Based in beautiful Victoria, BC, we’re a team of environmental scientists, programmers, and geospatial experts drawn from government, academia, and the private sector. Our secret sauce is a blend of scientific knowhow and entrepreneurial innovation. Above all, we care about the environment, and supporting people across multiple sectors in responsible decision-making about our air, land and water.
Meet the team...
We often say that Foundry Spatial is its people. What we mean is that the talent, experience, and dedication of these colorful characters is what has made Foundry the most innovative environmental consultancy in North America, and the company best prepared to help you meet your data visualization needs. We always find a way to get the job done right, and this page is a good window into why that is…
Chief Executive Officer and Senior Water Scientist
A mile high view of Ben Kerr’s career path looks as remarkable in breadth and complexity as it does well-planned and integrated. Each element of Ben’s path – what he studied, the co-op projects he completed, his contracts and co-workers – looks to be a flawless and well-coordinated advance towards running a successful environmental consulting firm.
Ben couldn’t agree less, although he does it with his characteristic smile. “From the ground, walking that path looked very different.”
The path began with a geography degree from the University of Victoria, which included diverse courses in earth and ocean sciences, computer science, and – proving extremely useful later on – business.
Straight out of university Ben worked at several environmental consulting firms, specializing in cumulative effects assessment and management frameworks. His projects ranged far and wide, including northeast of British Columbia, the Beaufort Sea, Ontario, and Oklahoma.
Eventually he became a spatial data scientist with BC’s Ministry of Energy and Mines. There he worked with geologists, engineers and economists to solve various problems through the application of GIS. Ben quickly built up a portfolio of award-winning projects, including developing tools to determine the amount of natural gas in rock layers, the likelihood of landslides in different regions, and predicting earthquake-caused damage to dykes along the Fraser River.
Ben’s success and wide experience eventually led him to the point where he had gone as far as he could in the government’s professional technical stream. He could either become a career bureaucrat with the provincial government, or take a huge risk and go out on his own as an environmental science consultant.
“The timing was right,” says Ben, referring to changes in government direction, his desire to return to what he was first trained to do, the increased attention on water issues for communities and industries… and the birth of his first daughter in 2009 (Ben and his wife now have two girls).
“I thought hard about the decision to create Foundry Spatial, in depth and from every angle,” says Ben. Ben’s Scottish-Viking heritage might have something to do with that approach. “Our clan motto is Sero Sed Serio, which is Latin for ‘Late, but in Earnest.’ That’s definitely how I have approached business and environmental science: with care and calculation.”
One of his new company’s first projects was the NorthEast Water Tool, a GIS-based hydrology decision-support tool developed in partnership with the BC Oil and Gas Commission, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Geoscience BC. The innovative tool provides guidance on water availability across northern BC, and supports the decision-making process for water use approvals and licences. This project was followed by the NorthWest Water Tool and the Omineca Water Tool.
“The first water tool project started at the back row of a conference,” says Ben. “We were lamenting the poor state of water knowledge and decision-making tools, and decided to do something about it.” The award-winning result was both effective and useful, and led to the development of new resource management decision-support tools for other clients and partners.
It’s not unusual in business for success to breed success. You have to be at the right place at the right time… but you also have to have the right set of skills and experience, a hard work ethic, and the willingness to take calculated risks.
It just seems easy when you look at it from a distance.
Spatial Data Scientist
Hydrological data arrives at Foundry Spatial in many different formats from multiple sources, and needs to be shaped for modelling before it’s packaged in a way the rest of us can understand. That’s the easy part of database work. The hard stuff is in writing scripts to automate complicated processes, and in ensuring the integrity of the data.
It takes a great deal of knowledge, experience, and organisational skills to make it work. At Foundry Spatial, it takes a great deal of Hailey.
Hailey credits much of her success in data wrangling to great mentorship at the University of Victoria, where she studied GIS and hydrology as part of her geography degree, and at the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, where she worked under BC’s senior climate scientists. “I learned a lot about programming, open source software and ethics from PCIC,” says Hailey.
