Out and about collecting environmental data

Grace Smith is an environmental technical officer with Environment Southland. Photo: Supplied
Grace Smith is an environmental technical officer with Environment Southland. Photo: Supplied
The future of the primary sector will rely on attracting high school leavers into the industry. Southern Rural Life continues a series looking at different career paths. This week we talk to Grace Smith, an environmental technical officer with Environment Southland.

Q What is your background?

I studied at Southland Girls' High School and the University of Otago.

Q Job description?

Environmental technical officer - monitoring at Environment Southland.

Q How long have you been in the position?

Three and a-half years.

Q What does the job involve?

I spend three to four days a week in the field collecting environmental data and checking and maintaining monitoring sites around Southland.

I spend one to two days a week entering data, preparing gear for the field and keeping in touch with new technologies.

The data I collect is the basis for a great deal of the council's work.

A lot is used for determining river levels downstream as floodwater travels down the catchments, and some of it informs our science programmes, which in turn feed into policy decisions.

Some data like toxic algae, E.coli levels and air quality is directly used to issue health warnings to Southlanders.

Q What qualifications and experience and knowledge are required?

A tertiary qualification in a relevant field.

I did a bachelor of science in geology and geography and took a number of GIS papers.

This is my first job out of university.

You learn a lot on the job.

Q Why do you like the job and what have been the highlights?

I enjoy the fieldwork and teamwork involved in the role. There is a mixture of working alone and with others, depending on the tasks set for that day.

Q Are there any drawbacks?

Although I just said I enjoy the fieldwork, some days I would much sooner spend inside and not in a cold river.

Q What advice would you give to a school pupil considering entering the industry for a similar job?

Take up the opportunity to learn, whatever it may be.

Most jobs require a huge range of skills.

In our job we need to be able to work with technologies, be able to fix and maintain monitoring sites that break down, and continuously communicate with our team.

Q What is a little-known fact about the job that you would like to share?

I have worked in a lot of cool Southland spots I do not think I would have visited had I not had this job.

Q What is the pay scale?

The initial salary offer is in the range of $53,295-$59,565 depending on experience.

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