At King County March is proclaimed Women’s History Month. Historically, careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) have been male-dominated. In the Water and Land Resources Division, 45 percent of the nearly 400 employees are women representing the STEM fields — the expertise needed to provide clean water and healthy habitat for all of King County.
We asked a sampling of our ecologists, biologists, engineers, planners and landscape architects how they pursued a career in a historically male-dominated field and what advice they might have for other women.
About Water and Land Resource Division’s employees
Fauna Nopp is a capital project manager in the Rural and Regional Services Section of WLRD’s Ecological Restoration and Engineering Services Unit. She has a degree in landscape architecture and started working on restoration projects as a design team member 25 years ago.
“Over the years I took an interest in managing projects, obtained my project management professional certification,” said Fauna. “Now I manage and supervise some of King County’s largest capital improvement habitat projects.”
Laura Hartema is an ecologist in the Ecological Restoration and Engineering Services Unit of WLRD’s Rural and Regional Services Section.
She is part of team of engineers and ecologists that develops, designs, permits and builds habitat restoration projects along streams, rivers, wetlands and floodplain environments, followed by monitoring the projects and reporting on outcomes and success. Laura has a bachelor of science in biology and a minor in chemistry.
“I prepared for this job through years of volunteering, internships, stints at a state fish hatchery and a hazardous waste firm, completing UW’s certificate program in wetlands, working as a fisheries observer on Alaska’s high seas, and never giving up,” said Laura.
Sophie Chiang is a senior ecologist in the Ecological Services Unit of WLRD’s River and Floodplain Management Section.
Sophie provides ecological guidance related to levee design, levee setback, and revetment design and is responsible for the environmental permits of these facilities. Habitat components include fish habitat, mitigation, and restoration for projects associated with flood risk reduction. She has an undergraduate degree in environmental analysis and design and a master’s degree in environmental science.
“Before working for King County, I worked in the field of environmental consulting and with non-profit organizations as a wildlife biologist and gained a wide breadth of project experience along the West Coast, including the Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, as well as throughout the United States,” said Sophie.
Heidi Kandathil is a project manager, now with the Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Parks and Recreation Division.
“I work on special projects for the Parks and Recreation Division and am currently working on developing the proposal for the next parks levy,” said Heidi. “My background is in engineering and urban planning but the Peace Corps is what really instigated my interest in community development and conservation.”