:

  • Reserve management and data capture, such as birds of prey identification and monitoring, and cheetah monitoring.
  • Sensitive tree protection, habitat rehabilitation and invasive plant control.
  • Darting and relocation of herbivore species and radio telemetry tracking of various species, including elephants and cheetahs.
  • Daily vehicle and equipment checks and fence maintenance, along with data recording.

“This whole experience is a once in a lifetime,” said Samuel. “I don’t mean to sound cliché, but being in South Africa on a conservation reserve surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, wildlife and people is truly breathtaking.”

One unforgettable experience Samuel had in South Africa was assisting with sable antelope darting and relocation with world-renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr. Peter Rogers, veterinary nurse Janelle Goodrich, and the Askari team.

“You really learn to appreciate an animal when your hands are wrapped around its horns supporting it, feeling the heat and the life within it, your adrenaline pumping but somehow feeling at peace all at the same time. It’s a state of euphoria,” Samuel explained. “Getting this hands-on experience and education from professionals with wild sable was unforgettable and one of the fond memories I will take with me for the rest of my life.”

Samuel said his field placement experience in South Africa developed his interpersonal and teamwork skills, strengthened his work on scientific methods, and helped him make life-long connections.

“I have always been passionate about conservation and the environment, but getting this experience to me was like throwing gasoline on a fire; it completely ignited this passion that was burning inside me,” said Samuel. “It showed me where I wanted to be in the future and what kind of person I want to become. This is an experience of unbelievable value, and something that I will cherish and use to continue driving me forward in my future.”

The Ecosystem Management Technician student is especially grateful to faculty members and trip leaders/organizers Barb Elliot and Mike Fraser, who he describes as role models.

“I can confidently say that these two people have changed my life. Their combined knowledge, wisdom and outright positive and driven attitude do not go unnoticed by anyone that comes across them. They have driven me to be the best person that I can be, academically but equally as a human being,” said Samuel. “They work incredibly hard and expected the same from us, which tells me they really do care about the outcome of what kind of people we are graduating from Fleming College.”

Dean Brett Goodwin (back row, second from left), faculty members Barb Elliot (front row, centre) and Mike Fraser (front row, second from right), and the field placement team.

He was also excited that Brett Goodwin, Dean of Fleming’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences, joined his group in South Africa.

“It’s not often you get to travel with your professors, let alone the Dean! It’s inspiring to see someone you wouldn’t normally get to meet getting back into science and into the outdoors with the students,” said Samuel.

He “whole-heartedly” recommends the Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme, adding that the experience, skills and work will make an impact.

Fleming’s Ecosystem Management Technician program is the right fit for Samuel

Samuel discovered Fleming College through a friend, who endorsed Fleming based on its strong reputation as an environmental school. Samuel researched the College and was intrigued by the Ecosystem Management Technician program, which featured a mandatory field placement and opportunity to travel abroad.

To ensure Fleming was the right fit for him, Samuel attended the Spring 2017 Open House event before starting school that fall.

“The Open House gave me the opportunity to get a feeling for the faculty, the school and the environment. I needed to make sure that I was investing a piece of my life to somewhere that was going to invest in me and my future as well,” he explained. “I found having students and faculty present at booths, providing information and experiences in each program and service, were key in my decision to feeling like the program and school was right for me.”

Samuel describes Fleming’s Frost Campus as his “home away from home,” a close-knit, small campus community full of caring people.

“The faculty here at Fleming College go to the ends of the earth for their students and continue to do so. They have made my experience over the past two years unforgettable, but so incredibly valuable,” he said. “This program is full of wonderful, dedicated and passionate students who are like-minded but provide many different perspectives, and that is something truly amazing.”

Samuel will attend Fleming College for an additional year to complete the Ecosystem Management Technology program. After that, he would like to pursue Fleming’s Environmental Visual Communication graduate certificate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. He eventually wants to study conservation and biology in university.

Forestry Technician graduate Eric Butson will represent Frost Campus as a Grad Recruiter

ericForestry Technician graduate Eric Butson is looking forward to representing Frost Campus when he travels across Ontario this fall. Eric is a Grad Recruiter for Student Recruitment and will be sharing information about Fleming College with prospective students.

“What I’m looking forward to most as a Grad Recruiter is the opportunity to help secondary school students realize their potential and share with them the opportunities to grasp that potential at Fleming,” said Eric, who graduated from the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences this year.

