Working for the Water Survey of Canada
First Choice for a Second Generation Technologist
Photo: Andrew Creighton installs new equipment at the Winnipeg River site in Kenora, ON. ©Environment Canada
Andrew Creighton, a hydrometric technologist with Environment Canada's Water Survey of Canada (WSC), jumps into a departmental truck. He and a co-worker are heading to the Bow and Highwood Rivers from Calgary. It's been almost one year since a significant flood hit Alberta, shutting down the city of Calgary and other communities. The work done by the WSC staffers - monitoring the water levels and flow of rivers - remains extremely important to the Province, which forecasts floods. Creighton and his colleague plan to take measurements and do some more evaluation at several of the hydrometric gauges on the rivers. This is what he loves. Creighton is one of a number of second generation hydrometric technologists. He started becoming familiar with the work of the WSC when he was just a child. One of his earliest memories involves being with his dad Alan (who worked as a technologist from 1977-2005) on the job.
"I can remember being three or four years old, going on the Mackenzie River, and he was doing a discharge measurement. I found it interesting just to observe."
Those were different times with different rules. But back then Creighton had the good fortune to live just a couple blocks away from his dad's office in Fort Simpson. He ended up there often enough to pique his interest. He was 12 years old when he decided that was exactly what he wanted to do for his livelihood. For him the WSC warehouse was like a rustic kind of Disneyland. "I saw four-wheelers, snowmobiles, boats, chain saws, jackhammers, blow-torches…really neat stuff!"
Photo: Alan Creighton, Andrew’s dad, near Thunder Bay, ON circa 1990.
Those are just some of the tools of the trade for the "jacks-of-all-trades" who are hydrometric techs with WSC. Creighton first worked with the WSC as a casual for the summer at age 14...again, different times. But when he was old enough he entered Environment Canada's WSC Hydrometric Technician Apprenticeship Training Program. "The training program makes sure you are prepared for all aspects of the job and outlines procedures so you go into situations safely and know how to handle emergencies." Trainees take courses in areas like surveying, defensive driving, handling firearms, basic electricity and electronics, winter survival, and first aid. "There's a lot that can happen in this kind of work, which exposes you to the elements. It's unpredictable."
Creighton is now a young trainer as well. He enjoys sharing what he's learned with those just entering the field. Many come and go he says. "Those who do well tend to live a certain lifestyle that lends itself to transition to being in the wilderness."
Photo: Creighton during winter survival training in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, ON ©Environment Canada
"They are handy and adaptive, are good under pressure, and have an affinity for problem-solving. These are all very valuable traits to a hydrometric technician."
As a youth, Creighton remembers hearing stories from his dad, about flying in helicopters, seeing grizzly bears and wolves. Now he has stories of his own. While working in Northern Ontario, touring Hudson Bay, he witnessed the most memorable event of his career so far - a veritable polar bear convention - some 30 of the impressive creatures converging on an area of the delta where low tide had created pools full of fish.
Plenty of incidents come to mind that cement Creighton's love of the job. "There are things I would never have seen and adventures I would never have experienced."
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