From Aquatic Biologist to Division Manager: Kelly Wells’ journey at CanNorth 

Joining Canada North Environmental Services (CanNorth) as an Aquatic Biologist was the dream job for Kelly Wells post-university, offering her summers in the field in Northern Saskatchewan.  

 Now, fast forward 22 years, Kelly stands as CanNorth’s Environment Division Manager, where she finds joy mentoring budding biologists. Moreover, she is pivotal in CanNorth’s operations and management teams. 

Even as a child, Wells had a clear vision: a career in the environmental field. Her summers were often spent at the family cottage, where she developed a love for fish biology and the tranquil waters. For Wells, the allure of a new adventure triumphs a desk job any day. 

During her early years, guidance came from a senior fisheries biologist, a colleague of her father. “I talked to her about consulting and the kind of work she did. She really inspired me to delve into consulting. I love the pace, the diversity, the blend of field and office work, and the applied science aspect,” she recalls. 

CanNorth emerged as the perfect fit for Wells. Beginning as a modest venture, the company grew conservatively. With only four employees when Wells joined in 2001, the scope of work was broad. “I learned quickly. From the start, I dove into cost estimates, project management, and client relations. But I also found myself mending fish nets and conducting fish surveys,” she recounts. It’s this diverse environment that sustained Wells’ interest in consulting over the years. 

Now, CanNorth boasts a family of 90 employees, with many women occupying senior positions, and their operations and management teams are predominantly women. I’m surrounded by competent, amazing women,” she beams. While Wells acknowledges the persisting challenges for women in the workplace, she’s found an egalitarian atmosphere at CanNorth. 

Being part of the Kitsaki group of companies significantly contributes to CanNorth’s triumphs, according to Wells, and garners various advantages. The entity’s Indigenous ownership attracts individuals keen on being part of such a unique establishment.  

“Kitsaki and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band are hugely supportive, with Chief Tammy Cook-Searson serving as a global role model for women,” she said. 

For Wells, the job has been a source of fantastic “moments”, especially her time spent in the north, around Lake Athabasca and Uranium City area. “I learned immensely from the locals, both on personal and professional fronts… I fell in love with Northern Saskatchewan, the lake, and the remoteness,” she reminisces. 

Looking back, what captivated her as a child hinted at her destined path. She opted for a boutique company like CanNorth with robust leadership, sustainable hiring practices, room for growth, and a varied workload. And she has never looked back since.