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If you like getting your hands dirty, getting close to nature, and roughing it in the wild, a career in forestry just might be your calling!

"This career is geared towards people who enjoy hands-on experiences with fish and wildlife," says Gerald Redmond, executive director at Maritime College of Forest Technology in New Brunswick. "They must enjoy working outdoors for long periods of time and under varying environmental conditions. Love of nature and the outdoors is a must!"

A fish and wildlife technologist provides support to biologists working for industry and government agencies operating in the field, particularly in the domain of fish and wildlife management and research.

"They have the technical competence to survey fish and wildlife resources for evaluating populations," says Redmond, a wildlife biologist himself.

The two-year diploma in Forest Technology focuses on exposing students to fish and wildlife techniques and includes a two-week summer camp, a week-long winter camp plus two courses in techniques. The program is accredited with the North American Wildlife Technology Association

"The diploma is very hands-on and students are exposed to a wide variety of techniques, including electrofishing, sampling fish using various nets, fish aging, canoeing, motor boat operation and maintenance, lake sampling, wetland delineation, wetland plant identification, and more," says Redmond.

Fish and wildlife technicians are hired by federal and provincial natural resource agencies for management and research projects. Environmental consulting firms hire these technicians for inventory projects. Forestry companies hire technicians for fish and wildlife inventory projects, identifying sensitive habitats, and protection of threatened and endangered species.

With a lot of time spent getting hands-on training, students are bound to pick up tertiary personal and professional skills.

"Students must learn how to work in teams," says Redmond. "They must be skilled in navigation (compass, map, electronic) on water and in the forest. Plant and animal and fish identification is important."

In order to strengthen their survival skills, students must develop competence in camping to be successful in field operations. During the course of the diploma, they also learn how to operate and maintain ATVs, boats, canoes, snowmobiles, chainsaws, trucks, and winches.

With the lure of adventure comes the challenges of being out in the arms of Mother Earth. Redmond says that as students learn to adjust to being close to raw nature they are at the same time learning to enjoy Mother Nature and all she offers including insects, ticks, heat, rain, snow, and isolation.

Further training options in this field can be explored through any NAWTA accredited college in North America.

"After obtaining a diploma," says Redmond, "some graduates go on to university to gain further credentials and opportunities to become fish and wildlife biologists, become involved in professional organizations either locally or nationally, such as American Fisheries SocietyThe Wildlife Society, and The International Association for Bear Research and Management."

Graduates of the Maritime College are working all over North America with natural resource agencies, oil and gas industry, environmental consulting firms, forestry companies, among others.

Photo: Francesco Rizzato/Thinkstock