Happy New Year, everyone!
To start off 2023, we decided to do something a little different for our blog post. Our last series was centered around some of the experiences HQPs have been taking part in through our mobility fund. It was exciting to hear about the thrilling projects they are participating in and the places it took them. This got us thinking about what the future holds for these amazing young scientists post-ResNet.
In November, one of our very own alumni from landscape 1, Tasha Rabinowitz, took part in publishing a technical paper series on the creation of saltmarsh accounting framework at Statistics Canada. For those who don’t know, this paper series is a part of StatsCan’s new Census of Environment, the Canadian government’s very own ecosystem accounting framework based on SEEA-EA. It was inspiring to see a former HQP taking part in something so pivotal for the relationship between Canada’s environment and economy. It got us wondering - what is in store for current HQPs? What can we learn from Tasha’s experience?
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Tasha to ask her about this experience and the path that got her there before the holidays. Keep reading to learn more about her!
Tasha (she/they) is a junior environmental research analyst at Statistics Canada originally from Barrie, Ontario. She did her Bachelor's at Trent University in Environmental Sciences and Studies and her M.Sc. in Applied Science at Saint Mary’s University (Halifax, NS). It was in her Master’s program and Jeremy Lundholm’s lab (part of our Landscape 1) that she began doing research on salt marsh restoration. Since completing her Master’s, Tasha has remained in Halifax and started working for StatsCan remotely.
It's always intriguing to learn about what drew someone to their field. To get started, we asked Tasha some questions about what led her to pursue a career in environmental research and what inspires her:
In my last year of high school, I took a ‘World Issues’ course where we discussed overpopulation and the carrying capacity concept. I think was the first thing that got me thinking about environmental research, so I decided to take environmental science. At Trent, I found a love for fieldwork courses and worked for Parks Canada at Terra Nova National Park in Newfoundland with their ecological integrity monitoring program. It really cinched my love for environmental research and piqued my interest in continuing to work for the federal government. After my undergrad, I took a hiatus to travel and do some agricultural work. This was really beneficial because when I came back to do my Master’s, I really knew what I wanted and feel like I got a lot more out of that program than I would have if I had just gone straight from undergrad to Master’s.
The most influential experiences to me have always been watching the people around me interact with the environment rather than reading voraciously. I’ve had some particularly passionate mentors around me over the years who strongly informed the way that I think about the environment – those include my honours and master’s supervisors Shaun Watmough and Jeremy Lundholm. As well as a former professor Tom Whillans and boss Janet Feltham. But if I had to pick one author, it would have to be Robin Wall Kimmerer. I think the common thread is a passion for observing and listening to what the environment has to teach us and acting on that in a way that empowers and uplifts people to connect meaningfully with and give back to the environment.
If you are a ResNet member and are wondering why you have not met Tasha, it might be because she left ResNet early on into our inception when she finished her master’s. Nonetheless, her role in ResNet has been meaningful. Her project was included in the proposal to start ResNet and she came to some of the first meetings and panels before graduating. This novel experience allowed us to gain a new perspective on ResNet:
It was interesting watching how such a large network of people working on such a big project got organized and structured. I’m always intrigued to see how big projects like that get pushed forward to create a useful output – it takes some serious logistical planning and creativity, which always leaves me in awe of those who take charge. I also appreciated the non-academic job panels because it’s easy when you’re in school to be funnelled through to academia, so it was nice to get that perspective and network that way. If I had more time to work within ResNet, I would have really appreciated the networking aspect and would have tried to take as much training and participate and contribute as much as I could.
One of the things that was really refreshing to talk about was the bright, nuanced perspective Tasha had on the pandemic and the opportunities it brought with it:
I do appreciate all the changes made to everyday work by the pandemic – online work has really had its upsides in allowing people to work flexibly, promoting diversity and equity, and allowing connections to be made and collaboration to happen over broad geographical areas.
We touched back on this idea later on when we talked about her current job at StatsCan which is remote:
The remote aspect is definitely part of what drew me to the job. It allows me to work for the government without having to move to Ottawa. This likely would not have been an option without the pandemic.
As Tasha mentioned, it can sometimes feel like your only career path is with academic institutions when you're a young researcher. Many of us don’t get the opportunity to learn and speak to people who work outside these halls in a meaningful way and find out if a non-academic institution might be a more suitable path for our interests. This is a big part of the reason why we wanted to sit down with Tasha. We wanted to know more about what led her to the opportunity, the day-to-day life of a government research analyst, what skills it takes and what experiences are useful for young researchers that may be interested in this kind of path:
I graduated during the pandemic and was looking for work that aligned with my interest in environmental restoration and monitoring – mainly field work focused. Because I had worked at Parks Canada before, I was interested in revisiting a similar position in the government. I saw our research manager, Francois, speak at a ResNet meeting where he put the call out for people that were interested to apply for a casual contract. I got in touch with him to get more information. It seemed like a good opportunity to broaden my horizons. I didn’t really know that StatsCan did any environmental statistics work before ResNet, and it’s unlikely this would have been the direction I took if it weren’t for ResNet and the pandemic. I think this is a good example of just playing the cards you’re dealt – this isn’t necessarily the position I was looking for, but it has worked out great because I work with a fantastic team of people, the subject matter aligns with my values and interests, and I’m doing something outside my comfort zone.
Working for the government feels a lot more structured than working in academia since we are working within the priorities of the government. There is a lot of trying to figure out how to navigate these massive organizational structures and find who you need to talk to in order to push things along. In academia, it seems like when you have an idea you can just act on it whereas in government there’s a few more steps because of our responsibility to the public.
My position is probably somewhere in between [academic research and government work] since its research focused. My day-to-day changes depending on what the current priority of our section is – sometimes I’m researching and writing, sometimes I’m teaching myself new tools and skills, sometimes I’m contributing to small working groups working to solve very specific issues […] it’s really mixed which is great!
Tasha shared a lot of enlightening advice like this throughout the interview. We compiled a list below of some of the things she shared with us:
Before our conversation was over, we of course wanted to know about what is on the horizon for Tasha and her work:
Part of being a recruit is going on rotation and working in a totally different department at StatsCan so that’s coming up for me over the next year. I’m also working on actually doing the data analysis required to fill out the framework we created to produce accounts on salt marshes.
If you want to learn more about Tasha’s work, check out some of her papers featured on Landscape 1’s output page or her ResearchGate profile. You can learn more about her paper with Census of Environment here and read it here.
This is a personal interview with Tasha Rabinowitz and in no way reflects the opinions of Statistics Canada.