At the Intersection of the Arts and the Environment: MLA Alumnus Heather Schibli's Career Journey | Ontario Agricultural College

At the Intersection of the Arts and the Environment: MLA Alumnus Heather Schibli's Career Journey

Posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

heather schibli standing infront of flags at an award ceremony, wearing a blue sach

Finding a career that merges your lifestyle and passions can be difficult. For alumnus Heather Schibli, OAC’s Master of Landscape Architecture program combined her passion for improving the environment with her love of the arts. After graduating from the program, Schibli was hired by Dougan and Associates, a local ecological consultancy and design firm where she co-leads the Network of Nature program - a non-profit program that inspires Canadians to plant native seeds, plants and trees to establish a national network of native habitats and protect against the effects of climate change. In November, Schibli was elected into the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, joining a list of Canada’s foremost leaders in the environment.

In this Q&A, we asked Heather about her experience in the MLA program and how it set her up for success in the landscape architecture field.

Name: Heather Schibli
Program: Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)
Current position: Design Manager, Landscape Architect, Ecologist, Arborist at Dougan and Associates

What was the main reason for you pursuing your graduate degree? 

For as long as I can remember, I have had both a love of the creative process and for the environment. I had sought to combine these two passions in a couple careers prior to my graduate degree, but they did not fully address the environmental aspect.

Landscape architecture beautifully combines creative problem solving through the design process with that of environmental stewardship. I love representing and designing for the needs of Ontario's natural heritage systems.

heather schibli standing outside in a forest

What experience in Master of Landscape Architecture program had the most impact on your career?

I must thank Dr. Karen Landman for introducing me to the Ecological Land Classification via Mathis Natvik's thesis. I decided to enroll in this weeklong course at Queen's University Biological Station between my second and third year. I then utilized this methodology as part of my own thesis, which solidified my passion for working outside and with other species.

What is your role at Dougan & Associates? 

Since graduating from the University of Guelph, I have been working at Dougan & Associates, a local ecological consultancy and design firm. I was first hired as a landscape designer to draft detailed designs and as an ecologist whose role was to provide botanical and wildlife survey support. Since being hired, I have become a landscape architect with the position of partnership & engagement lead. As part of the management team, I co-lead our work for the Network of Nature and connect with individuals and organizations focused on supporting biodiversity.

What is one piece of advice for a prospective student thinking about applying to the same program? 

This is a challenging program and demands a lot of commitment. My advice is to learn how to scope your project requirements so that you don't burn out! This is very valuable when working within the industry too. I have found working in landscape architecture to be fulfilling and inspiring. There is so much to be done; we live in damaged landscapes and need more landscape architects and ecologists who can design and support healthier ecosystems.

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