Like most 19 year-olds, Kate was excited and anxious to begin a “real-world” summer job after her first year of university. Following in her brother’s footsteps, Kate took a position as a survey assistant with McElhanney Land Surveys. She hoped the experience would help her choose a focus area in engineering.
“My job was to carry the heavy things,” Kate recollects of that summer. “I was pretty green.”
She was partnered with Wayne, a senior party chief with over 30 years of technical surveying experience. Kate remembers Wayne as kind, calm, and “one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.” Together, Kate and Wayne set off to conduct a pipeline survey near Lloydminster, Alberta.
To align the pipeline’s proposed route on the maps with its physical position on the ground, Kate and Wayne needed to find evidence of what boundaries the pipeline would cross – a process known as “tying in”. Hiking across the prairies for several kilometers in the hot sun, they used a copy of the original handwritten surveyors notes from 1912 to search out the boundary markers.
Kate was unsure exactly what they were looking for, until Wayne identified a formation in the ground.
“There were four pits, and a mound of dirt, all overgrown with grasses,” remembers Kate. “I wouldn’t have even noticed them if Wayne hadn’t pointed them out.”
There was also an iron post – a monument from 1912 – positioned mere centimetres from where the GPS coordinates predicted the monument should be.
“It was beautiful. This monument was set a century ago, by pulling a long chain taught across the land. And to come so close to today’s satellite positioning, you have complete respect for the people who came before you.”
It was Kate’s ah-ha moment. She fell in love with land surveying – more than a science; it was an art form, and a treasure hunt. Kate went on to graduate from the Schulich School of Engineering as an Engineer In Training, and works for McElhanney Land Surveys. Kate received her official commission as a licenced British Columbia Land Surveyor in June 2014. She also volunteers with Cybermentor, helping to inspire the next generation of girls in science and engineering.
“I still get that same feeling today every time I find a monument,” gushes Kate. “You just sit back and say wow.”
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