Eric said he learned to embrace his weaknesses and face his fears head-on while at Fleming, which he said is the best way to grow personally and professionally.

To clear his mind, Eric said he loves visiting the Loggersports practice site, which is his favourite spot on campus. “It is a place where I spent many nights working hard to perfect my events, clearing my head and escaping the grind of academics for a little while,” he explained.

In addition to Loggersports and his studies in the Forestry Technician program, Eric also worked as a Student Ambassador for Student Recruitment, giving campus tours to prospective students, welcoming guests at Fleming’s Open House, and more.

“Getting to show individuals that are interested in your college what makes it so special to you hardly seemed like work,” he said. “As a Grad Recruiter, I get to hold a similar position and connect with so many more prospective students on a different platform.”

So what makes Fleming so special for Eric? The campus culture.

“My faculty and peers truly wanted everyone to succeed and it was a refreshing experience,” he said. “When speaking with prospective students, the reason I believe they should come to Fleming is because it is a unique college that blends excellence in academics with a student life experience for all individuals.”

Ontario Envirothon: Creating Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow

By: Laura Copeland

Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario
Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario

The Ontario Envirothon, held each spring, provides a unique opportunity for high school students to engage with the natural world, to learn how resources are managed, and to learn about the various careers and education pathways within the field.

“Regardless of the career path students choose after Envirothon, they will have a deeper understanding and appreciation for natural systems, and will be better able to make informed decisions about the environment,” says Allison Hands, Education Manager at Forests Ontario.

Forests Ontario has coordinated Ontario’s Envirothon program for close to 25 years, and the organization works with regional partners and sponsors – including Fleming College – to host local Envirothon workshops and competitions.

In fact, Rob Monico, with Fleming’s Office of Sustainability, participated in the Wellington-Waterloo Regional Envirothon Competition when he was in high school.

“The workshop and competition days inspired me to keep learning as much as I could about environmental issues. More importantly, I felt inspired and empowered enough to know that I could make a difference in environmental issues,” he says.

Rob’s participation in the event has come full circle. In April, he helped organize the regional Peterborough-Kawarthas-Northumberland Envirothon, which was hosted at Fleming’s Sutherland Campus. He also attended the Ontario Envirothon as a judge in May.

The Peterborough-Kawarthas-Northumberland Envirothon was a new regional competition initiated in 2017 for high schools in the area – there was no competition prior to this. A number of local organizations have worked together to launch and support this regional competition. These include Sustainable Peterborough, the County of Peterborough, Otonabee Region Conservation Authority, local school boards, and Fleming College.

envirothon-friendsThe 2018 regional competitions had 140 teams competing in total, with more than 1,000 students, teachers and volunteers participating across Envirothon events in Ontario. Winning teams from each region go on to compete at the Ontario Envirothon, which was held in Waterloo and featured 21 teams made up of 126 students and teachers.

Fleming College has hosted the Ontario Envirothon event several times at Frost Campus, and was also the co-host of the North American Envirothon championships with Trent University in 2016.

“This is an event we support because Fleming College believes in creating the next generation of environmental leaders. And, more importantly, assisting those leaders today to grow through experiential education opportunities,” says Rob.

“We have faculty, staff and students supporting this event from a variety of program areas,” adds Trish O’Connor, Director of Fleming’s Office of Sustainability. “It is also a great opportunity to showcase the wonderful natural environments at Fleming College to high school students, teachers, and the community.”

Rob explains that students take away a variety of skills by participating in the event. During the workshops and competition, students use different types of field equipment such as tree calipers, soil triangles, and dichotomous keys. Five major topics are covered – forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife, and a fifth topic that changes every year. (This year it was climate change.)

“Teams also have to synthesize information into a coherent, timed presentation. Through this portion of the program, students develop their critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving and public speaking skills,” says Allison.

For Forests Ontario, Envirothon is a natural fit. The organization’s three pillars are tree planting, community engagement and awareness, and forest education.

“We champion Envirothon because it’s Ontario’s largest environmental competition, it promotes forest education, and it’s a really enriching experience for the students who take part,” says Allison. “We believe this competition helps to create future ‘Green Leaders.’”

