Elizabeth Bonner — Mapping Canada's waters from every coast

With a third of Canada under water, we rely on expert hydrographers like Elizabeth Bonner to make sure mariners can travel safely. 

“When I describe the work that I do, I tell the public that I find rocks and put them on maps,” Elizabeth says with a wry smile. “The hydrographic service finds the rocks and the hazards so that mariners don’t.”

Elizabeth has worked for the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) for 10 years as an ocean mapper and chart production supervisor. She and her team use technology, archived maps, and consultation with Indigenous communities to identify ocean hazards, distinguish maritime boundaries, and promote safe nautical navigation. 

CHS conducts regular field surveys with marine vessels, including those specialized for hydrography. Often, Elizabeth partners with the Canadian Coast Guard to conduct oceanographic measurements that deepen their knowledge of Canadian waters. 

Millions of water vessels are navigated through our lakes, rivers and oceans every year. Elizabeth and her team are at the heart of water safety for national defence, fishing industries, international shipping and tourism. 

 

Every day, Elizabeth maintains the quality of hydrographic work — one important way she does this is through PIPSC stewardship. As a steward, Elizabeth acts as the point person for her coworkers about their collective agreements and rights as workers. She supports them if they are experiencing challenges on the job. 

“PIPSC offers training and networking opportunities, and has given me the opportunity to help other members learn about their collective agreement and to support them throughout challenges at work,” she says. 

Elizabeth is proud to be a PIPSC steward and a woman in science, protecting Canadians when she goes to work every day. In fact, she was one of the first female hydrographers to lead a team on the marine vessel “Vector” — one of her proudest career moments. 

“We spent two weeks surveying off the coast of Calvert Island. We did a hydrographic survey to update the navigation charts in that region,” she says. “I’m most proud of my involvement in that project — I was the first female hydrographer in charge of the Vector on this coast.” 

Survey projects, like the one on the Calvert Island coast, are essential to prevent naval crashes, inform navigation routes and even predict the effects of climate change through tide and water levels. 

Elizabeth added that CHS is recognized as an International Organization for Standardization that guarantees the quality of their work in climate change and hydrography in the public service. 

She and her team work hard to map our coastal regions so that Canadians stay safe in every industry, whether it’s monitoring for tsunami events or scouting for rocky hazards. 

Navigators can rest assured, knowing Elizabeth and her team have their back on every coast.