A Reflection at the Half-Way Point

As I try to pinpoint the most notable thing I’ve learned since beginning this internship, it’s difficult to choose just one item of knowledge. I started this experience believing that I had a basic proficiency using ArcGIS Pro, the software that we use to create maps, but I realize now that what I knew was only the tip of the iceberg.

I have learned that to do cartography, it is not enough to just know how to do the tasks to complete the job. You must understand what those tasks represent or change so that you are aware of how your audience receives your map. For example, last week my supervisor and I were resolving an issue where we could not get the original symbology of a park’s vegetation layer to display on our map. The symbology dictates the symbols that a set of data will display with on the map – essentially, how the data looks. I had gone ahead and recreated the symbology that we had from another park’s layer – a blue square, yellow triangle, and red dot. Once we resolved the issue, the layer displayed with a bright pink circle, a bright purple circle, and a bright red circle. I asked, “Are we sure we want to change the symbology to this?” I thought that the symbology I had created looked more appealing. My supervisor replied, “This is the way that the original creators intended it to look. We have to honor that.” I realized then that even though I was responsible for creating this map, the map was not about me. This is a tool that will be used by the park for their essential functions and it’s up to me to help them have access to that information – not change it to display what I would want. I remembered that this project goes so far beyond me and will last for years and years after my internship is over. It is a wonderful thing to have the opportunity to create, but it is one that comes with some responsibility.

Perhaps the most important piece of knowledge that I have picked up is my own capability to complete this project. Though I had much more to learn than I anticipated, and I have much more to learn still, I am prepared and excited to take on any and all challenges that are to come!

Leia doing some quality control over my work.

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