When did you join APEM?
I joined APEM back in 2002 under a sandwich year work placement, as part of my third year of studying for my degree in environmental management at the Manchester Metropolitan University. I’d chosen to do a sandwich course to try and get industry experience as part of my degree course. I spent just over a year with the company working mainly in the field team.
How did your career progress at APEM?
During my sandwich year, the field team consisted of just the three of us, a far cry from today, when we have the biggest specialist field team in Europe. I was doing something different every week or every day in some cases, with surveys varying from electro-fishing, to invert sampling, water quality and habitat walkover surveys covering the length and breadth of the country.
It was also during my placement that I integrated GIS into APEMs survey work flows. I’d always had an interest in mapping and cartography and my course at university had a GIS component that I’d really enjoyed.
So when APEM bought an early version of ArcGIS I was asked to find ways that it could be put to good use. We found it useful for a whole range of field based tasks, particularly fisheries habitat surveys, and now it’s used in almost every field data collection project we do and is also core to what we do in remote sensing.
During my placement, I gained valuable industry experience and a working knowledge in freshwater ecology and the management of aquatic environments. This certainly helped forge the foundations for the career I’ve gone on to have.
After my sandwich year at APEM I went back to university and graduated in 2004. On graduating I came straight back to APEM, on a temporary contract to begin with, and I’ve been here ever since.
I re-joined the company as a field scientist, going on to lead field surveys as the company and field team expanded in size. During this time I also gained experience in the application of hydroacoustics and hydrographic surveys.
Then in 2007 I was given the opportunity to head up the company’s GIS work in a more consultancy based role, along with coordinating the company’s HSQE management systems.
Two years later the remote sensing team was formed and because of my experience with GIS, hydrographic and topographic surveys, I was asked to join.
At first I spent a lot of time as an aerial camera technician on board our survey aircraft as we carried out aerials surveys all over the country and out at sea. So I’d gone from surveying the length and breadth of the country on foot with the field team, to surveying it from the air. Working as a camera technician had its benefits – it took me to Holland, Germany, the Baltic Sea and the US.
Now I’m predominantly office based, working as a project manager in the remote sensing team and heading up our hydrographic surveys team. I still use those core GIS and hydrographic survey skills on a daily basis, which is very rewarding.
One thing you’ve learned from working at APEM?
Expect the unexpected. Having developed quite a diverse career path, this is one aspect of my job that has applied to the various roles I’ve done.
For example, when you’re doing a field or aerial survey, you might have a problem with the equipment and you just have to find a way to fix it or work around it. In the office, you might be working with data that you’ve processed the same way many times before, but for whatever reason this time it won’t process. Or you might do a speculative tender that you unexpectedly win and then you have to deliver the work.
The trick is not to panic, but to have patience and resilience. If something doesn’t go to plan initially, just think it through and you’ll soon find things moving forward.
What have been your highlights?
In the early days it was all about going on field surveys. We travelled all over the country doing various different surveys and that was really interesting. Similarly, my time as an aerial camera tech flying surveys over the Orkneys and most of the UK and into Europe and the USA, are also career highlights.
At the same time, I’ve been able to indulge my interest in mapping and GIS, finding ways to use advanced technology to enhance and complement our existing techniques.
Having joined in my early twenties, straight out of university, I’ve grown up with the company and I’m proud to have been part of its success, growing from a company of eight to where we are today.
What’s the best bit about your job?
I think working in a field that interests me is incredibly important. It’s what provides the stimulus to carry on wanting to contribute.
It’s a cliché, but the team is great. Everyone works really well together, not only in the remote sensing team but also the wider company when we collaborate on the multidisciplinary based projects.
What are your plans for the future?
The remote sensing industry is such a fast paced and dynamic one, with new survey technologies and software being developed at a rapid rate. Similarly the demand for geospatial and location data is ever increasing.
So the challenge for me is keeping abreast of all these new developments and seeing how they can improve what we do.
If you have any queries, please contact Mark Jowett, senior remote sensing scientist.
Alternatively you can email us here. Or call 0161 442 8938.