Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Laurel Hanson - Wildlands School and Beaver Creek

Name: Laurel Hanson
Major & Minor: Comprehensive International Geography
UWEC Standing and Expected Graduation Date: Senior-Graduate 12/2013
Interests and Hobbies: Travelling, cooking, music, scrapbooking, four-wheeling, ice fishing, shopping

Internship Employer: Wildlands School & Beaver Creek
Length of Employment: September 2012-Present

Basics : Was your internship paid or unpaid? Did you register for credits? Why or Why not? Did you create the internship or was it advertised? Where did you hear about it?

This internship was paid and I will also receive 2 credits for Geography 498-Community Internship.  Beaver Creek applied for funding from the Internship Office at UW-Eau Claire.  Once the funding was approved, the Internship Office provided Beaver Creek with the funds that was then used for my intern position at Beaver Creek and Wildlands School.

This internship was created.  I am very interested in working with K-12 students in GIS, but wasn’t aware of any outlets to do so.  I spoke with Martin Goettl over the summer of 2012 about my interest and he was interested in working with K-12 students as well.
Martin was contacted by Paul Tweed, the lead teacher at Wildlands School a charter school located on the Beaver Creek Reserve.  Paul was looking for college students to help with a mapping project in conjunction with Beaver Creek Reserve.  Martin and I worked with Paul Tweed and Beaver Creek Reserve to create a platform for this collaboration.  An internship was then created for my position.

What were your specific job responsibilities?

For my position, I act as the “project manager” for the Wildlands student’s mapping project.  Because the students do not have an expansive knowledge of GIS, I am responsible for providing the students with basic knowledge of GIS and data collection techniques as well as map creation.

The first objective for my internship was to work with the students to develop a data collection plan.  Many features needed to be collected in order to create the maps such as trails, information posts and buildings.  We created an outline and prioritized every necessary feature.

The second objective was to help the students develop a geodatabase that would be timeless and easily managed by the students.  The geodatabase included numerous domains so students would be able to accurately retain feature information.
After the first two objective were completed, we were able to go out into the field (Beaver Creek Reserve) and collect the data.  ArcPad and Trimble Juneau GPS units were used for data collection.  UW-Eau Claire Geography students accompanied the Wildlands students in the collection process.  The data was imported to the pre-created geodatabase.

The final objective is the creation of physical maps for Beaver Creek Reserve.  Students use the collected data to create a campus map, trail map and property boundary map.  These maps will be used for Beaver Creek to apply for grants as well as distribution to the public.  With Martin’s help, I am able to provide the students with resources for ArcGIS products, Trimble Juneau GPS units as well as the basics of GIS and geodatabase functions.

What do you think gave you to edge to get the internship?

I think the “edge” that got me this internship was informing Martin Goettl of my interest in working with K-12 students.  It was difficult for me to find an outlet on my own, and when this opportunity arose, Martin and I were able to work together to create the collaboration.

Was it a valuable experience?

This has been one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences I have ever had.  Teaching is on the best ways to learn, and I have learned so much by preparing for the students.  It is rewarding to be able to provide resources that might not otherwise be available to students and to see them really enjoy working in GIS.  I have also been connected to a wide range of people that will help me in future job prospects.

How did the logistics work for you? Did you have to move?

I did not have to move for this internship.  Wildlands School uses project based curriculum which worked very well in the management of schedules.  The students’ schedules are very flexible, so I am able to go to the school once a week to work with the students.

What advice can you give to those who are looking for an internship?

If you are having a hard time finding an internship, start networking and you may be able to create an internship.  Sometimes you can even get paid for a created position.  Also, don’t focus too much attention on whether the internship is something you want to do.  It is important to get your foot in the door and you may have to do tedious work at first, but having experience will give you the edge in the future.

Clayton Nass - United State Geological Survey

Name: Clayton Nass
Major & Minor: International Geography
UWEC Standing and Expected Graduation Date: Graduated December 2012

Interests and Hobbies: Exploring the World, Politics, Engineering, Golf, and the Green Bay Packers

Internship Employer: United States Geological Survey Boise, ID
Length of Employment: Summer internship during the summer of 2012

Basics: Was your internship paid or unpaid? Did you register for credits? Why or Why not? Did you create the internship or was it advertised? Where did you hear about it? My internship at the USGS was paid, and funded through grant money. I was employed as a student contractor for the federal government. I did now register for credits; because I was unaware that was an option even for paid interns. The internship was advertised, although I was made well aware of this opening thanks to a current USGS employee.

What were your specific job responsibilities?
I worked on a number of projects during my time at the USGS that ranged from the most raw form of data entry imaginable, to feature classification using ENVI. The majority of my time was spent performing many tasks for the SageSTEP research project.

