Avery grew up in swimming in Kootenay Lake and hiking the mountains surrounding Nelson, BC. These experiences instilled in her a deep love of nature that fuels her drive to effect positive environmental change. It is this relationship that her current thesis research - which has won her a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Award - explores.
“My research focuses on the influence that nature-based awe has on water professionals. The ability to integrate my water policy and governance background with the social psychology field has been an amazing experience.”
Avery began her educational pathway in the environmental sector with the Integrated Environmental Planning Program at Selkirk College. The quality of instruction and hands-on learning opportunities uniquely positioned her to excel both professionally and academically.
“One day you might be learning about hydrology in the classroom in the morning and by the end of the day you had spent time in a canoe actually practicing the techniques. This hands-on approach is very beneficial for gaining employment out of the program. Many post-secondary programs offer little to no real-life experience. Selkirk College excelled at this!”
Beyond the skills developed in the classroom, Avery explains that the faculty in the School of Environment and Geomatics went out of their way to support her to pursue further educational and professional opportunities.
“My first summer job while at Selkirk College was position in water conservation for local government that I won thanks to the support of an instructor. After graduating, my instructor helped me gain a management position in a local environmental NGO and even went on to serve on the board of directors for this organization. When I set my eyes on a master’s program at Royal Roads University, Selkirk College specifically added a new course to IEP so that I could be eligible.”
Avery’s passion and the skills she acquired at Selkirk College have benefitted the West Kootenay region extensively. As the Chair of the West Kootenay EcoSociety Board of Directors, Avery is guiding the region towards becoming the pre-eminent rural-Canadian model of inclusive and ecologically sustainable living. Avery was also instrumental in developing the Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Collaborative and serves on the advisory committee to the City of Nelson Nest Lab, working on collaborative climate solutions for Nelson.
“My favorite part of my current work is the amazing people that I get to work with. From working collaboratively on progressive projects, to seeing someone change their mind on climate action due to an inspiring talk, it all motivates me to work harder to make positive environmental change.”
Looking back on her time in the Integrated Environmental Planning Program, one memory sums up the experience.
“It was an early morning at Champion lakes and the sun was just cresting over the mountain. The steam had just begun to rise off the lake as the sunshine warmed the earth. In this picturesque setting, our class pushed off in our matching red canoes to learn proper hydrological water sampling methodology. I remember being in awe and feeling lots of gratitude for how lucky I was to have this environment as my learning space.”
Drawing on her experience leveraging her education to build her career, Avery offers a piece of advice to current or perspective Integrated Environmental Planning students.
“There are presently so many ways you can work in the environmental sector. Choosing how, why and where I wanted to make a difference has been a struggle I did not anticipate. I would highly recommend choosing a topic to focus on while conducting your Selkirk College assignments. Combine your passion and your desired career path and tailor your assignments, where possible and allowed, to these. For example, focusing my assignments on water science and conservation gave me an edge when applying for jobs in this field.”