"Joshua Camacho Works with the Fishes"

By Vanessa Grillone, WorkStory Contributor
I have a big family, which makes room for many different people going after various different careers. My cousin Joshua Camacho is a year older than myself and has the most interesting job I’ve ever heard of. By title he’s a commercial diver and even though I tell people he’s an Underwater Welder, welding is just one of many things that he does underwater. On any given day he could be does an inspections, construction, welding/cutting, salvage or even cleaning intakes. He’s even recently worked for an aquaculture company farming salmon.What I find so interesting about this job is that it’s ALL UNDERWATER! How the heck does someone get into a job like this one? 

Well, in high school Josh enjoyed his manufacturing class, especially welding and working with tools to make things or take things apart. He assumed that welding was a trade and that he could make decent money. He later heard of underwater welding and thought that was the coolest thing ever and went for it. After high school he went to Seneca college in King City, Ontario. They  offer the Underwater Skills program, which is two semesters from September to June. Diving Physics, Diving Physiology, Welding (dry and underwater), and Small Engines were just some of the classes he took. They even had the opportunity to do some practical projects underwater in the lake on campus, and some deeper dives off of boats and barges in lakes Simcoe and Huron.

“We received a college diploma so we had to do the compulsory english and computer courses or whatever else buy my favourite part of the course was probably going up to Wiarton and setting up our work barge using cranes and winches. We used hot water suits and a decompression chamber during the work day along with pumps and generators that power everything. I received my unrestricted surface supplied air diver and restricted commercial diver certificates surface supplied air comes from large cylinders filled by approved compressors. You breathe this air with the help of diving helmets such as the kirby morgan and S.C.U.B.A. you carry all of your air cylinders on your body.” 

Within the last few years, Josh’s job has allowed him to travel for work, mostly within Canada. He loves that my job allows me to travel within the province, country, or world depending on what he wants to do, “I can stay inshore diving for commercial diving companies or go offshore and work for oil or drilling companies. Every day is different. It keeps life interesting. This week will be a diving operation in the spent fuel bays of a nuclear power plant, next week could be setting up fish farms in the Caribbean sea”. But traveling is the bitter-sweet part of the job.  It can be a curse or a gift. Josh, a laid back and hardworking individual, just goes with the flow. He figures that NOW is the best time for him to travel, he’s twenty-five and doesn’t have that many responsibilities, plus, he knows that it’s part of the job. 

Josh admits that the toughest thing about his career is having a girlfriend and just relationships in general outside of work. He’s constantly back and forth between jobs in Ontario, from Niagara to Windsor to Manitoulin Island, or out to Newfoundland for a month or more at a time. It takes a good deal of effort to try to plan anything and to stay in touch with friends and family.

Although it was difficult to get constant work at the beginning now, Josh is self-employed and has a number of contractors he can call for work. The industry does have some slow periods through the year here in Ontario so you have to plan around that. Thankfully he’s in a good position as far as being comfortable goes but would like to work offshore on a oil rig or station of some sort just to experience it.  

Joshua’s advice to anyone interested in being a Commercial Diver: 
I love what I do and you HAVE to love this kind of job. There are many things that you can do with a commercial diving ticket. Most commercial diving isn’t glamourous work, often you’ll find yourself in tight pipes, contaminated water, uncomfortable working conditions, but if you love the job and the traveling it isn’t so bad. You will have to work hard and if you are not willing to drop everything to go work then things will be even harder. Welding or another trade would be a great reliable alternative."

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A Steward of Sustainable Development

By Bob Florence, Green &White

Her friends took lunch to school in paper bags. Sarah Hughes used Tupperware. They cleaned their homes with commercial detergent. Sarah’s mom, Anne, stuck with vinegar.

“It’s not like we were hippies, but I did grow up on a wooded acreage, more of a natural setting,” said Hughes, who is from Newmarket, Ont.

“My mother is aware of the environment. My grandmother taught me about different birds and wildflowers. In my high school yearbook, for my probable job I said I think I’ll be an environmental scientist.”

Hughes reaches for the sky.

She is an ecotoxicologist studying the effects of chemicals in the air we breathe, in the water we drink and in the soil where our food grows. She does environmental hazard and risk assessment for Shell. The energy and petrochemical company hired her after she completed the toxicology graduate program at the University of Saskatchewan.

