LGL Limited (Ontario)

An ecologist at work: Monitoring surface water and species-at-risk in Southern Ontario

Bridgett conducting fieldwork in the Grand River.

Bridgette Pilon, Science Horizons intern, conducting field work in the Grand River. Photo credit: Thiviya Kanagasabesan.

Describing her work as an ecologist as extremely rewarding, Bridgette Pilon was hired as an intern by LGL Limited to work on a surface water monitoring project in Ontario’s Waterloo Region in 2020. 

The 50-year old company with offices in Canada and the U.S. was retained by the Regional Municipality of Waterloo to monitor the surface water quality of the Grand River and its tributaries in southwestern Ontario. Its research shows that wastewater treatment plant upgrades have significantly improved the water quality in the region since 2009. LGL’s assessments are based on samples taken from 32 stations four times a year. It also collects aquatic insects and evaluates habitats upstream and downstream of the 10 treatment facilities.

The company could not have hired Pilon without the support of a BioTalent Canada Science Horizons Youth Internship wage subsidy, says Lynette Renzetti, LGL’s Senior Planning Ecologist. “Because of the pandemic, the uncertainty, we didn’t have a position for her,” she says. “That’s when I reached out to BioTalent Canada to see if there was any kind of funding available.” Pilon was hired fulltime when her internship was over.

Bridgette is processing a bat.

Science Horizons intern Bridgette Pilon processing a bat. Photo credit: Dana Couture.

Pilon has a B.Sc. in zoology and ecology from the University of Guelph and a diploma in fish and wildlife from Sir Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont. Renzetti says that combination made her the perfect candidate for a position at LGL.

“We found that the theory-based study at the university level combined with the practical skills she was able to acquire at the college level made a great fit for our company,” she says. “She walked in the door with training, skills and some certifications in hand.”

Wildlife has been a lifetime interest for Pilon who comes from a farming community in southwestern Ontario. She began to appreciate the value of the natural world because her family—all nature lovers—went on many camping trips when she was young. Her plan to have a positive impact on the environment led her to the study of science, she says. “The biggest inspiration was just being out there—the wildlife itself,” she says.

Her volunteer work in southwestern Ontario helped her develop skills she uses now. At Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre she was engaged with hands-on wildlife rehabilitation and through Birds Canada she developed her bird identification skills. Her sister is a bird photographer and Pilon herself has a soft spot for cheerful spring-heralding warblers.

At LGL her responsibilities include monitoring for species-at-risk such as the Jefferson salamander that is found in southern Ontario. The grey-brown salamanders, whose numbers have declined because of urban development, require undisturbed forest floors and unpolluted breeding ponds to thrive.

Bridgette is releasing a bat at night.

Science Horizons intern Bridgette Pilon releasing a bat. Photo credit: Dana Couture.

Pilon also handles amphibian surveys, breeding bird surveys and tree inventories and she conducted a census of little brown mouse-eared bats which included banding and radio telemetry.

Renzetti says that Pilon has been given a lot of responsibility. “You can ask Bridgette to do things she’s never done and she will take it full on,” she says. “She goes beyond your expectations.”

LGL values the contributions of young graduates. “Young minds bring fresh ideas and ensure we are staying on top of our business game and offering the range of services our clients seek,” says Renzetti.

Pilon welcomes that challenge. “As humans continue to impact the world, things are constantly changing so it’s daunting how much there is to learn,” she says. “But it’s exciting too.”

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