I had most of this column written up on Saturday, October 13 to free up room on my busy schedule. October 13 is an important date for me. Seven years ago on that day I left for the Northwest Territories to start a professional newspaper career and went on a long roundabout journey through Lloydminster, Alberta which ultimately brought me back home to start a new career in the environmental sciences and engineering.
At present, I’m slogging through the toughest semester of College of the North Atlantic’s three year Environmental Technology program. We were advised since last year that the fall semester of Year II will be the roughest, and that reality is beginning to take shape.
The courses we’re undertaking include mostly new material for us, which brings the challenge of absorbing and applying it as fast as possible with each lab, assignment and test. In comparison, our first year was mostly a review of basic academic concepts and an introduction to lab and field techniques.
We have a major focus on statistics, which is tied into nearly all courses, in particular analytical chemistry. Some of our other courses also incorporate engineering concepts to the extent that this program should officially include Engineering in its title.
Below are the course descriptions from the online College of the North Atlantic academic calendar.
This course introduces students to the basic principles of probability and statistics, and the decisions that can be made using statistics. In this course the student will explore descriptive statistics, elementary probability, discrete and continuous probability distributions, sampling distributions, hypothesis testing, chi-square distribution, analysis of variance, linear regression and correlation, and multiple linear regression. The student will have the opportunity to apply and interpret the results of a variety of statistical techniques from both descriptive and inferential statistics; to apply the fundamental concepts in statistics including sampling, experimentation, variability, distribution, association, causation, estimation, confidence, hypothesis testing, and significance; to critically review and analyze statistical arguments found in the popular press and in scholarly journals; and to appreciate the relevance and importance of statistics.
Titrations, a method of quantitive chemical analysis, are a major component of this year’s analytical chemistry course.
Analytical Chemistry (CH2700)
This is an introductory course in chemical analysis. It consists of classical methods of quantitative chemical analysis such as gravimetry and titrimetry, as well as simple instrumental techniques used for field measurement (pH, colorimetry, conductivity, dissolved oxygen). Students are also exposed to Environmental Sampling and statistical treatment of data.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EN3200)
This course, oriented to the needs of the environment industry, teaches the students the basics of the environmental assessment procedure. The course carries on from the Environmental Law course where a broad overview of the legislation is presented. We review the assessment legislation in detail and develop the tools needed to perform an environmental impact assessment. We conclude the course by performing a case study to assess a small local project.
(I’m writing this column early at a fast clip so I can have it ready before we leave for a field trip pertaining to this course. We’re going to the Buchans mine site for a couple of days this week to observe the remediation efforts up close.)
This course focuses on basic ecological principles and concepts, ecological sampling techniques and field and laboratory exercises carried out in an appropriate environment. It involves significant and relevant field work, as well as the preparation of a report on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, populations, species interactions and ecological communities.
This is an introductory physics course designed to extend students’ knowledge and understanding of basic physics principles, concepts and applications related to mechanics. This course also extends abilities in data handling, problem solving and experimentation.
Water Resources (EN2500)
This course provides the fundamental concepts required to understand hydrology. This course will address hydrologic principles, flood analysis, urban hydrology, and groundwater hydrology. The course also gives the student an overview of well construction, maintenance, rehabilitation, and monitoring techniques.
Throughout this semester and next, we’ll be preparing for our co-op workterms.
When I graduate, what can I expect to be qualified for? The principal reason I chose to take on this challenge is to become more adaptable. I will be qualified to work in the field, or in the lab, or consult. I’m already certified in first aid, restricted maritime radio operation, and transportation of dangerous goods. Even if I choose to return to my media roots and take on a science beat, I’ll have some solid experience and credentials to back me up.
I’m sure the hard work will be worth it.
Lead photo: two fellow students roar in to shore after taking readings in Pinchgut Lake during an ecology field trip.