Job Description: GIS Technician – Natural Resource Management

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Briefly describe a typical day as a GIS Technician

My day is split between field work in which I gather various data and working with ArcView to create maps and do spatial analysis.

How do you use GIS to help your company?

I use GIS in many ways. In one project, we are looking at the effects of tree removal on runoff in the watershed. The first part of the project involved digitizing trees of orthorectified aerials. Using CityGreen, an ArcView extension, I then selectively removed trees in order to look at projected changes in runoff.

The reason we are looking at this is because the area I work in has to balance wild fire management (which calls for the removal of brush and vegetation) against flooding which increases with brush removal.

GIS software used

We are using ArcView 3.1 with CityGreen. Our databases are housed in MS Access 97.

What skills do you need to be successful in your position?

My background in ecology has definitely been helpful for this position.

On the GIS side, knowing how to use ArcView, how to convert data in different formats over (I’ve had to collate data from paper sources, tables and AutoCAD drawings), and some basic spatial statistics and analysis (e.g. creating slope coverages from elevation).

What do you particularly enjoy about your GIS position?

I enjoy the variety. I get to balance my day by mixing in field work with sitting at my desk. It’s never boring and knowing that I am helping to contribute to the ecological health of my community is a great feeling.

What don’t you like about your GIS position?

The pay is on the low side, which is the norm for positions in ecology and natural resource management. Sometimes it’s painful knowing that I could be making twice as much in a GIS position elsewhere, but my heart’s in ecology.

How did you get started in GIS?:

I got my initial introduction to GIS through school. The courses didn’t teach much beyond using GIS to make colorful maps, so I sought out an internship through a local conservation agency.

The hands-on GIS experience was invaluable and I learned ten times as much about GIS as compared to what I learned in school.

How did you find out about your current GIS position?:

I got offered this position after I meet the staff biologist during my internship.

What parting words of advice to you have to someone looking for a career in GIS?

To be successful in GIS you really need to be an independent, innovative person. There’s not a lot of opportunity to be coddled so you have to be prepared to seek out your own resources to help you accomplish your tasks. Fortunately, there is a wealth of online resources to help a GISer out.

Submitted March 19, 2001.

Job TitleIndustryLocation
GIS TechnicianNatural Resource ManagementCalifornia
Years of ExperienceEducation
Salary Range
($ USD)
2Master in Geography$14 – $16/hour

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