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What opportunities are there for integrating environmental science with GIS?

I'm graduating in December of 2022 with a BA in Environmental Studies and a certification in ArcGIS from a GIS semester course, however, I really want to pursue some sort of career integrating GIS and natural disasters whether it's mapping them, studying flood plains, etc. I'm wondering if there are companies focusing on the environmental implications of GIS that perform some of these interests. #environmental #environmental-science #arcGIS #GIS #science #career

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Jonathan’s Answer

You may want to check out a company like ESRI, which is big in the GIS space in the US. There may also be local/state municipal jobs, especially in data analysis and field collection. FEMA or another related agency could be an idea, too. I would recommend researching people who do what you're looking for, and reaching out to them for guidance.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice. Miwa
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Joseph’s Answer

In my previous work, I've seen a crossover of GIS and Environmental Science in mapping chemical and radiological contamination - I worked in a laboratory processing environmental samples, and the results were logged into a GIS recording the sampled location and what was measured.

From what I saw, the customers that were most interested in the GIS data tended to be geotechnical engineering firms and geotechnical consultancies. Most I'm aware of are UK focused, but there's a few like Fugro, Atkins/SNC Lavalin, Jacobs etc that are multinationals you might see your side of "the pond".
I'd also imagine some of your government bodies (DoE, Forestry, etc) could also be big players in crossovers between GIS and Environmental.

Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Miwa
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Kacey’s Answer

Hi Miwa, I got my undergraduate degree in Geography and my masters in Environmental Resources and Analysis with a focus in GIS. I originally was really interested in aerial photography, landforms and mapping but also was a big weather geek so I was planning on a career in emergency management to do things like researching and creating evacuation plans, mapping storm damage, etc. I looked at companies like FEMA, National Forest Service and most importantly the US Geological Survey. My experience is that the jobs were very hard to come by but that was over a decade ago. When I got to graduate school I took a job mapping utilities for my college and 12 years later I'm an outside plant fiber optic engineer. I found that civil engineering really encompassed my interests in drafting/mapping and working with ground conditions, elevation changes, etc. A good starting point might be looking for a local surveying company to get some experience. Hope this helps, reach out if there is anything else I can answer for you!!
Thank you comment icon Hi Kacey! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me! I'll keep in mind to look for local experience first! Miwa
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Zachary’s Answer

Next month, ESRI is hosting its annual User Conference in San Diego, CA. If you can manage to plan a trip like that on short notice, you'll be able to get admission to the conference for something like $125 with the student discount. It would be a great way to network and find presentations and presenters relevant to your field of interest in GIS. Natural disasters have been an increasing focus in various sessions at the conference, including the plenary/keynote sessions, with none other than Jane Goodall as a guest speaker in 2019.

You may want to look into areas like AI (artificial intelligence) and Machine Learning to help steer your career path. Insurance companies are increasingly looking to both for disaster response. The 2019 ESRI UC had presenters from an insurance company who were using AI and Machine Learning with GIS to help process insurance claims after major wildfires in California. They would feed before and after satellite/aerial imagery into the model to streamline the identification of homes and buildings that were damaged or destroyed after wildfires. This allowed for quick verification of legitimate insurance claims and denial of fraudulent claims, all using the power of GIS.

I would also highly recommend considering, if you haven't already, further studies in Python/ArcPy, SQL, Pandas/GeoPandas, and R. Local, state, or national Emergency Management Agencies are good places to start for experience, but you will probably cap your earning potential by sticking around local too long and by doing basic mapping work or data entry work for too long. Basic mapping work and data entry work are a good foot in the door, but the best paying jobs tend to look for experience with data analysis, ETL (extract-transform-load), programming, and higher-level technical skills. Chances are you won't hop into GIS Administrator roles early on, but proving your technical skills will go a long way in going that direction. Always look for opportunities to improve processes and turn manual processes into scripted/automated ones. Find ways to shadow those working with ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise and train on those platforms/processes. And if the ESRI User Conference isn't in the cards this year, make an effort to go to it or other industry conferences at least every 2-3 years so you can keep on top of where the industry is headed. Map making can be fun, but it is not lucrative for the vast majority. If you want the best paying jobs in your areas of interest, you will need to work a lot on technical skills and leadership skills. I went back to school for an associate's degree in computer science several years after getting my bachelor's degree in GIS because I identified gaps in my technical knowledge that weren't covered in the GIS degree. And generally, unless you want a job in research or teaching, I would probably avoid pursuing graduate studies in GIS. It is very expensive compared to the alternatives, and won't set you apart from other GIS professionals enough to justify it. On-the-job experience will get you plenty of experience with the software and real-life scenarios applying GIS to mapping and problem-solving. If you were to pursue graduate studies, I'd probably recommend computer science, engineering, or further studies in environmental science, whereas a graduate degree in GIS, more often than not, will just rehash what one should've already learned in undergrad.

Hope this helps!
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