Christine Daly knew from a young age that she would have a career either working with animals or in environmental protection. Growing up on a tomato farm in Ontario, she felt a connection to the environment that led her to pursue a bachelor of environmental science, followed by a master’s degree in biological sciences, with a focus on aquatic ecology, from the University of Windsor.
At university, she was part of a wetland food web study. She worked with five oil sands companies, including Suncor Energy, where she was hired shortly after graduation as a wetland reclamation research coordinator.
Christine has been with Suncor for the past seven years. She is now a senior sustainability advisor for land and reclamation technology development, as well as a member of the Land Environmental Priority Area (EPA) Steering Committee (SC) for COSIA. As a member of the Land EPA SC, Christine sits on both the mining and in situ subcommittees.
“It’s really nice to work with other people who are very passionate about the environment – people who are really progressive and want to make a difference in our industry,” says Christine. “Collectively, when you have a group of people with that similar state of mind, who want to make things better environmentally, you get a lot more momentum and more ideas.”
Not only has this been beneficial to Suncor as a member company, but Christine feels her participation on these committees has been significant to her own career development. With a background primarily in mining, Christine has acquired new insights into in situ operations. “I’m learning about what is best in class in terms of reclamation and having a minimal footprint size.”
Learning from 12 other member company representatives and having access to their technologies is exactly why the COSIA collaborative model works so well. “When you collaborate with other companies, it’s just more minds sitting at the table, more ideas, more technologies to share,” says Christine, adding that in the Land EPA alone, to date 177 technologies have been shared. “It’s enabling us to accelerate our pace of reclamation because we have all this great information we can tap into right away instead of doing all the research on our own.”
One of the projects Christine has been actively involved with is Suncor’s Nikanotee Fen, which involved reconstruction of 2.9 hectares of fen wetland near Suncor’s base plant in the Wood Buffalo region. “It’s a project I’m really proud of,” says Christine, who explains that reconstructing a fen from the ground up is a really big challenge because it’s never been done before. Construction of the fen was completed in 2013 and so far, Christine says the fen is looking really good. “This is a big milestone for the oil sands industry.”
The project had the support of First Nations neighbours and was named by a Grade 4 student. “The name Nikanotee means ‘future’ in Cree,” says Christine.
The Nikanotee fen is simply one example of wetland that the Land EPA is addressing. “We look at all different aspects of the ecosystem,” explains Christine. “We look at wetlands, forest, transitional areas, lakes and streams, we’re concerned about vegetation – are we putting the right number of species back, are we putting in the right habitat features so animals want to come back to areas we’re reclaiming, are we doing it safely?”
Christine says Suncor is continuing to evaluate all shared technologies from COSIA member companies and is incorporating many of the learnings into their company operations. Christine is part of a Technology Development Team at Suncor that focuses on a wide assortment of topics that might fit into any one of COSIA’s EPAs.
“We have multidisciplinary teams working on renewable energy like wind energy, experts in extractions and tailings, end pit lakes, in situ, renewable resources, mining and geology,” says Christine, who is proud to be making a positive contribution to environmental challenges. “We’re focused on technology with the idea that we work on all the major challenges at our company. By sitting together, we’re going to have good cross-pollination and look at all different aspects of our decision making and what technologies are really good for our company as a whole.”