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Abigail Bonnington Wears Iron Ring with Pride

Posted by Engineering communications on March 13, 2023 in News
Environmental Engineering student, Abigail Bonnington, received her iron ring this weekend at the annual Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer ceremony.
Environmental Engineering student, Abigail Bonnington, received her iron ring this weekend at the annual Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer ceremony.

A third year Hydrology engineering course was all Abigail Bonnington needed to figure out the right career path. Today, you can send the environmental engineering student to any seaside town in Nova Scotia, ask her to collect flood mapping data, and she’ll beam with excitement.

That’s exactly what she’s doing for her senior year Capstone Project. Travelling to and from River John in Nova Scotia, Bonnington and her classmates have partnered with WSP Canada to collect data and use digital modeling to assess the potential risks of flooding on the small North Shore town.

“The Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing started a program a few years ago to try and help rural municipalities that didn’t have any data do some flood mapping,” says Bonnington. “They’ll use that data for planning purposes. WSP did one of the test cases in River John in 2019 and since then the guidelines have been updated.”

Bonnington and her team are now working to update the data and will put forth mitigation measures to protect community members living along River John. She says natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity, with the risk of flooding getting worse over time. Flood maps are used to show areas of land that may be covered by water in the event of a flood. These tools also help identify potential risks and impacts.

“I have family connections to the community in River John, so it’s been really neat working on this project,” says Bonnington. “Knowing these people just makes it extra important to make sure everything you’re doing is as it should be.”

The Ritual of the Iron Ring

The Capstone Project has fueled Bonnington’s desire to one day work in the water resource industry. “I like that you can see the impacts on what you do,” she says, adding that it’s one of the most rewarding parts about becoming an engineer.

However, she admits that when she was in high school, she didn’t fully understand the importance engineers have on society. In fact, she says that it wasn’t until completing her Diploma of Engineering on Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus that she first heard about the prestigious Iron Ring.

“I had no idea what it was,” she recalls. “People were explaining it to me, and I realized how neat it was to have a physical reminder of the importance of your job and the impact that you’re going to have on the world.”

Worn on the little finger of an engineer’s working hand, the Iron Ring is a reminder of an engineer’s obligation to professional integrity and to the public. The ring is presented to engineering graduates in a private ceremony each year known as the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.

Dalhousie Sexton Campus was a buzz last week as 395 engineering students prepared to receive their rings. The ceremony, which was held on March 11th, represents a pivotal moment in their academic journey. For Bonnington, it’s a symbolic event that she says outweighs graduation ceremonies in May.

“This is what everyone talks about. I think it is so amazing that this is something that happens all across the country and connects all engineers in Canada,” she says. “It’s easy sometimes to go through school and learn things and then get into the working world and perhaps forget. But to have that physical reminder that you wear everyday while you’re working is really neat.”

It’s a symbol Bonnington will wear proudly as she prepares to complete her environmental engineering degree. She says once she graduates, she’ll work with WSP Canada for a year, before pursuing graduate studies in coastal water resources engineering. Until then, Bonnington is excited to finish her Capstone Project along River John, before presenting her findings at this year’s Capstone Exhibit on April 11th.

“Wearing the iron ring symbolises our commitment to ensuring everyone can lead safe, healthy lives, and our Capstone project is a great example of one way we can do that as engineers,” she says. “When taking the obligation, we affirmed that we would use the utmost care and attention to our work. I will strive to do the best work possible when producing these flood maps and advising on mitigation measures for the protection and betterment of the River John community.”