Working with a vast amount of data from a wide variety of sources means that Hailey has had to create automatic processes and failsafe procedures to ensure the data arrives safely and properly. “I’m always on the look out for where and how to create efficiencies,” says Hailey. “We use a lot of data sources.” From the way she says it, you get the sense that “a lot” is way more than you imagine.
A love of lifelong learning is a trait that led Hailey to playing high level sports like ultimate Frisbee, swimming and rugby (she made Canada’s national team three times), and drives her to regularly attend book lectures and film festivals, and volunteer at a local women’s association. “I like to pack as many things into an evening as I can,” says Hailey about her diverse interests and busy life.
Another interest is keeping the office plants happy and green. In an office full of programmers and environmental scientists, it’s the really organised person who remembers to water the plants.
Web Application Developer
“I live in a beautiful natural environment, so I’m kind of supposed to say that I love camping. But…” says Duncan MacKenzie with a big smile, “I don’t. I actually prefer being inside, obsessively reading about the things I’m interested in.”
For Duncan, that means music, comedy, movies, and – not surprisingly – programming. “I’m passionate about technology, so I like to keep up with the industry,” says Duncan, “There is always something new to learn. You’ll never reach peak knowledge before it all completely changes.”
Obsessively keeping up to date with programming and the IT industry proves to be extremely helpful to someone involved in both front- and back-end development work. Duncan’s developer fingerprints are all over the Alberta Water tool, from the map front-end, to the filtering logic used by the application, to how well and fast the reports are generated.
“As developers we really value open source code,” says Duncan. “More and more it’s where the industry is going, and it’s where we can also make a contribution back to the community.
"Duncan grew up in Nanaimo, where he studied information technology at Vancouver Island University. He spent several years as a web programmer for various companies. “You learn a lot about what not to do out there,” he says. “And if you’re really into it, you learn what makes for a good user experience. That’s what drives me.”
That, and music, comedy, movies, technology… You know, things to read about indoors.
Web Application Developer
QUESTION: what do the following things signify?
- Cycling in the rain
- Scorpion and other exotic foods
- Iaido (the traditional Japanese martial art of drawing and cutting with the samurai sword)
You’re reading a biography page on the internet, so it could be a ridiculous-but-captivating list of wildly-divergent experiences aimed at competing with the online noise machines. Or… it could be just a few of the real, actual, true experiences that make up the life of Chris Tooley, Foundry Spatial’s real, actual, true web application developer.
HINT: we’re a shop of scientists, programmers and database experts.
It may seem bizarre and surprising, but that list provides an interesting window into what makes Chris such a good programmer, and as unique a character as you’re likely to find on the other side of the online resource management tool you’re using.
“I guess I have a pretty diverse background, and a diverse set of interests,” says Chris, after reading through the list himself. “But I think that’s the kind of thing that makes for a good problem solver – being open to new experiences and unique approaches.”
Chris grew up in the Yukon and later on Vancouver Island, where he studied computer science at the University of Victoria, which he describes as a great investment: “After graduating, I’ve always had a job.” Working as a programmer at an environmental consulting firm is a happy placement that aligns with his own lifelong love of the outdoors.
Strange foods from exotic locations often punctuate conversations between Foundry Spatial’s team of problem solvers, as does favourite places to hike, the best way to can pickled carrots, and good cycling routes. It’s a diverse team, and Chris’ diverse interests and talents make him fit right in.
We all have a list.
David didn’t start out in marketing. It kind of crept up on him while he was doing graduate research work in wildlife biology. “Eventually I grew tired of being chased by angry bears in the rain,” says David. “Field work is hard.”
Now he is 95% bear-free and has 20 years of senior-level marketing and communications experience in the advanced technology, local government, and not-for-profit sectors in both Canada and New Zealand. He does it all: branding and promotions, creative content and strategy, media relations, social media, crisis communications, yelling at cats in the backyard, and lots more besides.
David is an active member of Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, as well as being an executive board member of Victoria’s Spirit Committee, where he works alongside many other cool people to build community on Canada’s beautiful west coast.
For ten years he wrote a syndicated humour column, “Dave’s World,” as well as a million book and concert reviews, and a travel series, “The Last Good Place.” He is a published illustrator and cartoonist, and incessantly doodles on the margins of important meeting papers.
He is very sorry about that.