GeoDucks Alumni Blog!
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) http://nacis.org/ 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
A FEW OF LAUREN’S (beautiful!) WORK SAMPLES:
Galápagos Islands (National Geographic News, March 21 2016) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160321-galapagos-marine-reserve-park-ecuador-conservation/
Laponia World Heritage Site (National Geographic Magazine October 2015): http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/10/laponia/heritage-map
Map for Part 5 of Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk (National Geographic Magazine April 2016):
I went to grad school because I was still enjoying learning things full-time when my Bachelor’s program ended. I also thought I might want to be a professor, and I wanted to move out of the town I grew up in.
Seeing the details of academia at UO showed me that I wasn’t cut out to be a research professor. I realized I had more talent in explaining things visually than with words: map-making was a natural way for me to combine that with my interest in geography.
I applied for a handful of grants for thesis fieldwork, and won none of them. So instead I used an empty summer to pad my cartography portfolio, which helped me land an internship at The New York Times. I started working there full-time a few months after the internship ended.
I’m often amazed I found a job that is such a good fit for my personality and interests. I was drawn to geography because I wanted to learn about everything all at once – at NYT I’ve worked on projects about territorial claims in the South China Sea, shrinking sea ice in the Arctic, and the culture behind Norway’s “slow TV” movement, to name a few. In retrospect I wish I had been more involved in journalism at UO: there’s more overlap between geography and journalism than I realized in Eugene.
At UO my thesis seemed like the Most Important Thing, but since graduating the written work itself has been irrelevant to my life. The process of researching and writing it, though, taught me a lot about how to organize and synthesize information, and that has been very useful in my job at the Times.
The most detailed interactive amps from the 2014 midterm elections.
Beautiful footage of melting glaciers in Greenland.
An animated and striking visualization of Earth every ten minutes.
See more of the stunning visualizations that Derek does on his online portfolio.
Born and raised in Eugene, and having recently graduated from the UO with a BA in Spanish and Geography, I knew it was time to get out. I absolutely loved college (staying up too late to study but still feeling unprepared, meeting new, exotic people [Californians], accidentally buying shrimp ramen when I wanted chicken…) and I was scared when that would be over and I would be asking myself, what was my next step? I didn’t want to stagnate after college; I wanted to give back. I almost felt selfish
throughout college- everything I did was for my grade, my degree, my future. This realization helped me to find my next step: AmeriCorps’ NCCC.
AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps is a full-time, residential, national service program. 2,000 young adults, all aged 18-24 years old, serve nationwide annually working on a variety of different six-to-twelve-week-long projects related to natural disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship
and conservation, energy conservation, and urban and rural development. As a Corps Member, I am just starting my 10 months and 1,700 hours of service in the United States. I am based out of the NCCC Southwest Region campus in Denver, CO. My team, “Alpine 2” is currently ‘on spike’, or working near Divide, CO (elev. 10,000, *gasping*) with Habitat for Humanity of Teller County for six weeks. We are building two homes from the ground up for families in need and assisting in a series of neighborhood revitalization projects. I have met so many wonderful people from all over the country, and everything I have done has been so hands on, which is a wonderful change. It is fantastic to directly see the impact of my effort in the community and feel satisfied after a long day of work. I can’t wait to see where else our team will travel and what other types of projects we’ll complete after the winter break.
In exchange for their service, Corps Members receive $5,775 to help pay for college, or to pay back existing student loans. Other benefits include a small living stipend, room and board, travel, and leadership development. For more information about AmeriCorps’ NCCC, visit the website at www.americorps.gov/nccc.
Charlie Hockett, who graduated last year in the Fall of 2014, has been biking around the country filming a documentary on cities! Definitely check out the website for the project. It’s awesome! www.westwardwheels.com/
Studying Geography has caused me to see the world with an interesting lens. When thinking spatially and learning about the importance of scale, I feel that my education has helped me interpret my surroundings in a new light. I finished my degree in the Fall of 2014 and have since rode from New York City to California on my bicycle. Along the way my partner and I have been filming a documentary called Westward Wheels which is about us exploring how American cities can be more healthy, sustainable, and bike friendly.
It was during the many classes and discussions in Condon Hall that my interest in the urban landscape was formed. In Geography I learned to see how systems interact with each other over physical space. Having grown up in urban Southern California I started to become more and more interested in how cities are able to support so many people living in one place. The more I learned, the more concerned I became for the future of the people and landscapes around me. I became inspired to explore ways to improve the social, economic, and environmental fabric of cities.
All the while I was living in one of the most bicycle friendly communities in the country. As I began to spend most of my free time on a bicycle I started to see the connection between my two passions. Bicycling is beneficial for the individual and the community. I believe that my background in Geography helped me understand that on a more holistic scale.
As I finish my journey and return to my home town to edit and produce the documentary, I am looking towards a Masters Degree in Urban Planning so that I can enter the word of bicycle advocacy and share the happiness that riding my bicycle has brought me.
Information about our journey and documentary can be found at www.westwardwheels.com
On instagram @westwardwheels
On Facebook: “Westward Wheels”