A Discussion with ASL Environmental Sciences

On February 15, 2013, a discussion with representatives of the company ASL Environmental Sciences was held as part of the Inspire Ocean Discussion Series. Presentations by David Fissel, Chair & Senior Scientist, and Glenda Wyatt, Oceanographic Data Analyst, were followed by an informal question and answer period.

ASL Environmental Sciences provides scientific oceanographic services. It specialized in physical oceanography: measuring currents, waves, sea ice, and sediment. The company currently has about 48 employees. Many of the employees at the company studied at the University of Victoria. Just about everyone on staff has a bachelor’s degree, and some have a PhD or Master of Science degree. The company also hires co-op students.

David Fissel highlighted two of the company’s scientific instruments: the Ice Profiler Sonar, and the Acoustic Zooplankton and Fish Profiler. The Ice Profiler Sonar is used for polar science, climate studies, offshore oil & gas platform design, environmental assessment, and navigation studies. The Acoustic Zooplankton and Fish Profiler is used by research labs; it can be used, for example, to observe the vertical migration of zooplankton.

The customers of ASL Environmental Science include research labs, government, and industry. ASL Environmental Sciences has been involved with the VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada networks of ocean observatories (both now managed by Ocean Networks Canada) since the beginning of these projects. Other customers have included the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the British Antarctic Survey, the University of Alaska, the University of Victoria, and others. Government clients have included the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Industry clients include companies in the oil and gas sector. While ASL Environmental Sciences focuses on oceanography, it also does freshwater projects, such as measuring volumes of water flow through hydroelectric dams. The company aims to have a diversity of client types, and not to rely on a single sector.

Beyond making oceanographic instruments, the company does oceanographic data analysis. As David Fissel put it: “We do a lot of data analysis.” The data collected by scientific instruments are processed, analyzed, and interpreted; numerical models are developed for ocean processes. Most staff at the company do data analysis; and, while the company does do work in the field, nobody spends all their time in the field. For data analysis, the company makes extensive use of MATLAB, and also uses C, Python, and GIS software.

This is some of the career advice that Glenda Wyatt had to offer: Jobs aren’t necessarily advertised. Keep up your network, and foster relationships: stay in touch with friends, classmates, and professors. You never know who might have important contacts. Consider volunteering at a company as a way of gaining work experience, meeting people, and learning the type of work you enjoy. Be flexible; your career might not be what you expect. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs overseas. She also added that your university’s alumni association can be a valuable resource. She recommended that, while you progress through your career, that you treat everything as a learning experience.

-Allan Roberts 

 

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