My first task on this project was to download aerial imagery of 14 control sites spread across the western half of the United States. Then using the Example based feature classification function in ENVI I identified individual polygons within the TIFF file as either: juniper trees, pine trees, aspen trees, small/large shrubs, water, bare ground, and grassland. Maps were then generated using this data in order to display changes that occur on a landscape because of wildfire. This was an arduous process but produced some valuable maps.

The second portion of this research involved a differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) analysis to determine the severity of each extensive treatment fire at each of the 14 sites. The steps in this process were:
1.   Download cloudless Landsat imagery for days pre and post fire, for each of the 14 sites
2.   Run dNBR tool in Arc
3.   Digitize fire perimeter using pre-existing shapefile and dNBR imagery
4.   Run tool to create standardized dNBR and classify using MTBS points.

End Product:

Figure 1. Classified dNBR: The lightest green and darkest red represent 2 separate but severe risk levels. Areas of more moderate color are at the normal severity factor.

What do you think gave you to edge to get the internship?
I was told that the GIS skills that I had acquired at UWEC were paramount in my hiring process. It also helps to have someone on the inside that can vouch for your services. 

Was it a valuable experience? It was absolutely a valuable experience. I learned a variety of new tools that I had never before even heard of (Circuit-Scape, XTools) and improved on many GIS skills that I had minimal experience with (Python Scripting, Feature Classification). Having an internship also provides some extremely valuable on the job experience, something that cannot be taught in a classroom or a lab. On my first day I was handed 3 pages of paper and was told: “Here’s what you will be doing, if you have questions ask. Just let me know when you’re done with each step.” That forces one to learn on the fly and under pressure. Not only did that benefit my GIS abilities, but also improved my problem solving and responsibility.
How did the logistics work for you? Did you have to move?
I did have to move to Boise, ID for the summer. Luckily I was able to stay with my family which made the transition extremely easy. The two 1800 mile drives got a little long but I had good company on each road trip which made it all good. I would actually recommend that any potential interns look for jobs in which they CAN relocate. The love of experiencing new places should be inherent in every geographers psyche.
What advice can you give to those who are looking for an internship?
Just go out there and give er. It may be difficult to find something at first but as soon as you land that job you will realize how absolutely well prepared you are for it, and there should be nothing to fear. The geography department at UWEC has prepared you well, get out and prove it to the world.

Jon Bowen - Charles Darwin Foundation

Name: Jon Bowen

Major & Minor: Geography
UWEC Standing and Expected Graduation Date: Graduated December 2012
Interests and Hobbies: Guiding Whitewater, whitewater kayaking, climbing, making maps, scuba, hiking, traveling, mt biking, and anything fun that keeps me moving

Internship Employer: Charles Darwin Foundation
Length of Employment: 3 months in the Summer of 2012
Basics : Was your internship paid or unpaid? Did you register for credits? Why or Why not? Did you create the internship or was it advertised? Where did you hear about it? It was unpaid but I was there through a fellowship program that Biology arranged. I did not register for classes because I didn't know I could and I had plenty to graduate the following semester. It came to be through many of my other research experiences and passion for adventure travel. I heard about it through my advisor and she heard about it through the Biology department.

What were your specific job responsibilities?
I was in charge of geographic support for the Research Station. I had a variety of tasks while I was there. It started out slow, sifting and organizing the hundreds of geospatial data they have accumulated. After that was done we started to take on a cartographic edge by creating locator maps for the supporting scientists who work down there. We then started to take on a field aspect to the position by accompanying the marine biologists in order to find a GPS tracking device that fell off of a large fish they were tracking. We then took on a support role for all of the geographic knowledge they store in their database. This was interesting because we started to use many different open source GIS solutions to store, access, and manipulate their data. From there and with difficultly in the connection of these systems we trained the in house scientists how to access and manipulate geospatial information. This included a standardization on storing their information so others could accurately know what they were dealing with.

What do you think gave you to edge to get the internship?
I had done previous biodiversity research with Christina Hupy in Honduras which incorporated allowed for a great base layer of international work and the strategies to help in conservation. I also worked at the Environmental Adventure Center which created an adventurous edge to my academic pursuits.

