Adventure called to Katelyn Nagy when she was choosing her career path and that call led her to work with forestry professionals in Saskatchewan.
Her summer working in northern Saskatchewan opened her eyes to the profession of forestry in Saskatchewan as she completes her degree in Renewable Resource Management at the University of Saskatchewan – options she wishes she had discovered earlier.
Up until now, she had a solid sense of what she wanted in a career but had not yet found exactly what she desired. Finding her way to this point involved moving from Regina to B.C. to Australia and back to Saskatchewan to work in a summer student position for Forsite Consultants Ltd., an integrated forest management company.
Leading up to her graduation from Campbell Collegiate in Regina, Nagy would hear about three career options for the future – doctor, nurse, and fitness instructor.
“Those were like the three pathways and I just knew that wasn’t for me,” said Nagy, who saw herself spending her work days outdoors.
That interest drew her to move to B.C. after high school to complete a diploma program in adventure tourism in Golden through the College of the Rockies. She spent a little more than three years working in tourism there before moving to Vancouver for another opportunity in that industry.
“I kind of realized after a few years that the tourism industry is pretty up and down,” said Nagy.
“It really depends on how many people come to wherever you are and whether or not they want to do whatever activity you’re employed to do.
“So, I started thinking ‘What are some other jobs you can do outside?’”
Scanning her environment
Some thinking time about where to go with her career happened during a trip to Australia that was cut short by the pandemic. During the six months she was down under, she noticed and considered how much the environment is impacted by humans.
Protecting the environment as part of her profession mattered to Nagy, so she decided to go back to school.
“I was looking around at different programs and I saw at the University of Saskatchewan has the Bachelor of Science in Renewable Resource Management program.
“I thought, “Oh wow! This is what I want.’ It’s outside and you’re not really relying on people. You’re relying on the environment, which is always going to be there.”
Finding forestry in Saskatchewan
She started her studies in Saskatoon in the fall of 2022. In October of that year, she attended a career fair where she met Darryl Sande, who is Forsite’s Saskatchewan Manager, as well as other forestry professionals.
He explained the employment opportunities available for qualified students through Forsite during their summer break. Nagy was interested in an opportunity there after learning that the work would vary depending on the projects Forsite was working on at the time. She applied and was hired for a summer student position for the summer of 2023.
Near the end of her summer working for Forsite, Nagy described how the experience changed her perspective on the northern part of Saskatchewan and its possibilities. Though she had spent time in the forests of B.C., she was less familiar with the boreal forest that covers the northern half of her home province.
“The forest is so different than I expected,” said Nagy.
“I didn’t really ever go north of Saskatoon when I was younger and so I knew the forest was there, but I didn’t know anything about it and thought it was all aspen trees.”
Technology in nature
For her, moving to Prince Albert for this summer student position with Forsite was a chance to revive that sense of adventure that she sought when she graduated from high school.
Spending time up close and personal with the trees and terrain of northern Saskatchewan has revealed to Nagy what many in the southern part of the province might not know about the forest and the profession of forestry.
A highlight of her time with Forsite was working on inventory plot establishment near the end of her summer. This involved collecting forest data in inventory plots for a client that holds a Forest Management Agreement (FMA). While some data is collected from above the forest using LiDAR scanning, it is also collected at ground level by people like Nagy.
“We’re collecting data that will be used to train the software that uses the LiDAR data to predict various forest conditions” said Nagy.
“So, I think that’s really cool how technology can be used like that to update inventory maps that are 20 years old. It’s a huge project and I don’t think it’s ever been done before in Saskatchewan with that type of technology.”
“I think it’s really cool to see how the technology has really changed forestry.”
“Darryl was telling me about how they used to use a chain to navigate through the forest to get where they wanted to go.”
“Now, we have our iPad with our little GPS dot over a digital map and we take a bearing with the iPad. That’s where we want to go.”
Joining colleagues with common interests
Hiking was one of her favourite activities living in B.C. This summer, she was happy to spend many of her days hiking in Saskatchewan’s forests.
“You are by yourself, but you’re not by yourself. You go out with a crew, but you might be a kilometre away from them as you work,” said Nagy.
“It’s really good for people who are introverted on the job because you have that alone time and it’s good for extroverted people as well – people who want to explore more and see more of the northern part of the province and visit places they have never been before.”
She has found her co-workers at Forsite share a passion with her and those she is learning alongside at USask.
“It seems like everyone loves to be outside,” said Nagy
“Everybody in my program is camping on the weekends, heading out on canoe trips or have hiking trips planned.”
During her summer, Nagy learned much more about the profession of forestry. She appreciates that she is now hearing her colleagues at Forsite discuss the process of becoming registered because being a professional forester or forest technologist was not a career that was evident to her as a high school student in southern Saskatchewan.
“That was kind of frustrating because had I known a lot earlier, I probably would have started it as soon as I finished high school,” said Nagy.
The Association of Saskatchewan Forestry Professionals (ASFP) will work with those interested in becoming a Registered Professional Forester or Registered Professional Forest Technologist. Anyone who practices forestry in Saskatchewan must be a member of the Association of Saskatchewan Forestry Professionals. Information on how to become a member is available on its website.