Student stories

Exploring the environment through geography and biology co-op

Abby Matheson

Ecofor Consulting

“I’m proud of myself for stepping up and getting the job done, even when it was outside my comfort zone.”

Fourth-year UVic co-op student Abby Matheson found herself immersed in British Columbia’s natural beauty when she accepted a job with biological consulting company Ecofor. The role took the geography major/biology minor to the province’s north, where she encountered plant and animal diversity in remote field biology.

Abby chose her major and minor out of a desire for an intersectional and diverse education in natural sciences. To take this interest out of the lab and into the field, she decided to join co-op and found a position that connected to both program areas.

 “I was constantly learning something new,” she says of her experience with Ecofor, where she worked as a technician on the Natural Resources Team. “I drew on my biology minor to identify local plants and species, and my geography knowledge laid the groundwork to understand how GPS systems were used in the field.”

Abby conducted stream assessments, wildlife surveys and vegetation surveys and confirmed her belief in the importance of environmental regulation in the forestry industry. As her role took her from her base in Carrier Territory in Northern BC to Haisla Territory and Treaty 8 Territory, she put the technical skills she was learning to use in a range of natural environments.

“I really learned the ins and outs of working in remote field biology, as well as how to cope in the field,” she says. This included learning practical skills like remote first aid, compass navigation and truck repair. She also undertook responsibilities like overseeing crew members.

Abby encourages students to look into funding opportunities to help make co-op more accessible. The Strategic Framework Experiential Learning Fund supports work terms across Canada, international work terms, and work terms for Indigenous students, among others.

“For students who can afford to take one, a co-op work term can be a great opportunity,” Abby says. She also notes that students can find jobs on their own, and then apply to receive co-op credit. “Don’t limit yourself to the co-op job page!”

Next up, Abby hopes to explore geomatics, also known as the collection, management, and analysis of geographical data in her next role.

“It was exciting to work on lots of different projects in lots of different areas throughout the province,” she says. “I’m proud of myself for stepping up and getting the job done, even when it was outside my comfort zone.”

More about Social sciences co-op