by Jonah Adkins [@jonahadkins]
Real talk: I love geo. After 15 years or so in this field, I’m constantly amazed at the work being accomplished by my colleagues. I’m especially inspired by the new class of talent that comes along every few years. Whether it be a thought-provoking tweet, a fresh take on cartography, or niche app that re-defines a previous concept, young professionals are continually improving our field.
In taking a break from our usual long-form interview format, i’d like to introduce you to eight young professionals who inspire me on a regular basis. Each of them brings a unique perspective to geo, and all of them are dedicated to making a difference by having a positive impact on our world.
I recently asked each of them to tell me about what they love about geo right now, and invited them to share something “cool”. Some you may already know, some you may not, so here’s a virtual handshake to help introduce them to you.
Kitty Hurley [@geospatialem]
GIS Developer at Minnesota Department of Health
A front-end GIS Developer at the State of Minnesota, Kitty is focused on UI/UX, cartographic design, mobile environments, and web accessibility. She helps organize Maptime MSP, and is finishing her three-year term on the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium’s Board of Directors. In her free time, Kitty hits the ice to play hockey, hikes/snowshoes (depending on the season), loves a good book, and likes to travel the globe.
Cool shareable: Map for the annual Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium’s conference showcasing hotels, key attractions, and establishments. The 2015 conference was the 25th annual conference held in the beautiful city of Duluth. http://geospatialem.github.io/conference-map/
Kitty says: “There’s so much to learn in the geography and geospatial industries, and so many extremely talented professionals to tap and work with! Broadly speaking, I am trying to be a better cartographer, and I’ve found that working offline has been the best method for me — doodling, coloring, baking, traveling, and even hiking…”
Kelvin Abrokwa-Johnson [@__klvn__]
Software Development Intern at Mapbox
Currently a junior at the College of William & Mary, where he studies Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. Kelvin is from Northern Virginia, and before that Accra, Ghana.
Cool shareable: I wrote my first real lines of code just over a year ago, and now I hack on all sorts of cool and complex projects! One of them is a scraper for data.openaddresses.io that makes it prettier and searcheable by source name and by country.
Kelvin says: “The geospatial field is a great environment for budding software engineers. The open source community in geo is so vibrant and vocal. Everyone is always up to something cool and creative. This is especially true at Mapbox where brilliant minds are pushing the envelope on the state of the art in geospatial technology all the time.”
Allison K. Smith [@smith_ak1]
Cartographic Technician at Virginia Economic Development Partnership
Allison is a May 2015 graduate from James Madison University and a former intern at the National Parks Service. She spends her free time hiking and trying to figure out how to “adult” (401K? Health Insurance? Taxes???).
Cool shareable: For my Senior Capstone at James Madison University, I created this map that tells the story of a growing industry in the Commonwealth that dates back to the colonial age. It was built using a multitude of different tools: the map itself was built in QGIS and ArcMap, all of the charts were originally built using R, and the stylization and construction of the graphics all took place in Adobe Illustrator.
Virginia is for Wine Lovers: The Virginia Wine Industry
Allison says: “I love putting interactive GIS in the hands of the user and making geographic data accessible and understandable for everyone to explore. I have started teaching myself the basics of web design in the hope of building some interactive maps and charts of my own someday.”
Courtney Claessens [@sidewalkballet]
Product Engineer on ArcGIS Open Data at Esri DC R&D Center
Courtney works at Esri where she’s a Product Engineer on ArcGIS Open Data. She works closely with product management, designers, and customers to help guide the product and make sure they’re building something awesome. Before Esri, she studied in Canada at McGill University, where she was introduced to open data through GIS classes and the professors there who are studying how new geospatial tech is altering government – citizen interactions. Courtney is also a co-organizer for Maptime DC, and a co-organizer for HackShopDC.
Cool shareable: These are hand-drawn slides for a hand-drawn Maptime we held at Maptime DC last year. I love getting back to other parts of geography and mapping I don’t come into contact with every day at work, like psychogeography. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-xaa8u8GXAdjOqpCSYBFrGLHkvmTBhTtsNTe2uOWFzM/htmlpresent
Courtney says: “I’m really excited about my awesome coworker Brendan’s map editor, Mundi, and all the potential that comes from it. You sign in with your GitHub account and can search through all the open datasets from ArcGIS, do your simple-but-flexible map styling, and get an output as a gist and an automagically created bl.ock. It also gives you the map styling CSS or JSON, so it’s sweet if you just want to play with styling and plug the bit of code into your own map.”
