Where will your Geomatics Career Bring You?

GPS work in Labrador“Should you Specialize or Diversify?”

Something many of us in geomatics often come across in our careers is whether or not we should be specialized on a specific geomatics aspect (like a certain software or skill set) or should we diversify and become competent in a multitude of geomatics related disciplines.

One particular problem with being really specialized in something is that although you become an expert in something you can often be too focused, and potentially closing other doors or limiting possible career paths. When you diversify you can still become specialized in things but at a lesser extent yet work with more components of the industry.

When I started off my geomatics career I thought it was better to become specialized in a particular trait and that would maintain my career path. Well that did work out pretty good for a few years, and I became very efficient in one aspect of geomatics (orthophotography and imagery analysis).

However one day I realized that I was focused only a narrow spectrum of the skills that I had worked so hard to learn. As a result I was losing many other skill-sets that I had developed.

“My career and has allowed me to be involved in many projects that go well beyond what my education prepared me for.”

Since then I have almost gone to the other extreme and have become diversified, experienced and well rounded with a multitude of geomatics skills which has in turn often provided me an edge in my career and has allowed me to be involved in many projects that go well beyond what my COGS education prepared me for. And I find that it makes for a more interesting career when your job allows you to combine a multitude of different geomatics aspects together.

GPS work Mealy MountainsNow, everyone is different and the great thing about the Canadian geomatics industry is that there are plenty of opportunities to Specialize or Diversify, so perhaps you should consider ‘Where will your Geomatics Career Bring You?’ when you are sending out your resumes. Do go out there, network and get advice from others, But do what best suits your career aspirations.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel all over North and Central America with my jobs over the years and recently I came back from doing some field work in Newfoundland & Labrador and since last month’s GoGeomatics theme was “Canadian Surveying & Surveyors” Jonathan asked if I could share some of my photos from the trip with the GoGeomatics Magazine.

The five week trip involved GPS and total station survey work in many remote scenic locations with pretty decent weather (only a few days of snow). I have included a few photos here, but you can find more on my Flickr photo account or on my blog where I frequently add photos and information about my trips and projects that I have been involved with.

Note: This post was picked up by GoGeomatics and also published in their digital magazine

Mealy Mountains, Labrador

Map of Proposed Mealys National Park Reserve

[image source: NatureCanada.ca]

Mealy Mountains located in the southern portion of Labrador, is situated south of Lake Melville, north of Sandwich Bay and borders the Labrador Sea. The mountain range encompass over 26 thousand square kilometers of forests, tundra, wetlands, coastal barrens, lakes, beaches and bogs. A significant portion of the Mealy Mountains and surrounding areas has been designated as a potential National Park Reserve.

This large remote region contains many scenic areas, many of witch I was fortunate enough to get to see while surveying various areas of the soon to be National Park.Awesome Lake, Labrador

Along the east coast of the Mealy Mountains is a long 50 km stretch of beautiful sandy beaches known as the Wonderstrand, originally named by sea faring Vikings. Certainly would be a very popular site if it were located anywhere else. Came across an interesting blog about camping in the Wonderstrand area with lots of great photos.

official bird of Labrador is the Grey Jay, landing on GPS tripodThis region houses an abundant amount of Canadian wildlife (Caribou, moose, black bears, bald eagles, fox etc.) that we came across quite often. The official bird of Labrador is the Grey Jay, little friendly birds that loved to perch upon our equipment and always seemed to show up when ever we were eating lunch.

There are not too many places established in the Mealy Mountains, a few small coastal communities (mostly evacuated areas that people have since migrated back to for seasonal use), lots of scattered cabins all along the coasts and a small fishing lodge at what was called Awesome Lake where I am sure there are some pretty big fish.

A helicopter certainly is the best means of transportation here although I am sure boats or skidoos in winter are also pretty good choices.

Cartwright, Labrador

Labrador Flag perched on top of Mountain

During the past decade I have been fortunate enough to travel all over North America and one of my recent work trips brought me to Labrador for the first time. The actual field work took place in various places throughout the Mealy Mountains and surrounding coastal areas, so for the this job were we based out of the small town of Cartwright.

Boat sitting in another boat, Cartright LabradorCartwright is a coastal town of about 600 people located on the mouth of Sandwich Bay, about 225 km east of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The area was first settled in the late 1700’s by sailors and fur traders like the Hudson Bay Company for its rich abundance of natural resources.

Two cannons that were situated on top of a hill protecting the harbour entrance into Cartwright still remain in a little park known as Flag Staff Hill.

