My name is Jocelyn and I am very excited to share with you the experience I had while completing an academic placement with the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC). I am a fourth year Life Sciences student minoring in geography and environmental sciences at McMaster University. The life sciences department at McMaster provides students with the opportunity to explore a career of interest by completing an applied placement course. Since I am doing a minor in environmental sciences I wanted to explore what a career in this field may comprise of, which is why I decided to do my spring placement with the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC).
Although BARC’s office is located on McMaster’s campus I never knew BARC existed until my fourth year of study. What caught my attention to this organization was a guest lecture I had in one of my courses. Steve, who was one of my placement supervisors, gave a presentation about Hamilton’s water quality issues and the different low impact development solutions available to improve Hamilton’s water quality, such as rain gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavement. Steve’s presentation inspired me to get involved in improving the state of Hamilton Harbor and I thought joining BARC’s team would be a great way for me to both take initiative in my community and determine whether a career in environmental sciences is something I should further consider.
The past six weeks have been of paramount importance to my personal, educational and career development. I have developed many skills that will be beneficial for myself today and in the future. I have improved my oral communication skills by giving interactive presentations that are tailored to the appropriate audience. Additionally, I have gained a better appreciation for the wildlife that lives in Hamilton’s backyard by becoming familiar with some of the species that make Cootes Paradise one of Canada’s biodiversity hot spots. Furthermore, I have enhanced my communities understanding about Hamilton’s water issues by helping run educational programs. A few of the educational programs I assisted with were Turtle Crossing, Creeks and Creepy Crawlies and the Hamilton Children’s Water Festival.
At the Hamilton Children’s Water Festival, elementary school students got to participate in different activities to learn about the importance of water in their daily lives. I helped BARC run a station called “rain garden relay” and at this station BARC taught children about stormwater runoff and solutions to overcome this problem, such as constructing rain gardens. Another program BARC offers to reduce stormwater runoff and improve the quality of Hamilton’s water involves constructing rain gardens. During my placement I was able to assist in building seven rain gardens at various schools across Hamilton. Before my placement I had never heard of a rain garden, but BARC has taught me what a rain garden is, how they are built and how environmentally friendly they are. For those who don’t know what a rain garden is, it simply is a garden with an artificial depression that contains many different native plants that help to capture, absorb and filter pollutants from stormwater runoff. Incredibly, rain gardens can absorb up to 99% of heavy metals in stormwater runoff. It was also really nice to see the students help build their school rain garden by having them do a lot of the garden planting and watering. Since I love being outside and enjoying nature two of my favourite activities with BARC were the Hamilton Children’s Water Festival and rain garden building.
I thank BARC for giving me the opportunity to explore what a career in the environmental sciences field may encompass. I really enjoyed my placement at BARC and it definitely has encouraged me to look into the various types of careers I could purse with my minor in environmental sciences. In the event that I find myself back at McMaster for a graduate program I would most definitely volunteer with BARC. I hope other students, whether they share a similar educational interest as me or just want to get involved with their Hamilton community consider a placement or volunteer position with BARC.