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Lauren Tierney at National Geographic!

Lauren pic

Picture form the day after Lauren’s interview with National Geographic!

My ‘how I discovered geography story’ begins with an Intro to Climatology course I took as an undergraduate at UO, which rekindled a longtime obsession with meteorology and climate science. This course led me to change my major to Geography, and take chemistry, physics, and calculus courses to prepare myself for graduate studies in atmospheric sciences. In the fall of my senior year I applied to graduate programs in atmospheric sciences, and also in this same term enrolled in Intro to GIS (taught by Dr. Chris Bone), initially with the sole purpose to fulfill my GIS requirements. However, in this course I learned the ability in which GIS and spatial analysis can aid in problem solving, how we think about the world, and how to communicate data spatially, and I promptly switched my focus to GIS and cartography, taking every course I could in that last year (including Jim Meacham’s Advanced Cartography course, as well as other GIS and spatial modeling courses taught by Dr. Bone).

I began working at the InfoGraphics Lab on the upcoming Atlas of Wildlife Migration: Wyoming’s Ungulates at the end of my senior year, and took a year of post-bacc classes and continued to work at the InfoGraphics Lab while I reapplied to graduate programs in geography. When the time came to choose between the programs I had been accepted into, UO by far best aligned with the spatial analysis and cartography skills I wanted to strengthen for a future academic or professional career. Before the program started I spent the summer in Alaska working for the National Audubon Society, designing maps for the upcoming Ecological Atlas of Southeast Alaska.

As a masters student I continued to develop my cartographic skills in the InfoGraphics Lab, and for my thesis developed a complex systems model to further investigate how rural urban development and energy resource development influence the characteristics of migratory animal movement, focusing on mule deer in Western Wyoming. In my current employment position I do not develop agent-based models, but from my thesis and graduate school experiences I gained critical thinking, research, and analytical skills that are crucial for my job.

I began working at National Geographic Magazine in March 2015 as a Cartographic Production Specialist, working as assistant to the Senior Graphic Editors in preparing maps for print publication in the magazine, as well as repurposing maps as digital products. In this role I also had the opportunity to aid graphic editors in cartographic design for magazine maps, and also had the opportunity to take more of a lead in designing maps for feature stories. Recently, I was promoted to Production Cartographer, and now work on maps that appear in National Geographic books and atlases. I will also be working on cartography for map supplements (aka the big fold out maps that appear in the middle of the magazine from time to time), and will contribute maps for magazine feature stories a few times per year.

As advice to future cartographers, I recommend taking as many cartography and GIS courses as possible during your time as an undergraduate, but I also recommend diversifying your course load with human geography, history, and environmental studies courses. There have been many times here at National Geographic where a general understanding of human geography, history, and other social sciences has been a lifesaver. Attending conferences is also beneficial, including the annual North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) conference, which is highly student/new member friendly. I also recommend getting as much real-world experience as possible in your field prior to graduating. Apply to those internships and student positions!

Follow Lauren on Twitter! @tierneyl


Galápagos Islands (National Geographic News, March 21 2016)

Laponia World Heritage Site (National Geographic Magazine October 2015):

Map for Part 5 of Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk (National Geographic Magazine April 2016):