Environment, People Spotlight, Sustainable Legacies

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a senior socioeconomic specialist from our Environment business line in our Burnaby, British Columbia office and providing insight into their consulting inspiration and work.

Lindsey has been working in the socioeconomic arena for over 19 years. She has successfully completed several planning, and impact assessments – evaluating how proposed development impacts the social and economic health, and infrastructure of neighboring communities.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.

The summer before grad school, I secured a job as a receptionist at an environmental engineering firm. When the environment manager heard I had a bachelor’s degree in sociology, he asked if I was interested in joining the human environment team. At that point, I had never heard about socioeconomics, or this line of work, but I was interested in learning more.

Shortly after I transferred into my new role, I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to be doing with my career. It married my passion for community health with growth and sustainable development. I was able to continue with my studies while working and gained an incredible amount of experience on the job.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?

The Faro Mine Remediation Project has been a career highlight. The Faro Mine, once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world, is now considered of one of the most complex abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada. The Indigenous communities in proximity to the site were negatively impacted when the mine was established, however, the remediation project has been an opportunity to right the wrongs.

We’ve worked very hard to identify social (including Gender-Based Analysis Plus), economic, and cultural initiatives to maximize Indigenous participation and benefit, while circumventing negative pathways. We are also supporting the development of an Indigenous-led committee which will oversee the planned works and allow for mitigation while promoting self-governance and self-determination.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.

When I started my career in northern Alberta, the city of Fort McMurray was struggling to deliver basic community services to their permanent residents because of the large ‘shadow population’, comprised of remote workers. Recognizing this need, I developed mitigation measures for a proponent to conduct their own blood and urine testing at an in-house lab, reducing the demand burden on the local health authority.

I also recommended that the lab infrastructure be eventually donated to the neighboring Indigenous community when the project ended, which would augment the community’s very limited health services. The proponent agreed to all aspects of my recommendation, and the mitigation was considered a success by both the health authority, and the Indigenous community who inherited the lab equipment.

Share a piece of career advice.

Much of socioeconomics is learned on the job. If you have a passion for sustainable and responsible development, and community issues, then this may be the line of work for you! Do not let your lack of experience prevent you from pursuing this unique, interdisciplinary career. 

Lindsey McDonald

Originally published Sep 7, 2022

Author: Lindsey McDonald

Lindsey is a senior socioeconomic specialist from our Environment business line in our Burnaby, British Columbia office.