It's easy to forget about the environment when you're living in a big city like Edmonton. Sure, it's "out there" somewhere, but it's not a part of everyday life, right?
Well, it is for Elise Babyn, and if you gave her the chance, she’d probably show you how it is for you as well. As a Health, Safety, and Environment Coordinator with ATCO Electric, her job has her working at the intersection of human activity and the natural environment within which we live.
"On the environmental side, I'm focused in on the day to day ways in which our company's equipment interacts with the environment. For instance, I'm responsible for the company's bird program, which investigates any negative interactions that our equipment has with birds, and looks into precautions we can take to limit those effects."
To do that kind of work, Elise has developed a range of expertise. "I've had to specialize in electric and magnetic fields, understanding the research available on how they interact with humans and the environment."
Indeed, learning remains a key part of her career. Even with a bachelor's degree—a BSc in biology from Augustana in 2007—Elise has had to go back to school to acquire new skills. For the Health and Safety part of her role, she has taken courses in the occupational health and safety program with the University of Alberta's Faculty of Extension, and is working towards becoming a Canadian Registered Safety Professional.
As much as she likes the challenges that come with her current job, when asked about her future plans it's clear that Elise continues to think about other possibilities. "Eventually, I might continue on in the environmental field. I'm from Yellow Knife, My first job was actually in Whitehorse working as an environmental scientist, and there are times I miss spending my days outside."
Naturally, that might require more education, which doesn’t bother her at all. “It’s possible I’ll end up doing a Master’s in next five or so years, to get that additional knowledge in environmental science. If I do, it’ll definitely include field work again.”
For now though, she's content to stay in the city. "There's still room to grow with the company.” Room to grow, and much to learn. Indeed, talking with Elise about her career it becomes clear that for her the question is never about whether to study, but simply where, what, and how.