Water Resources Coordinator at the City of Richmond Hill
Master of Science in Geography 2013
Bachelors of Arts, Geography 2011
About Kristina Delidjakova
Kristina Delidjakova (she/her) is a Water Resources Coordinator at the City of Richmond Hill! In this role, Kristina is responsible for the initiation and coordination of capital plan projects for the rehabilitation of stormwater infrastructure and stream restoration, as well as the coordination of other special projects . We caught up with Kristina for World Water Day to learn more about her career path and her experience at York as a student!
How did you get interested in studying geography?
Funnily enough; I didn't apply for geography when I went into university. History was really my main interest because of a great high school teacher. I always liked geography, but history won me over at that point. When I chose to attend York, at my initial appointment with an advisor, they encouraged me to choose a minor as well. So, I chose geography.
When I took the first year Physical Geography course I thought, “Ok, I really like this. I’m going to keep at it.” It was my second year when I took Hydrosphere with Dr. [Richard] Bello and it was at that point I decided to drop history and focus on geography. That was the course that got me interested in environmental science.
During both my undergraduate and graduate studies, I took courses with several other professors (Dr. Kathy Young, Dr. Tarmo Remmel, Dr. Andre Robert) that ended up being very important in influencing my interests and they opened up this new and exciting world for me.
Can you tell me a bit about your experience writing an undergraduate thesis?
It started with the Hydrosphere class with Dr. Bello, who made the course very interesting. There was the field aspect, which is still important in the work that I do now. I got introduced to many types of sampling techniques and instruments - that really grounded everything and made it all so much more applicable in terms of what we studied in lecture. He would put up a graph, and then he was able to squeeze endless amount of information from a single graph. I normally would have just looked at the graph, maybe noticed a few things and left it at that, but he would point out these new relationships, and it was very engaging.
I remember going after one class to ask some follow up questions when he recommended that I do an undergraduate thesis. He asked if I would be interested in doing a project. I said yes and the next year I enrolled in the thesis course. That project was in partnership with the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA), and my thesis focused on the aerodynamics of a grassy field. It sounded overwhelming to me, but once you start having the weekly meetings and your supervisor breaks down the work for you, you really gain the confidence to take on the work. Dr. Bello really made things easy to understand and helped me get over the initial hurdles I had. The thesis was daunting, but it is really like any other project, just longer and more of a commitment. I’m very thankful to have had this opportunity because if I hadn’t done my undergraduate thesis, I don't think I would have had the confidence to pursue a graduate thesis. It really opened that door for the next level of research and made it a lot less intimidating.
What is some advice you would give to students in the EUC program?
I was glad I exposed myself to external courses beyond my atmospheric/geography frame. Math, Physics and Computer Science helped me not to be too intimidated by certain aspects of my degree. I would say don’t take the easy path. You’re going to have to spend the time and money on a degree either way, so you might as well really challenge yourself because this is the time to do it. Once you get a job and you start working, it’s more difficult to gain this type of knowledge at this level. Also, stay interested! If you like a course, or topic, go talk to a professor and express that interest to them. There are many research opportunities and connections that professors can facilitate that may help you in getting an internship or a job after graduation. Those relationships and opportunities are invaluable.
Did you apply for the graduate program immediately after you finished your undergraduate studies?
I did yes. I knew that if I did not do my master's right away, I might not ever do it. I worked with Dr. Bello again for my graduate studies and the research took place in Churchill, Manitoba. My research topic was the influence of Hudson Bay on the carbon dynamics of the Hudson Bay Lowlands. It was very interesting, and both Dr. Bello and my co-advisor, Dr. Kaz Higuchi, were great mentors in teaching me critical thinking skills and finding information for myself. For example, rather than him feeding the student information and methods, Dr. Bello would leave it up to the student before stepping in and guiding them and I really learned a lot from that. I appreciate that much more in hindsight than I did in the moment.
How did you find work upon graduation?
Before I applied for my masters, I had applied to several jobs and did not receive any responses. That was influential in pushing me to do my masters. During my masters I had an internship with TRCA working on an ongoing project that Dr. Bello was leading - measuring evapotranspiration across the GTA. From this internship, I was offered a short-term contract with the Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP) at TRCA. Eventually, I was offered a full-time position. This internship really helped me transition into the working field - it would have been a lot more challenging without an internship, so I recommend students to pursue one if available.
I was a Technical Analyst at STEP and I could not have asked for a better opportunity, as this group is basically a hub for anything stormwater related in the GTA and beyond. They’re research experts and the go-to experts for stormwater management. This opened up so many doors for me, as my mentors and managers helped me grow in the field. I am so thankful to have worked with that team.
That experience helped me obtain my current job. I am still in the stormwater management field, but focusing on larger scale projects. I have worked as a Water Resource Coordinator with the City of Richmond Hill since 2017.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis at work?
I mainly work on environmental assessments and feasibility studies for stormwater management towards the rehabilitation of stormwater management ponds and stream restoration. The primary goals are to reduce erosion, reduce flooding and improve water quality while protecting infrastructure and human health and safety. That's the main aspect of my job, but I also work on other projects. It’s a very interesting job and it is never the same; there is always something new and I’m always learning. Most importantly, I work with a great team – my manager and coworkers are exceptionally knowledgeable, helpful and supportive – this is something I am very grateful for.
What are some university experiences you still carry with you today?
I made some great friends during both my undergraduate and masters degrees that I still keep in touch with. During my masters we had access to the Climatology Lab which Dr. Bello looked after, and we would do our work out of there and through that, a number of us having him as an advisor became close friends. Dr. Bello’s mentorship and drive to teach and advance students has personally helped me tremendously.
I also carry the work ethic with me that I learned in university. I try to figure things out on my own by doing my own research before taking the next steps. I think that is what the thesis projects helped me learn. It is not always about the specifics of the projects, though, as a large part of what I carry with me is the relationships I formed and the lessons I learned along the way.