Was it a valuable experience?
Every experience is valuable. It was a great opportunity to become exposed to an international level of conservation. Having worked in a country and even more so an island you start to appreciate the little things that you don't realize in a University setting. Living in an environment where people vacation opens your eyes while adjusting your idea of normal to a whole new level. It's also an experience that was so rich with new information and ideas that upon return it's hard for others to gain perspective if they weren't there with you. It helped me grow not only academically and as a geographer but allowed for me to take on new aspects of my own character and push myself to where I am now.
How did the logistics work for you? Did you have to move?
Logistics were handled by the Biology professor who accompanied us for a short period of time when we were there. I ended up moving to Puerto Ayora, a small town on the island of Santa Cruz for the summer months. It was one of those things where you can't pass it up and then things happen so quick your all of a sudden sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean saying to yourself "Wow, I'm here. This is real."
 What advice can you give to those who are looking for an internship?
First, college is an expensive way to help foster your passion. Passion helps you learn your character. If you have a half ass attitude towards what you like in life your going to get a job that shows that. If you want something, work towards steps that will get you there. Once you know yourself it's easy to start going in a certain direction because one thing leads to the next. Do something that pushes your passion and don't just do it, do it with heart and the stoke for the sole fact you like doing it regardless of the money. That fact right there will get you further than anything. Put your heart into something and it will reward you. Let your happiness to be doing something be part of your paycheck. However, nothing will start to happen unless you don't get up and do it. Break out of your comfort zone. I'm looking at a quote on my desk right now that says "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." Yes it may suck that what your currently doing isn't fun or cool but as long as it relates to your goal it is teaching you things that you need to acquire before you find your zen job. So my advice to those looking for an internship is that you shouldn't be looking for an internship if your mom wants you to or your professor is posting them. You should be looking for something that drives you, rattles your bones, and allows you to go 100% at it because your passionate about it. Get up, set goals, and get up each day with the intent on pursing those goals. Life is great so learn, fail, adventure, seek, explore, and do what ya love because your only here once. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Meghan Kelly - GeoDecisions

Name: Meghan Kelly
Major & Minor: Geography – International Studies Emphasis
UWEC Standing and Expected Graduation Date: Graduated December 2012
Interests and Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, staying active outdoors, soccer, knitting

Internship Employer: GeoDecisions, a GIS consulting firm in Madison, WI
Length of Employment: Summer internship 2012 but I am still technically an employee if projects come up

Basics : Was your internship paid or unpaid? Did you register for credits? Why or Why not? Did you create the internship or was it advertised? Where did you hear about it?
My internship at GeoDecisions was paid.  I did not register for credits as I did not need the associated credits to graduate.  I heard about the internship through an email from Dr. Christina Hupy sent out from a Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office posting. 

What were your specific job responsibilities?
My specific job responsibilities surrounded the conversion of water and waste water utilities from an AutoCAD nonfunctional format to a GIS format.  This conversion process is not completely fool proof and creates random glitches in the data.  My job was to go over the data and make adjustments as needed.  Eventually, I worked on the Quality Control team to double check the team’s work using the Network Analysis feature in ArcMap and running supplementary tests.  I was also given the opportunity to make an onsite visit to Champaign, Illinois where we worked with the onsite water utility personnel to update any features that were not in AutoCAD.  This was on the spot maintenance and problem solving.

I worked on side projects throughout the summer including Broadband/internet/cable user-ship in Delaware.  I made maps for a third party company to test the expansion of coverage for accuracy by creating coverage comparison maps.  The third party company would then go to the designated areas based on my road maps to test the coverage and speed of access. I worked on updating fishing hot spot data in the US for a GeoDecisions offshoot called Fishidy.com.  This is essentially a Facebook for fisherman to share and record personal fishing spots with access to detailed bathemetric maps.   

What do you think gave you to edge to get the internship?
First and foremost, I think my background and training in GIS proved that I was completely qualified for the job.  Because of my background, I think I was also confident in using my skills.  I think demonstrated an eagerness for the position.  I also fit into the mindset of the organization

Was it a valuable experience?
Yes this was a valuable experience.  Not only did I utilize my skills and add to my skills, I was exposed the world of GIS outside of academia.  I came to the conclusion that I was capable for that type of job or project management but decided that it wasn’t something I would want to do for the rest of my life.  I’m glad I tried it out.  The people I worked with are great people so I also made positive connections.

How did the logistics work for you? Did you have to move?
I moved to Madison for the summer.  Fortunately, my sister lived less than a mile away from the GeoDecisions office so housing was not an issue.  I would have probably still taken the job had she not been there.  Finding a sublease in Madison for the summer wouldn’t have been difficult.

What advice can you give to those who are looking for an internship?
My advice would be to stay active in the search and keep applying.  I applied to GeoDecisions on a whim because I was in the midst of sending out three other applications when I received the email from Christina.  Also, show interest and take initiative.  Finding an internship may lead to a job so take it seriously.  GIS is a small world so if your company/organization can’t hire you, they might know people who can.  Keep in touch after your internship is over!