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Lesley Hymers, M.Sc.

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

Earth Sciences Specialist

How did you decide on pursuing your degree(s)? Did you know about geology before you entered university?

I am a first generation student who lacked awareness of the discipline of Geoscience and the wide range of careers that it offered. Geoscience was not present in the secondary curriculum in the province where I attended high school and I was not acquainted with anyone who was a practicing Geoscience professional. I did not pursue post-secondary education in Geoscience, having entered University to study an unrelated field of science. I changed direction as soon as I took my first Earth Science course and officially changed Majors later in my undergraduate academic program. Keen to more deeply explore a specific field of Geoscience, I pursued an advanced degree in Environmental Earth Science, with a focus on Glacial Sedimentology.

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

During my 25-year career path, I have had many interesting and fulfilling opportunities. In every workplace throughout my career, I have applied my education and training in both Geoscience and Education. I have worked as a practitioner in the mineral resources industry, for an Association as a liaison between governments and the mining industry, as a mining and environment policy analyst, and in formal and informal Geoscience and minerals industry education.

While pursuing graduate studies in Geoscience, I developed an interest in the field of Education. I enjoyed serving as a Teaching Assistant and became highly motivated to improve my effectiveness. I completed an elective course “University Teaching: Theory and Practice”, and regularly participated in Teaching Assistant Instructional Development opportunities offered on campus. While still a student, I was recruited to work in the Office of Open Learning and Educational Support to coordinate an instructional development program for graduate teaching assistants, across campus. I developed teaching and learning resources, and planned and delivered workshops and conferences.

After graduating and finishing my University contract, I focused my attention on seeking employment in applied Geoscience. My first role was with a multinational industrial mineral company, working in an internal service department responsible for managing many aspects of operations, including mineral resources and reserves, environmental management, community relations and land reclamation. This role was well suited to an early career professional as it provided exposure to all aspects of the mine life cycle. I was also privileged to work with a celebrated scientist and mentor, Sarah Lowe, who was an industry leader in reclamation. This mentorship was impactful and continues to be to this day.

I left my industry role to serve as the interim Executive Director and Project Manager with Mining Matters, a national Geoscience and minerals education program while a colleague was on family leave. At the conclusion of this contract, I joined the Ontario Mining Association where I served as the Environmental and Education Specialist.

This was an interesting role for a mid-career Geoscience professional, building on the foundational experience of my industry roles, involving federal and provincial government relations, mining and environment policy, committee work, and informal Education.

In this role, I was able to hone new skills while continuing to cultivate my interests in Geoscience education, and in reclamation, and environmental theory and practice.

My current role is Manager, Education and Outreach Programs, with Mining Matters, providing informal Earth science and minerals industry education. I manage educational projects and programs, provide instructional development and training workshops that support Earth science educators, and collaborate with STEM Education, University and Industry partners. As part of the Mining Matters Senior Management Team I leverage all of my previous Geoscience and Education experience to inform projects and programs.

For several years, I worked full time while also holding a part time job. While working in minerals industry, I was recruited to serve as a curriculum advisor and part time faculty for the Environmental Site Remediation Bachelor of Applied Technology Program, a new academic program offered jointly between Seneca College and York University. In this early to mid career role, I developed and instructed core foundational and advanced Earth Science courses for Undergraduate, Graduate, and Diploma Programs.

I am an active member of national Earth Science community. I am a Past President of the Canadian Geoscience Education Network (CGEN), a past Outreach Director for the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, and the current Co-Chair of EdGEO.

After more than a decade as a member of the Board of Directors, I serve as the Secretary of the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA). I am a past Director of the CLRA National Chapter (2012 -2021). The Ontario CLRA Chapter hosts the annual Ontario Mine Reclamation Symposium and Field Trip and co-hosts the Sudbury Mining and Environment Conference, held every four years. I am former member of the Ontario Biodiversity Council, serving actively from 2010-2016 and a former member of the National Orphaned and Abandoned Mining Initiative.

If you could go back to your first year in undergrad, would you pick the same degree and career trajectory? Why/why not?

If I had awareness of Geoscience, I would have entered directly into a Geoscience program from secondary school. I would also have benefitted from attending a university that offered a comprehensive, traditional Geoscience program, that provided core competency education and training along with more field based learning experiences. Perhaps I would have chosen to purse an advanced degree in a different discipline.

That being said, I had many academic interests and might have instead chosen to pursue studies in another natural science or a physical science, such as Zoology, Ecology or Astronomy.

What are the best things about your job/career? What would you change?

The field of Geoscience is appealing and suits my interests and aptitudes. It is an integrated science that uses physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and geography to understand the Earth and solve complex problems. Earth scientists work in a variety of environments, including laboratories, offices, and the field. There are ample opportunities for continuous learning, and travel.

I might have benefitted from pursuing education or a professional opportunity in another province or country.

Why is gender balance in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience important to you?

Gender balance is important in Geoscience because there is space for everyone in the discipline.

Geoscience includes many sub disciplines that provide opportunities for practitioners with a range of skills, talents and interests. Geoscience and Geoscientists play an important role in society. They are critical to understanding and managing resources like groundwater and minerals, understanding and reducing the effects of geological hazards, managing the natural and built environments, and educating future leaders. Geoscience and geoscientists are essential to transitioning to renewable energy generation, a low carbon economy, and addressing climate change.

Why should it be important for everyone?

Gender balance, in all spaces, should be important to everyone because inequality is unjust.

What advice would you give to young women starting a career in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

I would recommend that a young Geoscientist seek a mentor, or mentors, to provide support and guidance as they navigate their early career path. I would suggest that they remain connected with their alma mater and Geoscience department. This is particularly important should they be seeking professional references and considering graduate school. I would also recommend that young Geoscientists join a professional association and attend annual meetings and conferences. These activities create opportunities for cultivating networks and continuous learning. Lastly, I would recommend that they participate in an early career peer group as a means of connecting and support.

What motivates you and keeps you busy outside of mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

I am motivated by engagement with the natural world. I exercise daily and enjoy spending time outside, hiking, biking and observing wildlife. Winter is my favourite season to be outdoors. I read science, non-fiction and science fiction books. I enjoy many types of music. I am a life-long learner and regularly take science courses for enrichment. In 2021, I completed the Ontario Master Naturalist Program, at Lakehead University.

I do quite a lot of volunteer work, most if which is in service of my profession. I also volunteer to support my local Conservation Authority.

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