Calm waters in Cartwright Labrador

Originally an isolated Newfoundland out port but now connected to the rest of the world via a long scenic gravel highway known as the Labrador Coastal Drive, only about 340 km away from where the pavement ended.

An interesting little place with all the basics that a small community like this often provides (No Tim Hortons though …), very clean, well kept and lots of friendly people. And its always nice when you can land a helicopter at your hotel.

Dryden, Ontario

Well yet another stay in the small northern town of Dryden has come around … Dryden is centrally located between Thunder Bay Ontario and Winnipeg Manitoba, along the Trans-Canada Highway.

It has become a very large commercial sector serving local citizens and visitors because of its central location in Northern Ontario and also has a busy rail line and airport. The pulp and paper mill is probably the largest industry here but it appears that agriculture & tourism also plays a major role here (mostly camping / hunting & fishing tourists I would guess).

They have a town’s mascot, known as Max the Moose, a large cement statue whom stands 18 feet tall and weighs nine tons, found outside the Dryden Information Centre. It may be pretty cool to have a moose that big but I think they could have put a little work into it to make it look a little better (… I will need to go get a picture of that before I leave and add it … ).

[mgl_gmap lat=”49.779020314370506″ long=”-92.83530402001952″ zoom=”13″ width=”100%” height=”350px” skin=”roadmap” controls=”pan,zoom,scale,streetView,overviewMap,scrollWheel” ][mgl_marker lat=”49.77525133044575″ long=”-92.83375906762694″ ]Dryden, Ontario[/mgl_marker][/mgl_gmap]

Dryden is the home town of NHL super star hockey player Chris Pronger (currently playing hockey with the Philadelphia Flyers). He even has the local arena named after him with a digital sign providing the town with important information like “It’s COLD outside!” (see photo) – I would hope that most people here would be able to figure that out with out having somebody tell them about it (especially since you have to be outside to read the sign – ???) but sometimes you never do know …

The town boasts a motto of “The Great Canadian Experience” well if that’s the case I have yet to feel that special experience yet. In fact we have been having some bad luck with the weather (gotta love snow in October ) and havebeen basically stuck here for almost three weeks, getting only a few flights here and there.

So I should have lots of time to make another Dryden post or two with more info, summary of what I think about this place and other sarcastic comments off course…


It is kind of like the Bill Murray movie “Ground Hog Day” where a TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney (a town just like Dryden I am sure), finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. For us it has been having to eat in the same restaurants over and over …

Sioux Lookout, Ontario

Currently doing a few small LIDAR jobs in the Sioux Lookout area. Sioux Lookout is a town in northern Ontario (about a 4 and half hour drive north west from Thunder Bay) situated on Pelican Lake, part of the Lac Seul hydro system. It claims to have a population of 5200 and also known locally as the “Hub of the North” (although I see that phrase in other northern towns as well). I can imagine that many people come and stop here as a last stop before going camping, fishing or hunting, judging by the number of trucks, boats, all terrain vehicles and float planes. It is basically the last real small town that you see before you head into the bush so I imagine they make a lot of money from people stocking up or coming out to replenish their supplies.

It does have an extensive water system fed by the English River into what may appear as an infinite amount of lakes, ponds, streams and rivers. Lots of wildlife too, on my travels here I have saw several black bears, coyotes, deer, moose, eagles, rabbits and various types of birds (Our project areas are actually a few hours drive north of the town so sometimes I have been spending up to six hours a day traveling on dirt roads and secondary roads).

[mgl_gmap lat=”50.111690411933154″ long=”-91.93476843652343″ zoom=”13″ width=”100%” height=”350px” skin=”roadmap” controls=”pan,zoom,scale,streetView,overviewMap,scrollWheel” ][mgl_marker lat=”50.09924916238502″ long=”-91.91708731469726″ ]Sioux Lookout[/mgl_marker][/mgl_gmap]

In front of one of the bar / restaurants in town is an old Seabee amphibian bush plane, somewhat odd type of lawn ornament but it seems to fit in here none the less. The town was a little different then most in Ontario as we noticed that they had several restaurants that were not open on Sundays or holidays (such as Labor Day) witch allowed Subway to benefit from.

The weather has been great while we are here so there has been no time to do much extra curricular activities, like checking out the local beach or some of the several recreational trails in and around town.

