Internship Spotlight: a New Career, a New Perspective


Nima Agh is the Rural Asset Management in a Changing Climate Project Intern with Conservation Corps Newfoundland and Labrador (CCNL). This internship position is made possible by Mitacs. Mitacs has more than 20 years of experience facilitating successful and profitable collaborations between industry and academia.

Starting my professional career in engineering and environmental management at Conservation Corps Newfoundland and Labrador (CCNL) was the opportunity I was hoping for, especially after I decided to focus my work and study on environmental issues. I found a position at CCNL when I least expected it; in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the working environment was entirely different from the stress of the pandemic. At CCNL, I found a super-friendly environment, supportive staff and mentors, numerous ways to get engaged in environmental conservation activities, as well as many learning opportunities. This was more that I could have ever asked for.

Cupids lake on the left, and Cupids Harbour on the right. As errors are parts of Digital Elevation Models, some fieldwork was required to understand the hydrology system and model the area correctly.

I grew up moving from one country to another. Although it was exciting to visit new places and meet new people and cultures, it was also painful to witness humans’ degradation of the environment in each country I lived in. I witnessed a climatic catastrophe while living in Iran and this experience inspired me to redirect my career towards the environmental sector. I wanted to be on the frontlines of climate change mitigation and environment preservation and resilience.

While living Iran, I witnessed Lake Urmia, a massive lake stretching over 6,000 square kilometers, disappear within a few years. Wildlife that depended on the lake perished in a scale beyond comprehension. I watched villages and towns abandoned as sand and salt storms destroyed farms, wells turned dry or salty, and much more. Lake Urmia died, just like Aral, or the Great Salt Lake, and Lake Poopo.

Lake Urmia. Photo by Nima Agh.

I enrolled in the Environmental Systems Engineering and Management program at Memorial University with the hope of being a part of the transition process away from traditional environmentally destructive trends. Our future and the future of the next generations depend on climate change mitigation.

Salt and sand and an endless desert at the location of the Lake Urmia. Photo by Nima Agh.

At CCNL, my internship focused on two initiatives. First, with the help of my supervisor at CCNL, I analyzed and wrote reports on corporate greenhouse gas emissions for the towns of Brigus, Cupids, Clarke’s Beach, and South River, facilitated community and staff climate change vulnerability assessment workshops, and assisted in inventorying each town’s infrastructure assets. Second, I used GIS applications to run simulations of watersheds in Clarke’s Beach, Cupids, South River, and Brigus. Working with ArcGIS Pro, PCSWMM and similar programs, I ran hydrology and hydraulic simulations of the basins based on the available stormwater management infrastructures. My supervisor at Memorial University helped me develop proficiency in these programs so I was prepared to apply these skills to my work.

Watershed simulation of South River and Cupids.

This work will provide municipalities and administrators the information they need to make informed, cost-effective decisions when it comes to climate change. This research also illustrates what will happen in case of an extreme climatic event, pinpoint the locations that would be most affected, as well as the infrastructure that might fail or require improvements.

When the natural flow of water is manipulated, more elements are involved in the computer model. Cupids, NL. November 2020.

My internship at CCNL has given me relevant experience, a chance to network with people and organizations in my field, as well as opportunities to get involved with similar projects. The best part of working in this organization is the feeling of fulfillment I have knowing that I am finally fighting head-on against climate change and am actually a part of the transition process to an environmentally resilient society.

Learn more about CCNL’s Internship Program here.

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