Where is your field of expertise?
My background is in geology. I graduated from Dalhousie in ‘81 and went to work for exploration service companies in Northern Alberta, and then exploration rigs in the North Sea and South-East Asia before I came back here and worked on the Scotian Shelf and Hibernia until ’86. After that, I went back to school and received a diploma in land use planning, which led me to a position in mineral and hydrocarbon resource management with the provincial government. I continued with the government working in environmental assessment and oil and gas regulatory affairs for the next, roughly, 13 years.
Then I moved back to big-oil, working for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers as a policy analyst for a couple of years, then as a business developer for a small environmental consulting company and that all brought me to St.FX in 2004.
How did your career in the oil and gas industry inform the work you do now?
I was hired at St.FX because of that background. At the time the offshore oil and gas play was heating up and St.FX had just landed three Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) projects, all related of offshore oil and gas. So, at that time my experience helped St.FX secure some industry partners. But since then the offshore oil and gas play decreased, and I’ve had to sort of reinvent myself in this position in several ways.
What do you mean? And how did Springboard help you with this “reinvention”?
In the earliest, pre-Springboard, days there was a lot of questions like; “what’s a licence and how does that work?”, and of course, the different college and university ILO shops really did not know one-another back then, so there were few knowledgeable persons for me to seek out when I had questions. There was a lot of googling and stumbling around until Springboard came along and became instrumental in supporting that critical training. I was thrown into a learn by doing situation back then—so I really am a jack of all trades and a master of none.
You’ve been a Springboard Representative for St.FX since our organization’s inception. Can you tell me how it’s evolved?
In the early years there was less inter-institutional assistance and cooperation. Over the years that’s grown to a point where it is simply so valuable, this inter-institutional collaboration—it’s absolutely amazing.
In the earliest days, the institutions were divided by size and that led to a real competitive attitude. But as new phases of Springboard came and went, that initial attitude has been replaced by one of cooperation.
So now, if I get a call from industry looking for something that we (St.FX) can’t offer, I never hesitate calling up one of my Springboard colleagues at another institution who has that expertise. And I’ve gotten lots of calls myself from others saying: ‘we have a project that we think somebody in your shop can do.’
What do you think is the power of our network?
Because I know these people (Springboard members) personally, I know who their research champions are so it’s not a problem for me to call someone up and say, ‘I’ve got something for you’.
I’ve also been in the situation where I don’t know how to deal with some kind of contract, and it’s no issue for me to call up a colleague anywhere and ask if they’ve come across that problem before and how they handled it.
There is a true spirit of collegiality, we’re all working towards the same thing.
How do you see the impact of the region’s research community?
There’s nothing in the scientific world that can’t be done in Atlantic Canada. There is no need for any business or industry in Atlantic Canada to go elsewhere to seek expertise, all you have to do is find the institution, or institutions, with the research team that can handle the problem and it will get done. I think Atlantic Canada and Springboard are a force to be reckoned with now, and our reputation is known right across the country.
Where do you see Springboard going forward?
Greater awareness of our organization. There are so many companies [in Atlantic Canada] that are unaware of what research can do for business. A lot of companies say ‘oh I don’t need any research done,’ so I pry a bit deeper and ask, ‘well is there anything your business is missing out on?’ And they usually say of course, there is always something more that could be done with X,Y or Z and it usually can be solved with research. A lot of businesses are still missing that, they think that research is for IBM or Apple, but research benefits businesses and industries of any capacity.