Education: Bachelor’s degree in Geography: Geographic Information Science (San Diego State University)
The following profile was compiled by Jessica Embury (San Diego State University) for the Encoding Geography initiative. To learn more, visit: https://www.ncrge.org/encoding-geography/
Please describe your job, employer, and the primary tasks you perform in your position.
I am a GIS Specialist at the City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department. I am directly responsible for coordinating the collection of data among various departments and teams and managing the data collected. I often automate tedious tasks in order to build efficient workflows and processes for the collection of data and presentation of information.
What is your educational background? How did you initially discover geocomputation and why did you ultimately choose a career that uses geography and computer science?
I chose to pursue an education in GIS because I was interested in making a positive change in our natural environment. I had aimed to leverage GIS to strengthen my environmental studies and I had come to realize that it was extremely important to have a technical skill set. It was not enough to know how to make maps and I began to learn python coding. This is when I realized the importance of data design and I expanded my toolset by learning SQL. These skills could be applied to many different fields of study, and I utilize them daily in local government.
When thinking about geography, what specific background knowledge and conceptual ideas are important and useful to know?
Knowing the fundamentals of Geographic and Projected coordinate systems can be useful when handling data. This is a foundational GIS concept but can be more complex than some GIS professionals would like to admit.
When thinking about computer science, what specific background knowledge and conceptual ideas are important and useful to know?
Data design is key. The correct data types must be considered when attempting to integrate computer science with GIS programs like Esri software.
What procedural knowledge is important and useful to know, from either geography or computer science?
Data cleanliness is important and having standard operating procedures for the collection of that data can make the difference between having reliable or unreliable data.
What is an example of a social, economic, environmental, or other issue that you have recently investigated in a project at work?
I assisted the Homeless Outreach Team in developing a survey application to better identify homeless individuals who are qualified for assistance programs. The surveys are submitted to a database and have auto-calculated fields using SQL triggers to help create more usable and robust datasets so that decision makers are more informed.
What types of questions did you ask and think about in your project?
I was interested in identifying hot spots of homelessness within the city and why those areas are as such. Temporal scales were considered when designing the dataset in order to have a better snapshot of the current situation. Surveys older than six months are archived using scheduled scripts. Analysis of regional interconnectedness is ongoing, and many questions are beginning to arise, both geographically and programmatically.
What types of data did you acquire to support your project? If possible, please identify up to three datasets you utilize most.
We utilized zoning datasets to identify responsible agencies that are required to respond to homeless activity. Districting datasets were also utilized to assign volunteers to regions of the city with more homelessness during the homeless point-in-time count.
What types of content knowledge and skills did you use to evaluate, process, and analyze the data you gathered for your project?
While analyzing the survey data, it was imperative that null and ‘declined’ values were accounted for to not skew the statistics. The data, or lack thereof, had to be presented succinctly.
How did you apply geography and computer science to communicate the results of your project?
I created an Esri Dashboard for the Homeless Outreach Team to view the live data collected in the field, which allows supervisors to observe homeless statistics and track their team’s progress.
Reflecting on your work, how does it align with your personal values and your community or civic interests?
I want to do everything I can to make my community better. I believe I have the power to influence change when leveraging my GIS skills and can apply my geographic and computational expertise to a multitude of different issues.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. 2031418, 2031407, and 2031380 (Collaborative Research: Encoding Geography – Scaling up an RPP to achieve inclusive geocomputational education). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation