Thursday, April 30, 2015

Make Every Day Earth Day

So if you paid any attention this past couple of weeks, you probably saw a "Earth" theme going on.  

On April 11th, my youngest sister and I spent 4 hours at a local state park "sweeping the hooch."  Yes, we spent 4 hours walking the shoreline of Lake Lanier picking up trash.  We found so many objects: pool noodles, assorted shoes, part of a coffee pot, bottles, Styrofoam, wheels, an easter egg, plastic flower pots, and a spool of thread!  The task wasn't that terrible-- I felt like I was doing my part by making the park clean.  Also, my ecology lab partner from last semester was there, so that was nice catching up with her.  According to the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (the organization in charge of Sweeping the Hooch), there were 500 volunteers and 14,320 lbs of trash picked that's a lot of trash, people!

Anywho, National Park Week was from April 18-26 this year.  During National Parks Week, the park entrance fee was waived hoping that more people would come out and discover the National Parks.  Probably the most famous National Park in Northeast Georgia is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.  Now I didn't participate that week by visiting a National Park; however, I have visited a few before, and I would definitely go back and pay the fee!  

Next event would be John Muir's birthday-- April 21st.  Now, I'm no John Muir expert, but I do know that he was a huge part of persevering America's wilderness.  You might have heard of him because he is the founder of the Sierra Club and some people call him "The Father of the National Parks."  

The immediate day after Muir's birthday is Earth Day, April 22nd!  Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970--so during the time of the hippie!  Anyways, I remember as an elementary school student, we learned about our part of Earth Day-- the 3Rs!  Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.  Even if someone does the smallest act of sustainability, it is better than none!  I don't care about your political views-- I think every human being should do their part to make the world a better place--whether that be use a reusable water bottle, cut down on plastic bags at the supermarket, carpool with a co-worker, turning off lights when you leave the room, throwing away your trash and not littering!!!! The list goes on, and it's so easy to be sustainable, but people just don't care or they're lazy! ughhhh 

Next day I'd like to mention is Arbor Day--April 24th!! This day pretty much observes the importance of trees!  Hello!  These big guys help us breath, prevent erosion, and give us shade!  I've always liked trees and always felt sad when trees got cut down.  Yes, some trees aren't sturdy, ie. Pine Trees, and people want to cut them down so they won't hit their house in an event of an ice storm.  But, I think people should have the mindset that if they cut a tree down, they should try to plant another tree somewhere else.  Plus, it is always cool to watch a tree grow.  Back in 2006/2007, I planted a red maple tree by our house; it is now 2015, and it has grown so much!  Switching gears a little bit, I want to start identifying trees...I used to know some back when I was in Girl Scouts, but I never kept up with it.  Boo.... Anyways, appreciate trees!  Plant some if you can! Trees = Life! 

Lastly, as someone who Geocaches frequently, April 24-27 was International CITO Day.  CITO stand for "Cache In, Trash Out."  CITO events encourage geocachers to pick up trash while they are out geocaching.  On April 25th, I joined a few geocachers on Lake Lanier and picked up some trash on an island.  On the 26th, I joined another group at a park off the lake in Dawsonville.  Now Brandon and I always pick up trash when we are geocaching.  We hate seeing trash on nature really defeats the purpose of "walking in nature" if you find wrappers, plastic water bottles, and cigarette butts on the ground.

Anyways, if you read this far, I hope you kinda-sorta get my point.  Don't Litter and Appreciate Nature.  Mother Earth is for everyone to share; therefore, it is everyone's duty to keep her clean.  Though "Earth Month" comes to an end tomorrow, treat every day as if it were Earth Day.  Pick up litter if you come across it.  Think twice whether you should toss something in the trash or but it in a recycle bin.  It's easy, and most of the resources are there!  

Links for further reading:
Sweep The Hooch
National Parks Week
Map of National Parks
More about John Muir
Earth Day
Arbor Day
GeoCaching CITO

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Am I Doing?

Recently, I have been running into old classmates from my early years of college and from high school, and of course, they ask me what I am up to.  Well, that's easy -- I'm a GIS Intern for Forsyth County-- and then I have to explain what I do exactly. 

First let's back up.  When I attend parties/gatherings and talk to new people, they ask me what I study.  Well, I studied Applied Environmental Spatial Analysis.  When I tell them this, no matter how much they had or didn't have to drink, I get this dumbfounded look on their face.  I would say this is normal since there was only one encounter where I met someone else who also studied GIS at UGA-- we ended up talking for almost an hour about both of the programs and what we liked and didn't like--- it was great!  Once I get that look, I proceed to tell them that I study GIS.  If the look is still there, I tell them that I make maps and analyze them, but in all honesty, I do way more than that!

So what did I study in university?  I studied a combination of the following: Python programming and web development, GeoSpatial Techonology (GIS, remote sensing, digital image processing, and GPS use), Geography, and Environmental Studies.  You can also throw in some Physics and upper level maths for giggles.  Anyways, I'm probably still getting weird looks, so let me break it down for you.