Hughes (MSc’05, PhD’08) is one of Shell’s three ecotoxicologists in Houston, Texas. The other six are in England. Together they support Shell’s activities in more than 70 countries, reviewing company research and testing new materials and planned projects. Their motto is “scrub clean,” making sure business follows the environmental rules governments set for industry.

“On any given day I might work on five different projects,” said Hughes. “Every chemical is different. Every environment is different.

“Hazard and risk is what we look at. We evaluate the inherent hazardous properties of a chemical and estimate the expected exposures to fish, insects and plants. Together these components allow us to derive the expected environmental risk of a Shell project, operation or business. Based on the environmental risks we find, our team then makes suggestions to make design changes to remove the environmental risks to acceptable levels.

“Sometimes what I do is like a puzzle, a little CSI.” Hughes watches CSI:. On the TV crime series cases are solved in an hour. “If grad school was that easy I’d be done in a year,” she said.

Raised in Ontario and now living in Texas, she keeps connected to Saskatchewan. Hughes is an adjunct professor in the Department of Soil Sciences at the U of S. She also advises a toxicology student in Saskatoon doing a master’s thesis on oil sands development. In her own PhD thesis, Hughes looked at how wetland plants deal with napthenic acids, a by-product of making petroleum in the oil sands.

Then there is Estevan, Sask.

The power station at Boundary Dam near Estevan is being retooled. The goal is to capture 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide the plant belches. The captured gas will be stored and used to recover oil in nearby oil fields in Canada and the United States.

Cansolv Technologies of Montreal landed a contract with SaskPower to deliver the carbon capture know-how. Because Shell owns Cansolv, Hughes is part of the package. For the last two years she has steamed ahead in testing the Boundary Dam plan.

“This is getting a lot of global attention,” Hughes said. “It’s the world’s first and largest integrated carbon capture project, combining post-combustion capture of CO2 with coal-fired power generation. I help Cansolv ensure its technology is safe [to the environment].”

She looks at offshore oil work as well. Shell is into more than oil and gas, though. It is a petrochemical company. The products Shell makes and the job she does affect all of us, from the lubricant a barley farmer in Hafford uses in his tractor to the laundry detergent for a family in Calgary to the polymer in soccer jerseys worn around the world.

As Hughes develops her expertise in the field, we deal with the practical everyday implications. Her challenge is to find a way for a company to be both cost-efficient and environmentally friendly with products we use.

“I’m practical,” said Hughes, who bought her first car when she moved to Houston. “I understand in the world we live in we can’t go back to the stone-age. But we can do things more sustainably, more intelligently.

“Coming out of school I had technical knowledge. That is academia. This is the real world. I learn new things and gain new wisdom. My message to toxicology graduate students and faculty is continue to try new projects. Be sure to keep the real world in perspective with science. Don’t be afraid to jump outside your area of expertise and add to your knowledge.

“To a general audience I’d say don’t take things blindly. Give some critical thought to both sides of any story, particularly on environmental issues. Be an educated consumer.”

Think of Paracelsus, said Hughes. He was a German-Swiss physician and alchemist in the 1500s. A line he said 500 years ago applies today. He said all substances are toxic; the dose is what makes the poison.

Hughes knows Paracelsus. She remembers Saskatchewan.

“There is a subtle beauty to the prairie,” she said. “I bike a lot, and when I was in Saskatchewan we would call biking into the wind a Saskatchewan hill.

“The neatest thing about my experience at the U of S was interacting with people and the good friendships formed. In grad school we called ourselves the urban family because we spent so much time together.

“I wish I had crazy tales of what has taken me from point A to point B. Being aware of the environment is what I grew up with. I read [American conservationist] Rachel Carson in high school. [That] was formative for me.

“I told my guidance counsellor in high school I was interested in an environment job. I didn’t know what toxicology was.”

Now she most definitely knows.


Reprinted with permission  of Green & White  ©University of Saskatchewan


Jewelry for the Urban Soul

Switching from ESL teacher to entrepreneurial jewelry and accessories designer wasn't the original plan for Edmontonian Kristen Mackie.   Kristen started her education at the University of Alberta and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts.  Shortly after completing her B.A., Kristen furthered her studies and added a Bachelor of Education After Degree to her credentials.  She majored in social studies with a minor in English as a Second Language and she began her career teaching ESL at Grant MacEwan University. 

It wasn't until late 2012 that Kristen decided to take the big step to establish ELiasz and eLLa Jewelry & Accessories with her husband -- and commit full time to her entrepreneurial desire! 

See more about the ELiasz and eLLa story here.