Environmental technologist still relies on R&I skills

Dale Hibrant is a 2013 graduate of Niagara College’s Environmental Technician Field and Laboratory Co-op program. He worked with Research & Innovation as a senior environmental research associate from May to December 2013. He is an environmental technologist with the Department of National Defence.

Tell us about where you work:

I work at the Department of National Defence as a civilian in Safety and Environment Unit Support with the Fleet Maintenance Facility.

The Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton is a unit of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), whose primary mandate is to support the operation of the RCN Fleet. Considered an essential military strategic asset of the Department of National Defence, we provide naval engineering, repair and maintenance services to ensure critical operational capabilities are available in the Fleet and other shore establishments.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

As an environmental technologist my role includes managing an environmental system in accordance with ISO 14001, to ensure the industrial ship maintenance facility complies with environmental regulations; developing and maintaining environmental programs; environmental sampling and results analysis; environmental assessments; permitting and inspections for waste management; handling wildlife incidents; training staff and hazardous materials management.

There is a lot of diversity in my job, which makes it both challenging and enjoyable.

At CFB Esquimalt we have a dry dock, which allows the Unit to work on ships while they are out of the water. These docking events are very exciting but also strenuous for many reasons. While the dock is flooded, the ship gets moved in to place. Then a large caisson wall closes off the area and the dry dock is drained completely, exposing the entire ship’s hull. However, while this all occurs, marine aquatic life gets trapped in the dry dock, and it is a part of my job to capture the marine life, identify and tally the species and return them back to their natural habitat.

We call this a “dry dock fish salvage” as it involves the relocation of marine life that can become trapped during the draining of the dry dock. The fish salvage effort is approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and ensures that marine life are safely released back to Esquimalt Harbour. Each event can produce different organisms and the salvage effort is a unique opportunity to document the diversity of species found in the harbour.

If this isn’t your main job since graduating, please give us an idea of what types of related things you’ve been doing since graduating:

After graduating, I spent a few years working with non-profit organizations as a restoration and stewardship project technician. I was involved in a variety of projects relating to riparian restoration, aquatic species rehabilitation, pollinator habitat creation, forest health and diversity, agricultural land restoration, and public education.

I then spent one year attending university to get my B.Sc. in Environmental Science.

Throughout the past few years, I have been employed in several different horticultural positions as well. Beginning as a lawn and garden maintenance team lead, I was quickly promoted to garden and maintenance project manager and then transferred into an estimator position. I started with the Department of National Defence in February 2019. 

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

My position at R&I allowed me to further advance my leadership and initiative skill traits by relying on my past work experiences and giving me creative freedom and support while designing and implementing a water quality and quantity sampling plan.

My current role requires me to take on a leadership role in managing our environmental systems, creating programs and educating and training the workforce. In a workplace that encompasses a large variety of employment positions and different activities, taking initiative is essential to meet deadlines and satisfy management reviews.   


“My position at R&I allowed me to further advance my leadership and initiative skill traits by relying on my past work experiences and giving me creative freedom and support while designing and implementing a water quality and quantity sampling plan.”

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

I worked on a project for the Town of Fort Erie, in which we collected background data for the creeks and drains throughout the watershed. Sampling days out in the field were always the best as we got to see many incredible species and creek conditions throughout the life of the project. However, I specifically remember during the end of the summer setting up certain equipment that would be left out to monitor the conditions over a longer time period.  One of our hopes with this was to try and catch a Blanding’s Turtle on camera. We very strategically set up wildlife cameras in known sighting areas around hidden marshes and ponds, trying to predict what logs the turtles might use and what banks they would use to enter/exit the water. Sadly, we never did catch one on camera; however, we were able to make a lot of other wildlife observations for our report. 

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I already had a degree in Criminology, but knew I wanted to work in the environmental field, maybe someday combining the two into environmental criminology research. After speaking with a former professor, it sounded like I needed to develop a stronger science background to achieve these goals. I quickly narrowed down my options to Niagara College and Fleming College based on course descriptions for the programs. At that time in my life, Niagara was the clear choice so that I could remain near the Hamilton area where I was raised. 

Most memorable experience at NC?

This is a hard one to answer. The labs were always well-designed, planned, user-friendly, and great learning experiences. Whether we were driving professor Martin Smith crazy with our unorthodox approaches or making professor Andrea Sinclair laugh during microscope slide preps, or just general singing while we work through a soils lab; there was always an important take away which provided me with guidance and knowledge that was previously foreign to me.

Niagara College really helped me improve my presentation skills and there is one presentation that sticks with me still. It was a group presentation for our Health and Safety/WHMIS course. Part of the presentation was that we had to include a health and wellness exercise for the class to participate (i.e. meditation, stretching, etc.). That morning we decided that we would have my classmate/friend TJ lead the class in a little aerobics exercise… and of course, we HAD to do it to the big LMFAO hit of 2012, Sexy And I Know It. Yes, we got lots of laughs. Since then I’ve always tried to make presentations fun, because otherwise they’re just boring.     

Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you?

Professor Martin Smith. Still to this day I hope to become the next version of him, teaching at a college. I still have about eight years to go before I think I’ll get there. However, his knowledge and expertise, combined with his passion and curiosity are like nothing else. There was always a unique type of mutual respect and professionalism, while we were still able to have fun both doing what we enjoy.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

For future alumni, it’s simple: get involved. When you start to do this, you will quickly learn that community isn’t all that big. There are lots of opportunities out there.

For research students, I would say to use this opportunity to be a leader, take chances and be serious about it; start to see yourself as the professional in the industry that you want to become. 

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

Personally, I have learned that I need to always be continuously learning. If a job becomes too mundane then I’m not able to perform my tasks to my highest abilities. I think it is wise to always be aware of any opportunities, whether that be career development, training, education, or a new job. 

Proudest achievement since graduating?

While working only a couple of years with a non-profit organization I wrote numerous grants for various projects totalling $726,000 in cash alone for ecological restoration in the Niagara region. 

Interests outside of work?

I have an Australian shepherd dog and we love to adventure and hike, following rivers and looking for waterfalls. I’m a big fan of yoga and also love relaxing with a bonfire on the beach and some good music.  

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

We often forget that these moments are temporary.