Congratulations to Matrix’s Kelly Ostermann for receiving the Dr. Edward M. Watkin Award! Kelly was recognized in the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA/ACRSD) National 2022 Awards for her career achievements and impacts in the field of land reclamation.
Below, Kelly shares some of her thoughts, insights, and achievements from her career.
Why did you choose a career in environmental science?
I didn’t really. I have a B.Sc. in Agriculture with a specialization in Agronomy (focused on soils and plants). I always liked the sciences, grew up on a farm, and felt attached to the earth, so that education made sense. When I graduated, I got a research job at the University of Alberta helping graduate students in their post-graduate studies and working in the Soil Physics Lab. I worked at the U of A for about 11 years, then went into consulting, which opened up many doors for me. Things just fell into place from there.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in this field?
You need to learn about soils and vegetation. And do it because you like soils and vegetation; not because you think it will be a good job or a fun job. There are days (maybe way longer than days) when it isn’t going to be good or fun, but you will learn, be challenged and be amazed at what you learn. If you choose a career in something you enjoy, that feeds your curiosity, makes you want to learn more, then to me that is a career worth pursing.
What attributes make a good reclamation practitioner?
Understanding the interactions of climate, soils, water, vegetation is important, and then using that to predict how disturbed landscape will change over time. A lot of my experience is in soil and vegetation inventories and ecological land classification, which added to my understanding of landscape ecology and is something I continually use on reclamation projects.
What are the key factors that have led to the success you’ve had in your career?
I had great mentors throughout my career. They provided great advice, insight, and let me learn from my own mistakes. As one of my mentors put it: he gave me enough rope to make the noose, but not enough to put it around my neck. I took on new challenges when they were presented to me even though I wasn’t sure how things would turn out. I have worked with lots of great people.
I’d also suggest volunteering your time if possible; take time to mentor someone that is just starting their career or help out an organization involved in environmental activities. I really believe we grow by helping others. Plus, junior mentees may ask lots of questions and so will keep you on your toes.
What does winning the 2022 Dr. Edward M. Watkin Award mean to you?
It is a humbling experience. This award isn’t just for me; it also goes to the people that mentored me, taught me, believed in me throughout my career, and those that I worked with, taught, and mentored. These people kept reminding me why land reclamation and restoration is such an awesome career.