From left, Katie Paroschy, Sarah Sinclair and Carmen Pereira have come together to form the environmental consulting firm Zygoptera Consulting, after spending years working together at the Dorset Environment Science Centre. /SUBMITTED PHOTO

Zygoptera aiming to be ‘environmental voice’ for Haliburton County

By Mike Baker

While their company name may translate directly as damselfly, the trio of women who have recently come together to form Zygoptera Consulting are anything but your stereotypical damsels in distress.

Launching a new business during a global pandemic is a bold move, but for Katie Paroschy, Carmen Pereira and Sarah Sinclair it seemed the opportune time to turn their collective dream into a reality.

After meeting at the Dorset Environmental Science Centre several years ago, and quickly becoming friends, the three women harboured hopes of one day going into business for themselves – combining their individual specialties in biology and ecology to create something they could call their own.

“We would have these little talks, and these conversations while we were working and doing our various jobs. While working in Dorset, we kind of came together in the biology labs doing benthic assessments – basically studies of insects that live on the bottom of lakes. That’s how we came up with the name Zygoptera – it’s the scientific name for a damselfly, which is a popular benthic insect,” Paroschy said.

She added, “Since our time in Dorset, we’ve gone on different paths but we’ve all found ourselves either underemployed, or unemployed for various reasons due to the pandemic and government cutbacks, so instead of drifting further from what we love to do, which is protecting the environment, helping our communities and working with great people, we thought we’d try our hand at business and incorporate all of our skills under one umbrella.”

Those skills are far-reaching. Serving the Haliburton, Parry Sound, Muskoka and Simcoe County regions, Zygoptera Consulting offers a variety of services “to help people and organizations get their projects done,” as Paroschy states.

The trio are capable of carrying out extensive environmental assessments, lake studies, wildlife surveys, taxonomic identification, shoreline and property naturalization, auditing, project analysis and peer review for anything in the environmental field. Paroschy says the company can also help individuals with residential and small commercial development land permit assessments.

“I come from a planning background, so if anyone wants to put an addition on a house, or build a deck and they don’t want to go through the paperwork themselves, we can do that for them,” Paroschy said. “We also do aquatic and insect research, limnology – which is the study of fishes in lakes.”

Pereira is currently completing her PhD on the study of algae, while Sinclair is one of the leading biologists in Ontario when it comes to benthic assessments. Benthic assessments, Pereira says, can give a really good reading on water quality in a lake.

“It’s probably one of the best and most inexpensive ways of assessing water quality,” Pereira said.

Given the controversy surrounding the County of Haliburton’s review of its shoreline preservation bylaw, Paroschy says that’s one of the areas Zygoptera will be focusing on assisting with and providing more information on over the coming months.

“There are lots of construction companies and landscape companies that are worried about permitting, and I’m sure many are thinking ‘oh my gosh, there’s now going to be another layer to this’, so we’re hoping to offer our services to assist with, or complete that work for them,” Paroschy said.
While the team are excited to finally get their new venture off the ground, they expect it will be something of a slow burner as they seek to establish themselves in the community.

There’s clear excitement in their voices as the three women take turns speaking about the business and their goals for the future.

“We really want to be involved in our community, and really help better the environment in our community in any way that we can. That’s one of our core goals,” Paroschy said. “We would really like to be community voices in any way that we can, and educate people about the importance of our local environment in Haliburton and Muskoka.”

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