———————————————————

Forests Ontario works with a number of partners and sponsors to deliver Envirothon. Regionally, it works with conservation authorities, post-secondary institutions, professional/industry organizations, government, and charities/non-profits. The organization also offers additional education programs, including the 50 Million Tree Program, Forestry in the Classroom, and TD Tree Bee. For more information, visit: forestsontario.ca

For more information about Fleming College’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, visit: flemingcollege.ca/SENRS

Valedictorian David Hale says college is more than good grades and graduating

david-haleWhen David Hale enrolled in the Ecosystem Management Technician program, he entered Fleming College’s Frost Campus with the mindset of earning good grades and graduating as quickly as possible. But after making connections with people and learning more about the natural world, his point of view changed on what he wanted from his college experience.

“The Frost Campus community was awesome, from the front desk workers to the cafeteria staff, the teachers and the students. I found it incredibly unique and I think this is mostly because we all have a common interest: to work in the outdoors and preserve the natural environment,” David explained. “The community is very tight knit and you get to know students from a number of different disciplines as well as your own.”

David decided to take Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program after realizing he could turn his passion for the environment into a career.

“When I exited high school I thought my passion for the outdoors was only a hobby, but after taking an unrelated program in university I decided to try and turn it into a career,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about what I was passionate about.”

Over the past two years, David learned plant identification, ecosystem classification, soil and water sampling techniques, and how to design research studies. He also developed personal skills, such as leadership and teamwork.

David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated
David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated

“My most memorable experience from my time at Fleming was, without a doubt, being able to spend my final semester abroad at Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in South Africa,” said David. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We saw the most incredible things on a daily basis and we got to meet the most amazing people. While there, we also got to further develop all of the practical skills we learned in Lindsay.”

David graduated from Fleming College this month and served as Valedictorian for the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences on Friday, June 1 at convocation.

“I hope that people feel a sense of pride after my valedictorian speech,” he said. “Fleming College is very well recognized and being a graduate is a great accomplishment.”

The Class of 2018 graduate said he would recommend the Ecosystem Management program to anyone wanting to gain practical knowledge and skills in the environmental field. He credits the program with placing a huge emphasis on preparing students for their job search, including resume building and interview techniques, as well as covering academic topics and research skills.

“Personally, I found that the best part of the program was the faculty; as long as you work hard, the teachers will do anything to make sure you get everything you wanted out of the program and then some,” said David. “The fact that you can compete to spend a semester in South Africa is just one more thing that makes Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program unlike any other!”

Next year, David plans to attend Trent University for Conservation Biology. His ultimate career goal is to work abroad in conservation.

“Frost Campus is a special place and I know I’ll be carrying it with me as I move on in the future,” he added.

Hands-on learning in the hatchery

By: Laura Copeland

lenora3-editWhile searching for a post-graduate program to build on her knowledge and experience, Lenora Dias came across the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences at Fleming College’s Frost Campus.

Aquaculture caught my eye,” she says, adding that the amount of field work in the program initially drew her in. The compressed, one-year program is the only Aquaculture program offered as a post-graduate certificate in Ontario. As part of the program, students have the opportunity to learn and work in the on-campus salmonid fish hatchery as well as complete a paid co-op placement in the third semester.

“Getting the hands-on work in the hatchery gives you not only the ability to learn more but also the experience before getting into the industry, rather than learning just by ‘the textbook’ in a classroom setting. You can actually work with fish and learn more about them at different stages of life.”

lenora2-editNow Lenora’s personal interests in the field span a number of areas: the different types of aquatic species that can be farmed; how aquaculture can be used for conservation and restorative purposes; how aquaculture aids in sustainability and helps food safety and security; the limited awareness of the aquaculture industry and its benefits; and her own interest in studying and working with aquatic species. She is also working in the hatchery on weekends to further her learning.

Lenora, who was born and raised in Dubai, UAE, is a graduate of Canadian University Dubai with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health Management. She has a passion for nature and wildlife conservation/protection and enjoys a number of hobbies outside of the classroom such as hiking, soccer and basketball, sketching and painting, and playing acoustic drums.

Heading into the program’s final semester, Lenora will complete her co-op placement as an Aquaculture and Aquaponics Assistant with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

“I am looking forward to moving again and getting more hands-on work in a different setting,” Lenora says.

And she is leaving the door open on a career path when she graduates– whether it’s continuing her studies in Aquaculture or moving to the west coast to work on a fish farm.

Advanced Water System Operations and Management student Sainil Shaikh shares World Water Day campus solutions

sainil-shaikhDid you know that every 10 seconds at Fleming College’s four campus locations, we use almost one litre of water for washing our hands? Advanced Water System Operations and Management (AWSOM) student Sainil Shaikh has been researching water use at the college and brainstorming solutions.

