As part of our Women in Water series, started on International Women’s Day, we are interviewing women across the world who are dedicated to the protection of the water and the environment, and the use of technology to do so. This week, we met with Kirsten Adams, an AQUARIUS user at the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) in Australia, and Lynn Landry, a WaterTrax user at Metro Vancouver, Canada.
First up was Kirsten Adams, a senior hydrologist at DPIPWE, who is responsible for determining sustainable limits for water allocations, reviewing major dam developments in terms of water availability, managing the AQUARIUS portal, and conducting hydrological analysis for water management planning for the state.
Kirsten laughs that she originally ended up in hydrology “by accident” during a three month work experience program while studying for her engineering degree. She enjoyed it so much that she decided to pursue a career in hydrology after graduation. Since then, she’s traveled around Australia and the world for her career.
Initially attracted to the profession because of a strong desire to help to protect a precious resource, Kirsten is happy that her job enables her to make a difference. “Water scarcity is a huge issue in our world today,” she notes, “and has the potential to create a lot more jobs in the industry. Technology is changing too, and this has impacts on the way we collect, store, analyze, and report that data to others.”
Nevertheless, she says the industry itself has a ways to go in terms of gender equality. “When I started 20 years ago, I was the only female in the hydrology/hydrography group of about 20. Today, I’m still the only female in my section of about 15 scientific and technical staff. Unfortunately, I see the same thing in post-secondary, there’s not a lot of women in engineering or hydrology.” Kirsten acknowledges that it can be even more difficult in Tasmania than in other places, because it is a small state, and therefore does not have much room for advancement.
Kirsten is a big promoter of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). “Take gender out of the equation when thinking about work,” she says, adding “women shouldn’t care about what other people think when it comes to choices of work. And most organizations are very supportive, it’s capability that matters.” Kirsten herself has a family, and notes that balance isn’t easy, but it’s possible. “I see my daughters in school today and I really hope that future generations of women don’t give up on math and sciences. Women working in these industries shouldn’t be an anomaly.”
Next up, we met with Lynn Landry, Program Manager for Environmental Engineering, Environmental Management and Quality Control, Liquid Waste Services, at Metro Vancouver.
Lynn has always been passionate about protecting the environment and human health, as well as the impact that technology has on society. Lynn’s career has taken her across Canada, working in both the private and public sectors, at consulting engineering firms and a regional municipal government.
Lynn has had many exciting opportunities to explore new techniques and approaches with multi-disciplinary teams to protect both the environment and human health. These projects have ranged from contaminated sites investigation and remediation, design of water and wastewater treatment plants, development of drinking water and liquid waste management plans, water use studies and forecasting, and more recently, studies related to wastewater contaminants of concern, and related human health and environmental risk assessments.
Lynn’s degree in environmental engineering has given her a fantastic foundation for all of these projects. She originally imagined that she would spend her career more in the environmental and drinking water side of the water industry, but has naturally gravitated towards wastewater. “Even though the wastewater side of the industry has that certain ‘ick’ factor, it’s really where things are happening,” Lynn notes, adding: “The work is incredibly fascinating and I’m still very interested in it after 20 years.”
Lynn has observed that the industry continues to grow as science and technology develops. “There are many new and emerging areas of concern, especially to do with drinking water and wastewater contaminants. Water treatment, how society deals with waste, and the impact of chemicals on human health and the environment are all hot topics in the industry today. There is definitely a lot of work to do in research, regulatory policy, and treatment.”
This is the second post in our “Women in Water” series, in which we’re highlighting a number of women working in the water and wastewater industries over the month of March. Join us as as we share the stories of these remarkable women and celebrate their achievements by following our blog.