Perhaps someday I when I have lots of money and free time I will come back and rent a float plane to go check out some of the great places to go camping and fishing …

TITAN Cross Country Road Trip 4 (July 2009)

Road Trip # 4

TITAN Cross Country Road Trip # 4

Start Location: Ottawa, Ontario

End Location: Houston, Texas

States / Provinces Crossed:

– 8 states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas

– 1 province: Ontario

Places stayed or visited: Syracuse NY, Cleveland OH, Logan OH, Lexington KY, Louisville KY, Little Rock AK, Houston TX

Approximate Distance: 3160 km

Duration: 7 days
Although this may have been my shortest road trip since I started traveling with the Terrapoint Titan mobile LIDAR system we still crossed through eight states and 1 province along about a 3160+ kilometer journey in seven days (with only 1 speeding ticket! … and no it wasn’t mine either…). Unlike most of the previous road trips, there was only one official stop along the way. It was just outside Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio but the main focus was to bring the system to our Houston office for future jobs in that region.

Besides the short hike at the Hocking Hills State Park, this trip didn’t allow any time to partake in many interesting stops (I was hoping to get to stop in Lynchburg, Tennessee to take a Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour or visit the Clinton Presidential Library while stopping in Little Rock but that didn’t work out) so this time I have little things to mention besides the numerous typical truck stops for gas and coffee refills. It was mostly interstate driving with a short country side detour through Ohio and Kentucky (from Logan OH to Lexington KY).

Maybe on the next trip will be a little more exciting …


Kitikmeot Region, Nunavut Territory (Aug 2008)

This trip was not my first trip to the Canadian north (I had been to Yellowknife before) but it was my first time I had ever been to the Nunavut Territory and also the highest latitude (67 degrees north) that I have been to.

The scope of this trip was to survey an all weather road that would pass through several mine sites in the Canadian north and connect them to a new port to be built in Bathurst Inlet up on the Arctic Ocean. We were based out of Jericho Diamond Mine site in the Kitikmeot Region for the job because of the central location and the services offered at the facility. The mine is located about 400 km northeast of Yellowknife with no roads connecting it to any other places.

I am sure that Nunavut is probably one of the least traveled places by most Canadians maybe because it is so remote with no roads (or very few) connecting it to the rest of Canada making it very hard to get around. Due to the lack of the roads in this area, I almost always traveled by helicopter ( … sometimes by plane). Flying everywhere high above the Earth certainly provides a much better perspective to view the interesting topography and geology here created by various different ice ages over time.

Way above the tree line spread all through out the tundra are hundreds of boulder fields, short vegetation, lakes, and wildlife in fact that is almost all you see for miles and miles. I saw herds of caribou traveling around the area as well as muskox, wolves, fox, arctic hare, and various types of birds.

More Nunavut posts to come …

Yellowknife, North West Territories (June 2008)

Yellowknife, NWT

Finished up my first survey in the North, will be headed back south tomorrow after a small 4 day trip. Would have been nice to have a few more days up here to get out and explore or do some fishing (but these smaller in and out jobs are nice to have once and a while).

I did get a few hours free to check out the City of Yellowknife (probably all we needed) and had lunch at the famous Wild Cat Cafe, witch was kind of neat. Saw a some strange things here and there too like a ford truck turned into a home made snow mobile.

The job here was for a small fixed wing aerial LIDAR survey of an area northeast of the city of Yellowknife, and just south of Gordon Lake. The terrain there was really rocky, due to the extreme rugged Canadian Shield and very sparse soil cover. I was some what surprised though by the amount of trees that were there, it wasn’t heavily forested by any means but trees were fairly abundant and we had to choose our landing places wisely.

Gordon Lake, NWT

Gordon Lake is one of the lakes that they use to create the famous winter Ice Road that allows goods and equipment to be shipped up north to the diamond mines for a few months every year. We actually fuelled at one of the base camps that builds and services the road so met a few neat people there with interesting stories to tell.

Gordon Lake had the most mosquitoes I have ever experienced by far. dark swarms of them clouding around us every where we went.We flew into the area to do our ground GPS control survey via a neat little MD500 helicopter and were quickly swarmed by the little buggers. They were not actually doing much biting due to the amount of bug dope we had by man it was hard to concentrate on work. After 3 or 4 hours of that we were happy to get back to town free of those little critters.

Here are some photos of our work out at Gordon Lake, NWT.

MD500 helicopter in Yellowknife, NWTthe most mosquitos I have ever experienced by far

Yellowknife, North West TerritoriesFord truck turned into a home made snow mobile

it wasn't heavily forested by any means but trees were fairly abundantGPS work for the fixed wing aerial LIDAR survey