Brendan Spearin is a 2013 graduate of Niagara College’s GIS – Geospatial Management program and was a GIS Research Associate for Research & Innovation’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre from 2012 to 2014. Brendan is currently the Aquatic Invasive Species, Regional Coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
A little about what your job entails…
A new position, the goal of my unit is to coordinate with regional stakeholders (provinces, conservation non-government organizations (CNGOs), and Indigenous groups) to implement the four key pillars: prevention and outreach; early detection and surveillance; response; and control and management.
How has your R&I experience helped you prepare for your current role?
While working at Research & Innovation, I felt that I was given a lot of independence towards how I solved the problems that I was assigned. That said, I always knew that [Senior Research Associate] Sarah Lepp and [Research Lead] Dr. Mike Duncan would be there to help if I was stuck or needed some guidance.
I got to be involved in client meetings and these formal and professional meetings were excellent examples of a business atmosphere. Taking that professionalism and knowledge into the workplace allowed me to immediately make an impact.
“The way artists and game designers are able to convey so much about the world through the way that they build maps is inspiring!”
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
It was recommended to me by a number of GIS professionals at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs where I worked as an Assistant GIS Technician after graduating from university. One of the research fellows even took me out to meet Dr. Mike Duncan, so the chance to work with him while attending college was an opportunity that I could not let pass.
Most memorable experience at NC?
Working for Research & Innovation was the highlight of my Niagara College experience. Being able to work in my field, gaining experience, while also completing my post-graduate degree, was something that I am extremely grateful for.
A faculty member who influenced you?
Dr. Jiang was an amazing teacher who also supported my Niagara College thesis. I learned a lot from him, especially from our one-on-one thesis meetings. Without him, my programming skills would be nowhere near what they are today. Ian Smith was also an excellent teacher; his passion for the environment and GIS were great to see and his classes always felt so alive.
Top 3 skills you obtained from your time at NC:
2. Drive – to never turn it off.
3. Humility – admit when you do not know and need help!
Proudest achievement since graduating:
As part of my previous job, I got to work directly with academic institutions, Indigenous groups, and CNGOs on applications for the Coastal Restoration Fund. Thanks to their hard work, a number of Arctic projects were funded through this national contribution and grants program.
I also worked on the Recreational Fisheries Conservation and Partnerships Program, a national competitive program that enabled me to work with local organizations to improve recreational fish habitat across Canada. The drive of these local organizations and their work ethic and final products (restored habitats, new fishways or spawning shoals, stabilized stream banks) were truly inspiring.
What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
Work hard, show initiative, and be professional in all that you do. You will reap what you sow.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
That you will never stop learning. I’ve changed jobs and projects quite a few times throughout my career with DFO and each switch has required me to sit down and do a hell of a lot of reading, talking with peers, and research.
Interests outside of work?
I’m a huge gamer. I love everything from board games to DnD (Dungeons & Dragons) to TF2 (Team Fortress 2). It’s actually what partly drew me into the world of GIS – I absolutely love maps. The way artists and game designers are able to convey so much about the world through the way that they build maps is inspiring.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
Stop being mean to people you don’t know on the Internet.