Land Surveyor

Gary B. Vanderveen, 37, was licensed as an Ontario Land Surveyor in 1995. He graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in 1991 with a four-year degree in surveying technology, then took cadastral surveying courses at the University of Toronto. In 2002 he became a director on the Academic and Experience Requirements Committee of the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors (AOLS). He is now an owner-partner at Holding Jones Vanderveen Inc. Ontario Land Surveyors, supervising and managing a staff of 20 employees.

Stephanie: What made you decide to become a surveyor? How did you become a surveyor?
Gary: When I graduated from high school, I noticed a surveying brochure printed by Ryerson Polytechnic Institute. The brochure illustrated the basics of surveying and although I was not entirely sure as to what was involved I applied for the course due to my interest in geography. I was accepted, and enrolled in the four-year surveying program. After receiving my degree from Ryerson, I went to the University of Toronto to take eight additional courses necessary to be eligible for an Ontario Land Surveyors License.

Following this, I applied to the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors and went through the necessary steps to obtain my Ontario Land Surveyors license.

Stephanie: What is your area of specialization and what kind of work do you do in the field? What are the different areas that surveyors can specialize in?
Gary: My area of specialty is cadastral surveying. This involves the retracing of old boundaries and the creation of new ones. Our firm does a lot of development work including preparation of plans of subdivisions and condominium plans. We are also involved in laying out large and complex buildings for construction.

There are several areas of specialization, including:

Cadastral Surveying
The licensed Ontario Land Surveyor provides a professional opinion on the location of boundaries, using historical research, a knowledge of statute and common law, and the latest technology in measurement and data processing.

Geodetic Surveying
This is the science of locating and relating the position of objects on the earth relative to each other, while taking into account the size, shape and gravity of the earth. Practical applications of geodesy include monitoring earth movement and determining the precise location of points on the surface of the earth, for use in satellite tracking, global navigation and mapping.

Geographic Information Management
Geographic Information Management is a specialized aspect of information management science employing an integrated approach that encompasses the digital acquisition, processing, analysis, presentation and storage of geographic data. Geographic Information Managers direct the activities of geographic information system specialists engaged in creating and editing geographically indexed databases, used in generating maps and related statistical reports.

Tasks as varied as planning urban growth, managing a forest, implementing "precision farming", assessing insurance claims, siting an automatic teller machine, routing 911 vehicles, drilling a well, assessing groundwater contamination, designing a cellular phone network, guiding "intelligent" vehicles, assessing the market for manufactured goods, managing a city, operating a utility, improving wildlife habitat, monitoring air quality, assessing environmental impact, designing a road, studying human health statistics, minimizing water pollution, undertaking real estate transactions, preserving wetlands, mapping natural hazards and disasters, providing famine relief, or studying the causes and consequences of global climate change, can be greatly enhanced by the use of some form of geospatial technology.

Hydrographic Surveying
Hydrographic surveyors practice the science of measuring and describing the physical features of rivers, lakes, and oceans. Hydrographers survey and chart waters for navigation, determine water depth and measure tide currents. Hydrographic applications include the preparation of navigational charts, tide and current tables, sailing directions and related publications for commercial, industrial and recreational use.

Photogrammetric Surveying
Photogrammetric surveyors specialize in the science of obtaining reliable spatial information from photographic images. The most common utilization of photogrammetry is in the production of base maps from aerial photography. Mapping generated using photogrammetry provides a cost-effective method of establishing an accurate digital base for such things as urban planning, terrain analysis and forest management. Photogrammetry can be used for landfill or gravel pit monitoring, determining the location of ore bodies or determining proposed locations for utilities, such as pipelines and transmission lines.

There are also many uses for non-aerial or close-range photogrammetry. These include digital modeling for architectural restoration, medical imaging for forensic sciences and reconstructive surgery, data collection for structural stability studies of bridges and hydroelectric dams, and the documentation of traffic accidents and crime scenes by police departments.

More information on all of these areas of surveying can be found on the AOLS Web site at

Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Gary: Being outdoors at different sites on a regular basis is great. Being away from the office (and the boss) allows for an appreciated sense of independence. The large variety and constant nature of the technical and professional problems faced on every job allows my mind to be continually challenged and makes the workday fly by. Being able to partake in the development of a new building or subdivision and the sense of accomplishment that is achieved when the final product is complete.

Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Gary: Time is everything in the development industry and there seems to be an unending demand to have work completed ahead of schedule. A surveyor’s product is sometimes not appreciated by the clients who are unaware of our exact purpose and often see our work as an unnecessary waste of time and money.

Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a surveyor?
Gary: If you have a passion for geography and the outdoors, this job is for you. If you are considering this as a career, contact the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors as soon as you can. They will ensure that you make the right educational commitments and get the right experience.

Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be a surveyor? What kind of education did you get?
Gary: In 1991 I acquired a degree in survey technology from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. This was followed by eight cadastral surveying courses at the University of Toronto. I then acquired the appropriate experience and passed the required exams as described above and was licensed in January of 1995.

Membership in the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors requires a degree in geomatics from an accredited university program such as Ryerson, York, or the University of New Brunswick. This is followed by a one-and-a-half year term of articles and a set of professional examinations.

A detailed evaluation of any other post-secondary education will be made, provided one of the following has been obtained:

-A university degree. (If the degree/diploma was earned in another country, we recommended that you first apply to the Comparative Education Service of the University of Toronto, and submit their evaluation with your application.)
-A four-year technological degree in engineering or geomatics.
-A three-year technological diploma in geomatics.
-A professional survey commission from another recognized jurisdiction.

In preparation for admission to membership in the Association, a candidate must obtain a minimum of one-and-a-half years of training and experience in professional land surveying and to pass a professional entrance examination consisting of both a written and oral test.

Find out more about this on the AOLS Web site.

Stephanie: What is your favourite number? Why?
Gary: My favorite number is 1777. This is my Ontario Land Surveyors License number. Each surveyor is assigned a number in sequential order of their acceptance into the Association. Number 666 was held by one Arthur Death, believe it or not!

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