“Water is not just a form of H2O, it is the element that gives life on this planet,” said Sainil for World Water Day (March 22), which focuses on the importance of water. “Our future is lying in this, so we should do something about it.”

This year’s theme for World Water Day is Nature for Water, which explores nature-based solutions to water challenges. Sainil, who is doing his program co-op with Fleming’s Office of Sustainability, credits Fleming with already implementing solutions. The current five year sustainability plan targeted a 10% reduction in water consumption across the College by 2018; this target was achieved in 2016. Further reduction targets will now be identified.

“We don’t sell water bottles on campus and we have a Sustainability Action Plan. In the KTTC, we have a rain water harvesting system where rain water is collected and used to flush toilets and urinals. The normal flushing capacity of urinals is 3.8 litres per flush, but in the KTTC the urinals use 0.5 litres per flush,” said Sainil. “At Frost Campus, we have a constructed wetland, which treats water for a particular zone of the campus. We also have the Centre for Advancement of Water and Wastewater Technologies located at Frost.”

But there is still work to be done, explains Sainil. Through his research for the Office of Sustainability, Sainil discovered that water usage tends to be higher at the beginning of each semester and that washrooms are the main source of high water usage. One of Sainil’s suggestions is to add automatic faucets to all washrooms (they are currently in some washrooms, including facilities in the KTTC), which would reduce the litres per minute used from 5-6 to 0.18.

Sainil also plans to create an awareness campaign around the use of water on campus. “No one knows that we are wasting this much water every day,” he said. “My friends got surprised when I told them these numbers.”

Sainil came to Fleming College from India after discovering the AWSOM program and Frost Campus’ strong reputation in the environmental field.

“It has been amazing!” he said. “It’s a good campus, it has more of an environmentally friendly surrounding. There’s nature and a trail, the Centre for Advancement of Water and Wastewater Technologies is on campus, there’s a living wall… it feels good. I enjoy studying in such a good institution.”

He has also been enjoying his co-op at the Office of Sustainability, which is located in the Sutherland Campus.

“Everyone is so supportive. If I come up with ideas, they always support me,” he said. “It’s been a good, free environment where no one pushes me, they just support me.”

He is proud of the work he has done through his co-op and the knowledge he has gained through his program. “I am in the AWSOM program doing awesome things at Fleming,” he said.

Madison Penton heads to Washington with Ecosystem Management Technology class

groupMadison Penton and her 31 Ecosystem Management Technology classmates boarded a bus to Washington, D.C., on January 22 for the Science, Business, and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure: Building Resilience in a Changing World conference.

The conference, which was presented by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), is a component of the Urban Ecosystems and Ecosystem Health courses. The event gives students the opportunity to see how a conference is organized and brainstorm ideas for their own conference, which they will host on March 24 at Fleming’s Frost Campus.

Madison and her Urban Ecosystems course team also presented a scientific poster at the conference, which is one of the project options in the Fleming College course. Her team presented on How to play with fire and not get burned: an evidence-based approach to wildfire risk reduction in California.

washington“I think one of the biggest things I gained from this experience was confidence,” said Madison. “During the conference, we really had to put ourselves out there, push past our comfort zones and take chances. Presenting a scientific poster on an international stage was nerve-racking but rewarding. Although it was scary when scientists and professionals approached us, we felt confident enough to answer their questions. Also, because the conference topics were so relevant to our learning, I felt confident to talk to anyone!”

While the conference gives students the opportunity to listen to scientists and environmental professionals discuss topics they are learning about in the classroom, the Fleming College group also had the opportunity to explore the history and culture of Washington.

“I had a great experience in Washington. Not only was the conference an incredible opportunity for networking and professional gain, but having the opportunity to explore an amazing new city was equally worthwhile,” she said.

Madison chose to take Ecosystem Management Technology at Fleming College after completing the Ecosystem Management Technician program, as she said the extra year will benefit her educational pathway to Trent University.

“My experience in the Ecosystem Management program has been nothing but rewarding. I have gained so much knowledge and passion for the environment I live in,” said Madison. “The opportunities I have had through field trips and out-of-classroom experiences, like the Washington trip, have been incredible for my personal gain. These experiences also provide opportunities for team building and have provided me with an opportunity to build friendships that I will treasure forever.”

