Editor's Note: We asked our seasonal Outreach Assistants, Sydney and Rebekkah, to take a look back and reflect on the first half of their summer. Read about the time they met "Mantracker" Terry Grant, their first snake encounter, and what type of animal they can't get out of their heads at the end of a busy day.
Wow, it’s July already! Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday we were touring the headwaters and trying to learn as much as we could about our amazing watershed. We have already had a jam-packed summer filled with lots of activities, which you can follow along with in our Weekly Runoff on Facebook. We’ve learned so much, met so many people, and seen so many cool things.
To start things off, we didn’t realize how alike we were until a lady at the Wildflower Festival in Waterton said she thought we were sisters! Now when we think about it - curly hair, blue eyes… we do kind of look like sisters, ‘Saskatchewan Sisters!’
When we were interviewed for the job, no one told us that we would have to back up a truck into the parking spot behind the office in the alley (which is quite tricky since our personal vehicles are cars). Good thing we are both used to gravel roads as well, because for the first 2 months of this job, there has been tons of rain and even sometimes snow, and more often than not, we are driving on gravel roads that are in less than ‘perfect’ condition. Besides having a sit-down interview, a driving test on bad roads should definitely be part of the hiring process!
Rebekkah’s personal thoughts on the summer so far:
As a student, I had a couple options for the summer: move back home to Saskatchewan or stay in Alberta. I chose to stay in Alberta for the summer, unsure if I would be happy with my decision because I wouldn’t be returning to Saskatchewan with all of my friends and family. Working for the OWC and connecting with people from all over Alberta made me happy that I made this choice despite crazy Alberta weather. One of my favourite things about Lethbridge and the environment field is that there is a strong sense of community and everyone gets along very well. I’ve really gotten to see that throughout this summer, especially as relationships grow with coworkers and community members.
My favorite part of the summer so far has been how much I have learned; this has been one of my best learning experiences I’ve ever had. Everyone in the office and on our board is so educated and has so much to share. Even though I don’t have enough room to write what everyone has taught me, here are some examples. Jon Martin, our Communication Specialist, has taught me so much about photos, music, and Lethbridge. Even when I am not at work, I often think about little tips and information he has shared with me. Shannon Frank, our Executive Director, is extremely well-spoken and friendly. She has been someone I have really looked up to as a role model, and I hope as my career progresses I am like her. Sofie Forsstrom, our Education Manager, along with Jon, have been extremely helpful with our writing for our blogs and Facebook. Working with them has made me feel a lot more confident about my writing abilities, by not just editing our writing but really taking time out of their day to go through everything with us. Lastly, Janna Casson and Dwayne Rogness, two of our board members, have been willing to share their education, volunteering and life experiences, and knowledge about Alberta. It’s helped me so I don’t feel so lost when it comes to events in the news. Truthfully, I think they were just trying their hardest to convert me into an Albertan for good.
Somebody else I have been thankful for throughout the entire summer has been Sydney. I was very worried about who the other Outreach Assistant would be since I knew we would be spending a lot of time together. I actually met Sydney last year at our Park Ranger training when I wasn’t even of legal drinking age yet. She was older than me, quiet, more experienced in the job and in the environmental field, had nicer curlier hair than me (funny because that lady thought we were sisters because we are so alike).… I could go on but to sum it up, I was intimidated. When she walked into the office on our first day, I thought, “Oh, here we go again,” but it hasn’t been like that at all. Now that I’ve gotten a bit older, and finished my first year of Environmental Science I’m not AS intimidated anymore. At our AGM, Sydney introduced herself as “Rebekkah’s other half,” but honestly I would consider her my “other better half.” She is so easy to work with, and whenever I get frustrated with a situation she is always there to laugh at me and remind me not to take everything so seriously. Especially when it comes to directions, because I rely heavily on Google Maps and she is like a human GPS.
Although I like to pretend that I don’t find anything difficult, this summer hasn’t all been a breeze. I am continuously learning new things about the OWC, the environmental field, and how to effectively communicate with people. Sometimes we get people with good questions that I do not have the answer to. It can be stressful to try and give them my best possible answer and also remember to get their information for a possible follow-up, especially when we are very busy. I love being busy; it makes the days go by fast. Sometimes, however, it can be challenging to do the job to the best of my ability and really engage with people when it is just the two of us. Some days I go home and my brain is stuck on native fish. I love field days, but sometimes I have to remind myself just how much I love them when we have early morning starts, or we end late. I love what I do, and I don’t mind missing an occasional soccer game or two, but sometimes winning a soccer game can feel as good as getting a big invasive weed root out of the ground!
