Beginning My GIS Journey

Hello hello! My name is Mikaela and I am a GIS Intern at the Southeast Regional Office based in Atlanta, Georgia! I’ll be working from my home in Houston, Texas, where I am a third-year student studying Geology at the University of Houston!

This week marked the start of my journey diving into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and one thing I can say is… it’s going to be a longer road ahead than I anticipated! Though I had taken an intro level course that explored the many applications of GIS, I realize now that even the basics can be incredibly complex and should not be underestimated.

For those who may not have heard of GIS, it is a system that the National Park Service (and many other organizations) use to make maps, whether it be displaying trails in a national park, determining the best place to build a new building, or even analyzing where potential flood zones may be. There are thousands of ways to apply GIS, and if you’ve ever used a digital map service like Google Maps, then you’ve used GIS!

As my supervisor Chris likes to say, “The firehose has been turned on,” and I have gotten absolutely soaked with the essential information to be able to complete my project. This week, we started things off by beginning with the basics – things like the proper way to organize data, how data is stored in ArcGIS Pro (the software we use to create, edit, and analyze data for GIS) and how we can use it, how to create and modify features on a map, acceptable uses for National Park data, and many many other topics. Though many of these items were things I had seen before in my GIS class last year, it felt entirely new to investigate them in much greater detail. I have a new understanding and appreciation that I had been blind to before.

As I said before, though… this is only week one! It’s almost unbelievable that there is so (SO!) much left to learn, but I am thrilled to become completely immersed in this digital world… literally! (Pictured: my cat Leia, encouraging my learning)

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