ITI Women in Science Profile – Beth Fischer

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Blog Entries

February 13, 2023

Saturday was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and to celebrate, ITI is sharing the stories of female staff whose background in science has shaped where they are today. 

 Beth Fischer is a project geologist at the Northwest Territories Geological Survey (NTGS). She began her studies at Carleton University with a major in Biology but shifted her focus to include Geology, with a thesis in the more analytical area of theoretical Geophysics and graduating with a combined Geology-Biology degree in 1983.

After graduation, Beth worked as a field geoscientist for the federal government in the Northwest Territories doing regional bedrock mapping in the Slave geological province.

Beth’s first Industry position outside of government was at Con mine in Yellowknife, and then she worked for the local geological-geophysical consulting company Covello Bryan & Associates (CBA), (now Aurora Geosciences) exploring for gold near Contwoyto Lake in the NWT barrens.

 Beth worked in the field until she was eight months pregnant with the first of her two children. Bringing her career indoors meant a change of lifestyle, but the love of analytical thinking kept her busy, and she later decided to return to her studies.

 As a new mother, Beth continued working with CBA, processing the reams of geophysical data being acquired by the field crews, digitizing geology maps, and writing small computer programs to automate many of these tasks.

In 1997, feeling the need for a change of pace, she accepted a new job with the government (with what was to become NTGS) to create a mineral showings database. That was at the beginning of the digital era, and it grew into a job as Geoscience Information Manager, responsible for analyzing the data management needs of NTGS, creating databases to organize and store NTGS’ many types of information and online query tools to allow the public to access them.

While this change was fun in many ways, fieldwork beckoned; and with her kids now older, Beth returned once again to the great outdoors; going back to school to modernize her skillset in preparation. In 2012, Beth finished a master’s degree exploring controls on lead-zinc mineralization in Cambrian carbonate formations in the Mackenzie Mountains.

Switching from information management back to field geology, Beth’s post-master career has involved mapping bedrock in the Mackenzie Mountains of NWT, in older rocks south of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and in a few other areas around the north.

“I like mentoring young MSc and PhD students who have chosen to study geology with a field component,” she says.

Now approaching the end of her career, Beth has seen many changes. Noting that it is more common now for young mothers to share childrearing responsibilities with their partners, which enables them to be able to continue a significant amount of fieldwork after having children.

The mentality that “women should not be in the bush”, encountered at the beginning of her career, has mostly disappeared. Instead, she says that young women should not limit themselves and should follow their heart into the discipline that drives their curiosity and ambition. The Sciences may be challenging, but girls need not perceive their gender to be a barrier.

Though official retirement is on the horizon, the desire to explore is still thrumming. Planning a motorcycle tour in Mongolia, and considering contract work in the years to come, Beth’s drive to discover has not diminished.