This has been a great summer so far, and I am thankful for not just my coworkers and the people I have met but the experiences that the OWC has given to me. I feel like the OWC has really helped me in advancing my personal career, my academic career, and my personal growth. I am happy that I chose to give Alberta a chance this summer, and I hope to keep learning and meet new people.
Sydney’s reflections on the summer:
What a summer it has been so far! At the beginning of the summer, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into; I was just happy to have a job in Lethbridge working in the field I was studying in. I remember walking into the office on the first day and seeing Rebekkah sitting at the desk, and I was so relieved to see a familiar face. One thing I was definitely worried about before starting the job was having a co-worker I wouldn’t get along with. Luckily I was very wrong! Rebekkah and I are quite similar (sweet Saskatchewan girls); we both have the same sense of humor, and our personalities align perfectly. I am literally not afraid to talk about anything with her, work related or not! I have a very quiet, serious personality, while Rebekkah always finds a way to make everything fun and makes the days pass by so much quicker! It is so weird that we know the same people from Saskatchewan since we grew up within a few hours of each other. What is equally as weird is that we also know the same people in Lethbridge since we are in the same program, but are a year apart. Thank goodness for small towns!
One of my favourite days so far this summer was May 24th, when we participated in our Bear Smart course in Hillcrest and toured the Brood Trout Hatchery. To my surprise, Terry Grant (aka Mantracker) was assisting in instructing the course! Throughout my whole childhood, my afternoon routine was to get off the bus, get a snack, and watch Mantracker on TV before going out to do chores at the barn. I was in such awe that I missed my chance to get a picture, and I will forever kick myself for it! My one time meeting someone famous and I don’t get a picture??? Our course was held beside the Hillcrest ball diamonds, and oddly enough my hometown high school baseball team, which I used to play on, was competing in provincials on the same day! So after meeting Mantracker, I got to visit with my past baseball coach. Following this once-in-a-lifetime experience, we went to the Allison Creek Brood Trout Hatchery and got an excellent tour. It is such an amazing facility that does a lot of work in such a remote location and has a relatively small staff. I wish I could have days as good as that one was, every day of the week that ends with ‘Y’!
When I learned that we would be writing daily Facebook and blog posts, I was immediately concerned since I have been out of school for a year and am not really in the ‘swing of things’ and had some cobwebs in my brain about proper writing and grammar. After the first Facebook post Rebekkah and I wrote, we had a meeting with Sofie, our supervisor, and Jon who is our Communications Specialist, and they are the definition of ‘Grammar Experts’. That meeting was over an hour and a half, and all we talked about was grammar as we picked apart our rough draft of our first post. While I was leaving the board room I felt like my brain was going to explode, but it was definitely worth it because since then, our writing has improved a ton and we have hardly had to make any changes to our posts after we send it to them for review.
When Sofie told us we were also going to be doing video editing, I freaked out a little bit. Jon gave us the quickest rundown of how to use iMovie, and then it was our turn to do it. Surprisingly, we picked it up quite quickly, and it only takes Rebekkah and me about an hour to edit a video, with relatively few swears said to our computers. Now, I’m at the point where I’d like to start doing it for fun in my own personal life!
Now onto the hard things. Since I grew up on the Saskatchewan prairies, I am not familiar with being in bear country or having as many snakes slithering around as there is in Lethbridge and other areas in the watershed. Apparently, I am a HUGE chicken when it comes to animals. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature and I think it’s silly to be scared of things like bugs or birds. Luckily, we haven’t seen a bear in our travels yet, and I know the chances of it happening are very slim, but I do not leave the truck without one of us having bear spray, and I am constantly looking around when we walk through the bush. We have only seen one snake when we were doing a garbage pick up, and someone else saw it first before I did, thank goodness. We can’t get away from either of them; in our headwaters there’s bears, and everywhere else there’s also snakes. Slowly I’m getting over my fears!
Another task we are challenged with is to repeat myself over and over, for a whole day. When we set up a table anywhere and play the fishing game with kids, I really want each interaction I have with people that come by our table to be exciting, genuine, and interesting, but after you’ve been spouting off the same facts over and over again for hours on end it gets hard! As the summer goes on it keeps getting easier, and I’m learning different techniques to keep things interesting.
Thus far, this summer has been great, and I am so lucky to have been chosen to be part of such an interesting, interactive, and rewarding summer job. I’m grateful for great and educated coworkers, fantastic board members, good weather, and rain. I can’t wait to keep learning new things and continue to make valuable connections in the environmental field.