  1. Python Programming- So this is an easy computer language that anyone can learn how to do.  I actually started learning it before I was in the IESA (Institute of Environmental Spatial Analysis).  For my degree, you learn how to use the computer language to automate tasks in the GIS software we use (ArcMap).  Later on in the program, you learn how to use Python to display your map with data on a website.  This is a super handy skill for the work force.  Not only is it nice to have some computer skills under your belt, but computer programming also teaches you to think critically and enhance your problem solving skills. 
  2. GeoSpatial Technologies - This is the foundation of the program at UNG.  GeoSpatial Technologies include the following: GIS, Remote Sensing, and GPS
    1. GIS- GeoSpatial Information Systems.  This is where you have a system that can create, store, manage, manipulate, analyze, and then display your spatial data. This is done with software on the computer -- we normally use ArcMap, but there are several other opensource software available (QGIS, GRASS, etc).  So this is where you "make maps and analyze them."  You can map anything and everything if you have the data.  You can use census data to find all the low income areas in a certain area of interest or you can map out all of the watersheds or parks or greenspace or farms....the list goes on!
    2. Remote Sensing- This is where you examine orthoimagery (high resolution aerial photos).  The big idea here is that you can answer your questions without having to go to the actual location!  For example: I can find out width of the base of the Pyramids of Giza by looking for familiar objects in the aerial photo.  In this photo, you can see in the bottom right hand side there is a soccer/football field.  The normal length of a field is 100-110m.  I can then create a scale factor to figure out the length of the pyramids.  However, we also use remote sensing for land cover classification.  You can run classification tools to find out the percentage of land cover of a certain area.  Ex:  An area of interest might be 30% trees, 40% water, 10% urban/rocks/soils, and 20% pasture/grassy areas.  You can also see how much an area of interest has developed over time!
    3. GPS- We use GPS to collect our data.  You can collect anything with GPS-- trails, lamp posts, benches, small ponds, etc.  You then can import your data and make a map in your GIS to show people what is at your area of interest. 
  3. Geography and Environmental Studies-  Though this wasn't my area of concentration, I did learn how humans treat the environment and how we should become more sustainable.  

Now that you have some background, now I'll tell you what I do as a GIS Intern at Forsyth County schools.  I work in the Facilities department where they design, plan, build, and maintain the schools.  As a GIS Intern, we take the floorplans of the schools and trace them in our GIS software.  We are digitizing all of the walls, doors, and windows.  We make the doors one color, walls a different and so on....  Once we do that, we can then trace the the big school polygon and make polygons within the 1 school, this way each room is its own polygon.  After that, we can give attributes to the room such as room classification, room number, sq. foot, etc.  Once we finish a school, it is ideal to go to the school to make sure it is correct.  Some room number might be wrong, they might turn a storage area into an Assistant Principal's office, or sometimes the school's PTO will hire outside work to build up or take down walls.  So why are we doing this?  
  1.  For the Maintenance personal.  Most of them have ipads/tablets with their duties on them.  The BOE wants to eventually have all of the floor plans with its attributes on the tablets for them so they don't have to take plans out of the plan room.  It cuts down on paper when everything is available in digital form. 
  2. For the County.  If there were a fire, terrorist attack, or anything of sorts, the county can quickly pull up the school plan to find all of the exits, or tell the school to block certain hallways, etc.  
In addition, we also do outside collection.  We have been collecting and attributing features such as storm water, waster water, water, gas, electric, and even fence posts.  But why?  Just in case something were to happen, like a water pipe burst, or if they wanted to build an addition, they know where all of the lines are located.  Normally if they want to locate a line like power, they have to take time to use the locator to find the line.  They spray paint it, but it can go away.  If we locate it and get coordinates for it, they will know in the future where it is so they won't have to spend time or they won't accidentally hit it.  

Do I like it there? Of course!  It's a paid internship-- not much, but more than what I was making as a cashier at Publix.  It's 20 hours a week, and our supervisor is super flexible. I like it because it's in my field, and I get to do both outside data collection, and inside data creation.  The environment is great.  My co-worker is great.  And we are working through the summer with is also awesome.  

I'm so glad I stumbled upon this field.  Everything about it is great.  I love that this field will help people out for the better. 


Monday, April 20, 2015

Resurrecting My Blog

I haven't used this blog since my Study Abroad trip, and I really wanted to keep it up.  Since my life is changing pretty fast, I decided to continue this blog with a "new" objective.  

The original name for the blog was "CorrynInBerlin," but since I'm not in Berlin anymore, my new name is "MuchWunderlust."  Here, you can keep up with all of the crazy adventures I go on.

However, this blog isn't about my "party life" (or lack thereof), but more about how my life is revolved around my career and vice versa.

I posted on Facebook last month that I will be attending Northern Arizona University this Fall.  I hope to keep this blog up to date with what I learn, what I study, and where I go while earning my Master's degree.

I'm both excited and nervous about this move, but I cannot wait to see how I will grow academically at NAU.  

Stay tuned....

**Update 4/30/15** My blog name is now "TravelsWithMaps"....seems appropriate, don't you think?