35 years dedicated to protecting the environment: Steve Chevarie's story

Steve Chevarie, Wildlife Technician in the Environmental Studies and Climate Change team, has been with Englobe for 35 years. We had the chance to meet Steve and discuss what it means to him to be part of a team that has a real impact on the environment. In this interview, he also discusses his role in mentoring the next generation and offers sound advice to the next generation. 


 Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.


What's your role at Englobe like? 

I specialize more specifically in aquatic environments, i.e. everything to do with water, aquatic vegetation, fish, and sediments. I'm called upon to work just about everywhere, but particularly in the province of Quebec, from the U.S. border to Nunavik. I take part in several projects each year, which involve sampling sediments, fish, and water for contamination analysis in an external laboratory. 

I will often be called upon to participate in projects to measure the impact of a hydroelectric project on fish populations due to the construction of dikes and dams. So I'll go out and do some pre-project fishing to inventory the fish species present and locate the various spawning sites that may be impacted by the project. The data I collect in the field will be analyzed by our biologists, who will then propose the development of new spawning grounds. When the project is finished, my mandate is to return to the new spawning grounds and validate whether they are being used as intended by the various fish species. 

On the laboratory side, I occasionally carry out water quality analyses and take samples of fish flesh and bone structures. The flesh samples are sent to an external laboratory for contaminant analysis, while the bone structures (scales, opercules, etc.) are preserved for reading later in the season. When field work tapers off in late autumn, my colleagues and I determine the age of the fish we've caught by looking at the bone structures we've collected.


What's a typical day like for you? 

On a typical day during the summer, I go to the warehouse and load the equipment needed for the job. Once in the field, we hold a short safety meeting with all team members and launch the boats. Then I start collecting the various data we need. Since we're working in aquatic environments, we must be careful not to drop equipment into the water, which is an additional challenge to my day. At the end of the afternoon, I return to the warehouse and save the data collected during the day (field sheets, photos, GPS points, etc.). I then finish my day's work by sending an e-mail to the project manager to summarize the day and give an assessment of the current mandate.

I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to do my job today and to have a real impact on the environment and the communities I've met.

What do you like best about your job? 

 What I like best about my job is definitely the fact that I'm called upon to work all over Quebec, especially during the summer months. Even though my job sometimes requires me to leave the house for several weeks at a time, it still allows me to collect samples in the most beautiful parts of Quebec. I've even had the chance to work thousands of hours by helicopter and seaplane. It's a huge privilege for me to be able to do this through my work. It's not just anyone who gets this chance.


What projects have impressed you most during your career? 

In my last 35 years of service, I've been lucky enough to work on some awesome projects. Projects in the Far North hold a special place in my heart because of their breathtaking landscapes. The project that made the biggest impression on me was my first career project, which was located in the Inuit community of Nunavik. It was really impressive, because you're only two and a half hours by plane from Montreal, you're still in the same province, but it's a completely different culture and customs. It's impressive to be so close, but so far from the reality of Montreal at the same time. Not to mention that this project introduced me to some of the most beautiful landscapes I've ever had the good fortune to visit. 

 Then there are the projects on the James Bay territory (Eastmain and Rupert rivers), which allowed me to work with a very specific species of fish that is less common in my region. I had the chance to get to know the lake sturgeon, which can weigh up to 50 kilos and has very special habits. This gave me the opportunity to discover new species that I didn't know much about before.


Why are you so interested in environmental studies? 

 The answer is simple. Working at Englobe, I'm part of a team that has a real impact on the community and the environment, and that's what's important to me. If the environment was failing us, we wouldn't be talking to each other right now. Protecting the environment is a global concern that needs to be addressed urgently. I'm already noticing that the seasons in the field have changed a lot, and that's very alarming. Working in a team that takes environmental studies to heart is my way of giving back to the environment, and that's what motivates me to work at Englobe. Protecting marine species and water is crucial to maintaining the environment.

I love being outdoors and in nature, so I'd certainly like to see nature preserved for as long as possible. That's why I chose my profession. I'm happy and proud to contribute to making a significant difference.


What type of leadership or mentoring do you emphasize in your work relationships? 

I encourage a lot of autonomy in my mentoring. Of course, at the beginning, no one is completely autonomous, which is quite normal, but I encourage a lot of initiative in my team. There's a high turnover of projects in our team, which leads team members to acquire new skills and knowledge frequently. This leads the more junior members to take more initiative and responsibility, and they are now called upon to be a mini-mentor to a newcomer to the team. In this way, we can ensure that the new generation is effective and that projects are brought to a successful conclusion.

Every day, I stress to my team the importance of thoroughness at every stage of a project. It's important to know the objectives of the project specifications so you can get out there and execute a plan. Of course, there's always a project plan, but there are often unforeseen circumstances. So, while rigor is important, it's just as important for me to guide my team and explain to them how to adjust to particular situations. Sometimes we're not able to meet objectives as planned, but one thing I like to tell my team members is that they shouldn't be shy about calling the project manager and explaining the situation as it is. So my mentoring also focuses on effective problem-solving. It's important to be able to adjust the plan along the way and to be able to adapt.


Do you have any advice for the next generation of engineers? 

When it comes to the environment, there are certain sacrifices you have to make. For example, you sometimes have to sacrifice weekends or vacations because you don't necessarily have control over the fish. Another constraint is that projects in remote areas often require us to leave for more than a week. So, on occasion, we have to sacrifice a few days off, but it still comes with extraordinary advantages. We're lucky enough to access territories I'd never have been able to access outside my job, and to meet extraordinary people from different cultures. So my advice is this: Yes you're going to have to work hard and you're going to have to make sacrifices, but you'll see, the benefits of this job easily outweigh the sacrifices. Above all, don't just look at the dark side of the coin. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to do my job today and to have a real impact on the environment and the communities I've met.


Finally, outside of work, what are you passionate about? 

Before I started working in the environmental field, I must admit I had a great passion for fishing and hunting. Now, I'd say I'm more of a nature voyeur, rather than a nature exploiter. My wife and I love to go hiking, and we're particularly keen birdwatchers. I love going for walks and discovering new species. I'm a real nature buff. That's why protecting the environment is so important to me.

Englobe is one of Canada’s premier firms specializing in professional engineering services, environmental sciences, and soil and biomass treatment.