employees, families and friends participate in Duluth’s dragon boat race each summer

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Karen Chandler

Vice President, Senior Water Resources Engineer

At Lake O'Hara in British Columbia, Canada
At Eagle Mountain, the highest natural point in Minnesota
Karen and husband at Rushford, Minnesota
For Karen Chandler, nature is as much a part of her personal life as it is her professional life. Finding a way to get outside all year long—no small feat in Minnesota—she is an avid hiker, birdwatcher, and cross-country skier. And on weekend bike rides around Medicine Lake (which happens to be in a watershed that she works for), the Twin Cities native often stops to observe the conditions of the water that she and her colleagues are working to maintain.

A genuine interest in the work at hand comes naturally to Karen who, in a 27-year career, has worked closely with both clients and citizens affected by flooding and water quality issues. The author of dozens of stormwater- and watershed-management plans, she frequently presents to the public, facilitates stakeholder involvement, and leads advisory groups. In working so closely with the people affected by these plans, Karen believes that sound water-management decisions must take into account both human needs and scientific concerns.

Her career at Barr began in 1986, shortly after she earned her master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota. Karen’s interest in civil engineering had taken root years earlier when she recognized her aptitude for math and science. It was ultimately the encouragement of her high-school math teacher, however, that convinced her to pursue a career in engineering.

“He told me it was a good way to meet guys,” Karen said with a laugh.

Karen did in fact meet a guy, though not an engineer. She and her husband Craig have been happily married for more than 25 years. They’re world travelers who have hosted about a dozen foreign exchange students over the years, many of whom they’ve visited in their native countries. Up next for the globe-trotting duo: Germany, Italy, or possibly New Zealand.

Until then, Karen is spending her free time “playing outside,” performing in a community band, and tackling landscape projects in the back yard—a job for which her knowledge of the natural world just might come in handy.