Hard work pays off for BASEM student

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May 20, 2020
For Quinn Hlus, a bachelor of applied sciences: environmental management (BASEM) student on track to graduate this year, her capstone presentation experience was not at all what she expected.
Quinn Hlus
For one, Hlus ended up studying different methods of recording and tracking breeding birds during her practicum. Even though she didn't take any wildlife courses during her studies at Lakeland.
For another, she was originally planning to present at the Conference on Environmental Management in front of hundreds of industry professionals and peers. This plan had to be adjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hlus and her peers ended up virtually presenting before a handful of industry stakeholders, Lakeland faculty and fellow students. And lastly, she certainly never expected to win the ECO Canada Student Impact Award for her work.
“The whole project was so much work,” says Hlus, who completed the conservation and reclamation program in 2018. “At the same time, a project like this one is what you make of it. If you want to have a really thorough, well-researched study, you have to put the work in. It was so rewarding, though. I really feel like I reached my full potential with the whole process and the help of my instructors.”
Hlus on a prairie hillPart of the BASEM program involves an eight-month practicum and a capstone presentation at the end of it. Hlus completed her practicum with Husky Energy in Lloydminster, while working on her research project, A Comparison Between Point Counts and Autonomous Recording Units for the Monitoring of Breeding Birds.
“I’m not really familiar with wildlife, so this was really far out of my comfort zone,” Hlus says. “But Husky does a bird monitoring program every year in the North Saskatchewan River Valley through a third-party consulting company who goes out and monitors the breeding birds every year.
"In 2019, they decided to incorporate Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) for the first time and I thought it was a great opportunity to see if the ARUs were as effective and could be used as standalone technology.”
She says Husky was incredibly accommodating when it came to giving her the time to do her research while still providing her with the on-the-job work experience she needed.
“I got to do a lot of different things there and there were so many knowledgeable people to mentor me. I was so happy with the eight months I spent at Husky,” Hlus says.
When the Conference on Environmental Management was cancelled, she didn’t have to adjust her presentation to move it into a digital format.
PowerPoint page from capstone presentation“It was just a different means of presenting the same project, so switching was pretty simple,” she explains. “It was just a little bit disappointing to go from having the opportunity to present in front of hundreds of people to just presenting in front of a small group, but that’s just the way it worked out. I’m just really happy that I had the opportunity to present at all and finish my degree this year.”
Hlus made the best of the opportunity and was selected as the winner of the ECO Canada Student Impact Award, a $500 scholarship.
Dr. Nicole Nadorozny, environmental sciences instructor and practicum coordinator at Lakeland, says, “All of the BASEM students did extraordinarily well with their presentations given the circumstances. Cancelling the conference and changing the format at the last minute made an already stressful situation even more challenging for these students. I was very impressed and pleased with the professionalism, adaptability and patience of these young professionals.
"Quinn went above and beyond in completing a project of high academic excellence and her presentation stood out as exceptional. She delivered a presentation that was technically rigorous, informative, entertaining and of scientific merit to help redevelop a stronger monitoring program. I am incredibly proud of her efforts and her accomplishment.”
For Hlus, receiving word that she had been chosen as the recipient of the reward was a shock.
All 5 members of the Hlus family in the grandstand at an outdoor rodeo“I just had the biggest smile on my face,” she says. “There were so many good presentations and my classmates all did so well. I was really humbled to have been chosen. I’m so grateful for Nicole and all the other instructors and staff that helped us along the way. I really appreciate all of their hard work.”

All in the family 

Coming to Lakeland is a tradition in the Hlus family. Her parents both attended the college in the 1980s where they met and fell in love. When Hlus’ siblings turn came, her brother and sister attended Lakeland, too. It was a given for her that she would attend Lakeland as well. Nw that her time at the college is ending, she only has positive things to say about her experience.
“My experience has been so great at Lakeland,” she says. “I use so many of the technical skills I learned in the labs and classrooms in my workplace. The work we did in BASEM taught me a lot of the softer skills I need to be successful too, like research, social skills and communications.
"It really helped build up my resumé, get me job ready and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was such an easy choice to come to Lakeland, so many people knew who I was before I even started studying here. It was so easy for me to feel at home here.”
Since finishing up her practicum and capstone presentation, Hlus has begun a position at Ram River Environmental Consultants in Vermilion.

Award recognizes academic excellence

When considering which presenter would be the recipient of the ECO Canada Student Impact Award, Dr. Nadorozny considered the presenters’ commitment to academic excellence as an emerging environmental professional.
Quinn racing around a barrelOther presenters who received special mentions include:
  • Keeley Bromling for her project Surface Water Management for SAGD Facilities with host agency Husky Energy
  • Quinn Waterfield for his project Comparing Field Screening Methods in Phase 2 ESAS: Soil Salinity Data with host agency Ram River Environmental Consultants
  • Cayden Spady for his project Feasibility of Calcium Applications to Improve Soil Quality for Solonetzic Soils – A Case Study In Central Alberta with host agency Hemisphere Land & Resource Consulting Ltd.

Thank you to the other host agencies, Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions and Alberta Environment and Parks, and congratulations to all our BASEM students on completing your capstone presentations.
Photos from the top: 1. Hlus completing a grassland site assessments 2. Hlus on a site assessment in her third year of studies. 3. Hlus presents her capstone remotely. 4. Hlus and her family (left-right) Laramie (Class of 2014), Leanne (Class of 1986), Bailey (Class of 2016), Darrel (Class of 1987) and Quinn (Class of  2018 & 2020). 5. Hlus barrel racing. She was a member of the rodeo team during her first two years at Lakeland.
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