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Camp, Confusion, and Careers: Morgan Book’s Journey in STEM

Morgan Book is a climate change adaptation queen (program manager) at Clean NS Foundation. She encourages everyone to reconnect with their roots and stay grounded when they are feeling lost and uninspired in this complicated world. In her spare time, Morgan runs road races, enjoys the local food scene, and explores the wonderment around her.

My passion for the environment STEMs (see what I did there...?) from a childhood spent at a rustic summer camp in the boonies of Nova Scotia. A place where you couldn’t tell if your tan was from the sun or the ‘perma-dirt’, where you slept under the stars and storm clouds, and where you got a brain-freeze from the cold, fresh drinking water. This place not only ignited my passion but wholeheartedly shaped the person I am today.

Aerial shot of Sherbrooke Lake Camp – Where it all began!

Aerial shot of Sherbrooke Lake Camp – Where it all began!

Step 1: Find a slice of heaven, plant your roots there.

From age 5 to 18, figuring out exactly what I wanted to do in this sector was… not as obvious. I initially wanted to be a sustainable dairy farmer, then switched to a conservation officer, then onto a meteorologist; e.g. I have too many interests to narrow them down. So I took this confusion and used it to build my career path.

Step 2: Take an interdisciplinary science degree.

I completed my BSc. in Environmental Science and Geography at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and can confidently declare that pursuing this degree at this school falls near the top of my list of ‘Best Decisions Ever Made’.

So… what now? Maybe I’ll go teach in Asia and see the world; maybe I’ll get my B.Ed. and be a science teacher; or maybe I’ll get my Diploma in Meteorology. But at last minute, my professor informed me of this brand new graduate program that he thought I’d be perfect for. So I scrambled to submit my application within four days and anxiously waited for the news.

Step 3: Take a Master of Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

I packed my bags, jumped on a plane and off I went for the 12-month program in the ‘Loo. New place, new program, new chapter; this one was a challenge, both academically and personally. Being part of the inaugural class has its perks but also lots of bumps to figure out. Plus, as with any graduate program, the workload was heavy and continuous, so I perfected my full-day meal prep and speed-reading skills of scientific papers hastily. On top of this, I missed the East Coast; the ocean, the space, the kindness, the slowness and simplicity of life. I went from a university town of around 2,400 students to one of 36,000; Here, I was just a number.

But, I put my head down, focused on my school work, stuck close to my cohort and tried to absorb as much as possible in my time there.

Okay, that’s done. Now am I supposed to jump into the ‘real world’? But how does one do that, exactly? Start applying to jobs frantically, far and wide. Coast to coast to coast. Annoy any and all folks in my network to connect me to or give me a job.

Step 4: Complete a professional Internship at Clean NS Foundation back in Halifax.

Back to the beautiful East Coast I go. Jumped, with two feet, into my position and the Real World. I was shocked by the level of responsibility given to me from day one, thinking: “Am I even qualified to make this call? Let’s hope so!” I was able to innovate a program I was once a participant of (Formerly the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps, now rebranded as Clean Leadership Program) by improving its efficiencies, testing out ideas, and growing its scope to new boarders. Throughout this journey, I met thousands of people passionate about or directly working in this sector. My network has exploded. My professional and personal development has been ongoing, gaining new skills and refining many others.

Step 5: Grow network, take on challenges, and consistently seek growth opportunities.

Four and half years later, I’m still at Clean. I’m working in the Climate Adaptation Department, assisting municipalities in the province with the implementation of their Action Plans, while also supporting Clean’s coastal restoration projects and waste management division. 

Beach clean-up in Yarmouth, NS

Beach clean-up in Yarmouth, NS.

Step 6: TBD. I’ll let you know when I find out, though.

Things I’ve learned: stay flexible. Prepare for failure. Continuously grow your network and nurture these relationships. Learn how to sell yourself and your skills. Get uncomfortable. Walk into a room with confidence; your age, specialization, and title shouldn’t be barriers in attaining respect.

And finally, it’s easy to get bogged down by the colossal issues in our world, our sector, and as a woman, but, I try to remember to celebrate the small successes, the little wins each and every day. And most importantly, I try to reconnect with my roots as often as possible to stay grounded and inspired.

Exploring at Laufskálavarða in Iceland, September 2017.

Exploring at Laufskálavarða in Iceland, September 2017.

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