Melissa Pitz has always been a tough person to track down. You’re one of the lucky ones if you’ve been fortunate enough to find her at home or in her office at Clifton Associates in Saskatoon.
When she was a young child on her farm just outside Shellmouth, Manitoba, Pitz’s mother and father learned their daughter was the adventurous type.
“Our farm has a beautiful creek running through it, a natural spring,” Pitz recalled. “My parents would always say that if they couldn’t find me that I would probably be down playing by the creek. I always loved the outdoors.
“My parents were both very outdoorsy. My mom was a farm wife and my dad was a farmer and miner, so this meant that I grew up outside. We had a big yard in town or out on the farm with the horses and the cattle.”
Playing by the creek or playing in the creek, it didn’t matter to Pitz. She just loved to explore. Whether it was her childhood days or her adult years, she often found a souvenir of her time spent at memorable locales.
“Mom always joked how she washed a ton of rocks that I had in my pockets from when I was a younger kid,” she said. “She wasn’t surprised that I got into this field – I was either falling in the water or I had a pocket full of rocks.”
Pitz proudly displays a rock collection in her office. A couple of the more talked-about stones are ones she picked up while visiting the ancient city of Pompei, a wonderland for any curious geologist. Another of her favourite rocks is from a memorable site visit a little closer to home in Uranium City.
She even has a drill bit from a job during a first-of-its-kind drill through mountain rock in Nevada.
Pitz loves the outdoors and her personal travels through South America and Europe prove it. She has explored jungles, ancient ruins and off-the-trail farmland.
Born in Manitoba, Pitz grew up in rural Saskatchewan in the village of Gerald where she attended grade school. Later she moved to Saskatoon to attend the University of Saskatchewan, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree, her master’s and completed her post-grad schooling.
“After my bachelor’s, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Pitz explained. “I was employed by Jim Hendry (a specialist in hydrogeology) at the U of S and became his research assistant and I kind of fell in love with it. (Hendry), along with a few other supervisors, got me really interested in it and I haven’t looked back.”
Her fondness of everything outdoors lends itself nicely to her chosen career path. Pitz says she splits her time “about 50-50” between the office and remote job sites for clients.”
Her environmental training allows her to dedicate more time to working outdoors. The winter months see more drilling, while the summer is more the building of water wells and environmental work.”
Does she have a preference for which season she would like to be outdoors? Surprisingly, she doesn’t balk at early mornings on a frosty January day.”
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” she said. “With some clients, we’ll drill in January no matter how cold it is. We’re out there and we know it’s going to be cold, but we prepare for it and make the most of it. I know it sounds quirky, but I love the quietness on a really cold morning and you’re out there at six in the morning and you’re watching the sunrise and the drilling. It’s weird and beautiful all at once. I just love being outside, whether it’s cold or hot.”
“ I’m a morning person, so I like to get up early and get going right away. I also like being disconnected from my phone and everything else. I’d rather just be in the moment with my team doing what I need to do for my client. It’s peaceful and relaxing and I get to focus on one thing.””
Pitz doesn’t mind being away from her office, either. No phones ringing, no paperwork, no distractions on the Internet. She does take her phone and a laptop with her when she travels, but they are used sparingly.
“It’s therapeutic (to unplug),” she said. “You’re working a long day, sometimes 12 or 16 hours for days and weeks at a time. You’re busy doing your job but it’s also calming and quieting at the same time just being outdoors, and off the grid and away from everything.””
The longest she has been away from her office while working for Clifton has been three or four weeks. But she admitted she has been away for three to four months at a time when working elsewhere. Either way, she doesn’t bat an eye at working in the field.”
Pitz stopped short of saying she’s landed her dream job. However, she didn’t hesitate to say she loves what she does and takes great pride in her work and is dedicated to serving her clients’ needs without the slightest bit of doubt.”
“I accidentally stumbled into hydrogeology after my bachelor’s degree, but I do know this is my passion,” Pitz said. “Seeing a water well go into the ground, seeing water come out of it, knowing you had something to do with it and that you’re providing water for the client – it’s very rewarding. It’s very exciting”.”
“And doing this kind of work and spending all of the time outdoors, it just feels right to me. I know this is something that I love doing.”