Dan Carrocci uses drilling knowledge, geological skills and entrepreneurial spirit to make Determination Drilling a success

Dan Carrocci (centre) with third-semester Fleming College Drilling students.
Dan Carrocci (centre) with third-semester Fleming College Drilling students.

With a business plan and a diploma in hand, Dan Carrocci was only 21 years old when he walked into a bank to request a loan. The Fleming College graduate needed the money to purchase a geotechnical drilling rig to start his own drilling business, Determination Drilling.

“I saw a demand for it,” said Dan, who graduated from both the Resources Drilling and Blasting Technician (2003) and Geological Technician (2005) programs at Fleming’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences. “I could combine both worlds; I know how to drill and I know what’s in the ground. I went into the bank with my business plan and they seemed to realize the demand as well.”

With the goal of one day being a full-service drilling contractor, Dan purchased the rig and hired one employee. 14 years later, Determination Drilling is now a full-service drilling company that specializes in environmental, geotechnical, water well, geothermal, hydro power, solar, wind, and mining/exploration drilling with 22 employees and growing.

And that first rig Dan purchased at 21 years old is still in use, along with 10 geotechnical drill rigs, seven solar rigs, one water well drill, and many other small portable rigs for limited access projects.

“We’ve had sustainable growth,” said Dan on Determination Drilling’s success. “And by being so diverse we haven’t been at the mercy of economic downturns. When one industry goes down, another goes up; when mining is down, the geotechnical side is up as a result of government infrastructure spending, for example.”

Determination Drilling has travelled across Canada for thousands of drilling projects, including exploration drilling of kimberlite pipes in James Bay, diamond core drilling of iron ore in Newfoundland and Labrador, mining and infrastructure projects in Nunavut, geotechnical drilling on the 400 series highways in Ontario, and more.

Dan on the job holding rock core
Dan Carrocci, pictured here holding rock core

“What I love is that it’s challenging. Nothing is easy, you have to wear many hats. You have to be a mechanic, a geologist, a weatherman, and a little bit of everything to make it work. There are long hours and long days, there’s cold and heat…,” said Dan. “It’s a huge accomplishment when you defy all odds and make the impossible happen.  We have a team of dedicated, smart and determined operators that are the key to Determination Drilling’s success– teamwork makes the dream work!”

One of Dan’s favourite work experiences is drilling in Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut, where he takes a two-hour helicopter ride over the Arctic Circle in – 60 degree weather to get to the job site. “It was like the ultimate camping trip…with wolverines,” said Dan.

He also enjoys taking breaks to bond with staff, which includes bringing them hot chocolate and barbequing on the site. “I want my employees happy,” he said. “It’s a tough job and I’m proud of the way they represent our company. We’re all best friends and look out for each other like a big family.”

75% of Determination Drilling staff are Fleming College graduates, mainly from the Resources Drilling Technician and Heavy Equipment Operator programs. He credits the college as being a very valuable hiring resource.

“These teachers should be working at NASA and they stay on top of the industry” – Dan Carrocci on Fleming College faculty

“They graduate with the fundamentals, tooling identification, very strong safety knowledge; and usually have their DZ license, which saves me as an employer from having to pay for it,” said Dan. “Their instructors are excellent. I see Brian Gerry (Earth Resources Technician Co-op program coordinator) and Steve Wilkinson (Resources Drilling Technician program coordinator) at the PDAC every year working on their own dime to keep up-to-date with current technologies and industry trends. These teachers should be working at NASA and they stay on top of the industry. They deserve a lot more credit; without their passion for the industry, where would we be? I certainly would not have the same quality of drillers, and I might not have even become a driller at all without their leadership.”

As a safety advocate, Dan truly appreciates Fleming’s emphasis on safe working practices. Every employee at Determination Drilling is educated in drilling safety practices, and has First Aid/CPR training and common core training. Dan also delivers safety presentations in North America, Australia and England, and in 2009 he hosted a safety conference at Frost Campus and invited drilling managers from around the world.

“For the International Drilling Safety Conference, Fleming provided a venue for that,” said Dan, who is thankful for the strong network he has at Fleming. “I can always call my college professors for help when I’m in need of advice or direction.”

One day, Dan said, perhaps he’ll be the one at the front of the classroom… but only as a guest speaker to share his experiences with the next generation of drillers. Dan still enjoys being out in the field learning every day and loves the adventure, plus – he added – it’s tough to get dirty in a classroom.