Katie Kowalsky [@katiekowalsky]
Cartographer at UW-Madison Cartography Lab
Katie is a cartographer, glasses-wearer, and amateur cheese enthusiast who currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. She’s finishing her cartography/GIS degree at UW-Madison while working at the Cartography Lab and co-organizing Maptime Madison. She’s a social media nut who helps run several professional map twitters (such as @NACIS & @MaptimeHQ) and loves the cartographic Twitter community.
Cool shareable: This was my first intense D3 map, with a supported graphic and temporal component — so it was a bit daunting given our time constraint, but we made it work! The hardest part of this map was the research required. I didn’t realize how much legal jargon I’d have to learn about in order to assemble all of our data. If it had just been looking at each abortion restriction without a temporal component, that would have been a lot easier, but why would we want that?
Alex Kappel [@alex_kappel]
GIS Analyst, the Data Team at @AidData
Alex discovered geo at Clark University while studying Environmental Science. After learning some Python in school, he got the opportunity to intern at Development Seed. Currently he works at AidData, using mainly FOSS geotools producing
geocoded data sets (which hopefully have a positive impact). Based out of the William & Mary office, Alex also gets to work with a lot of students, and is a co-organizer for Maptime Hampton Roads.
Cool shareable: Accessibility is one of the key attributes of ‘open’ data. With this in mind, AidData provides geocoded datasets that lower barriers of entry for end users who want to see who is funding what, and where they are siting their investments. Collectively, this suite of improvements is known as a “Level 1A” data product. All of AidData’s Level 1 geocoded datasets are now accompanied by a Level 1A data product.
Alex says: “I’m most excited by the imagery tools that DevSeed is building. I had the privilege of working on the first release of landsat-util, and it’s been incredibly exciting to see all of the new tools that the team has put out since: Libra, OpenAerialMap, and new iterations of landsat-util.
Jacqueline Kovarik [@cartojacqueline]
GIS Developer at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Jacqueline is an outdoor enthusiast who’s paired her love of nature and geography in her career as a GIS professional with the MN Department of Natural Resources. While she has recently moved into a GIS developer role, she gets her cartography and design fix by creating hand-made maps. When Jacqueline is not mapping, she is usually hiking, fly-fishing, or kayaking.
Cool Shareable: After creating a mobile data collection app for the MN DNR’s entomologists to track bee species and habitat characteristics in Minnesota, I was inspired to learn about native bees. This map was generated from an evolving dataset of specialist bees and native host plant ranges, courtesy of the University of Minnesota and the MN DNR. The intent of the map is to bring awareness to bee population decline and population diversity, as well as highlight the need for increased data and analysis to facilitate population preservation.
Jacqueline says: “I’m excited that cartography, design, and user experience are playing an increasingly important role in web map development. Sharpening my front end development skills to create efficient yet attractive interactive maps is something I’m working hard at right now. Being part of such a creative community of GIS experts is inspiring!”
Kara Mahoney [@ainulindale]
Developer at Azimuth1
Kara graduated from George Mason University in 2014, studied geography, though somewhere along the way she managed to earn most of the computer science and geology degrees as well (foraminiferal oxygen isotopes are super cool and academic specialization is hard). Currently she works for a small geospatial analytics startup based outside of Washington DC, and her tasks at the moment range from throwing Bash and Python at large unruly datasets, cartographic design, web development, search and rescue related behavioral modeling, ops, keeping their local PostgreSQL OSM database alive, and attempting to bend the Node GDAL bindings to her will for raster processing and modeling in Electron.
Cool shareable: Search & Rescue topographic maps for Washington and Virginia are a sample of trying to improve on USGS maps with OpenStreetMap and supplemental data. Methodology for the SAR map creation can be found at the following link:
Kara says: “I’m having a lot of fun with designing for WebGL based map rendering, using TileStache for managing and hosting custom tilesets, and Pandas for data wrangling.”
Whom should we profile in our next “Young professionals doing awesome things in geo”? Send us an email.
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