Just go for it! Advice from an Engineer bringing clean water to your cup and to the environment

Erin Zoski is a Water Quality Engineer, Engineering and Environmental Services, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC). She specializes as the Potable Water and Wastewater Aspect Lead.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about your field of work?

The complexity and responsibility of my position is pretty surprising. Guidelines, codes and regulations are continually changing, and must be applied at AAFC sites to ensure our potable water is safe and that our wastewater is in compliance with the applicable regulations. Providing safe potable water to all employees at AAFC facilities is a big responsibility!

How did you get into your line of work?

I have always been interested in water. I enrolled in all the hydrology and water quality classes I could during university, and my passion for water continued into my career. My first job was with Environment and Climate Change Canada, studying how different land use practices impact watershed hydrology and water quality. I then moved on to AAFC and had various roles throughout the years related to water quality, as well as the treatment and protection of agriculture and rural water supplies; including watershed research of beneficial management practices, water infrastructure projects, and now my current position.

What is your most memorable moment at work?

I was involved in a study evaluating micro scale water treatment systems for First Nation communities. By the end of the project, we were able to provide safe potable water to a cluster of First Nation homes, which had been on a boil water advisory for many years.

Is there something we can do to support women in STEM?

In my classes there weren’t a lot of women, and at the time it would have been nice to have someone to look up to and guide me. Now that there are more women in this field, I see more potential role models. In addition to mentorship, we should provide opportunities for training, professional development and outreach; the Diversity Network at AAFC is perfect for this!

What advice would you give to young people interested in a career in science, technology, engineering and math?

Anything in STEM is a wonderful career choice! STEM offers countless job opportunities from diverse fields of work; there is something for everyone. A career in STEM is very satisfying, interesting, and allows you to work with and meet great people. If something interests you, just go for it!

What are your hobbies, and do they influence your work?

I enjoy spending my time outdoors biking and hiking, especially in the mountains. I once hiked to the source of the North Saskatchewan river, an awe inspiring glacier in the Rocky Mountains. Moments like this and other outdoor activities emphasise the importance of protecting our water resources and demonstrate how fragile our water supply can be, which inspires me at work.

What do you hope to see in your field in the next 10 years?

More women and more diversity in my field. I hope more people recognize that diversity is a strength because it brings in other points of view.

With the increase in global warming I expect to see more emphasis on the environmental engineering aspect of water management and protection. We see it already with work underway by the Global Institute for Water Security and the newly formed Canada Water Agency.


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