A Conversation with GIS Capstone Alum and Current GISPP Instructor Jeff Hatzel

How did you initially become interested in GIS and what led you to pursue the GIS Certificate?


My first in-depth exposure to GIS was early on as an undergrad. I had just completed my first summer of field work, tracking muskrat. When it came time for analysis of my data my advisor introduced me to GIS. As I began to slowly learn my way through the application, I came to appreciate the power of the spatial analysis and statistics I was performing. I was fascinated and eager to learn more. As an Environmental Science major, I began to envision how GIS could be applied to all my varied research interests. I soon enrolled in my first GIS course and worked to use GIS in many of my future undergrad projects. As my passion for GIS developed, the GIS Certificate was a natural next step.


Could you describe your independent capstone project a bit? 


As my GIS proficiency and knowledge grew throughout the GIS Certificate Program, I knew I wanted my capstone to focus on GIS and wildlife. I was fortunate to be able to volunteer my time at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI. I worked on a project mapping bald eagle nesting habitat locations, to understand nesting regions and associated landscape characteristics. In addition to working with customized spatial analysis tools, I was also able to gain experience with data management. Having data from a variety of sources presented a great opportunity for me to build a database to allow for improved storage and access of the data for future analysis. This project was also an invaluable opportunity for GIS experience outside of an academic setting; to gain exposure to the complexities and dynamic nature of accomplishing a project as part of a larger organization.


Could you describe what work you have been doing since completing the Certificate, and how it draws on knowledge and skills you gained while a Certificate student?


While enrolled in the GIS Certificate Program, my passion for GIS continued to grow. I was fortunate to be accepted into the Cartography/GIS Master’s program within the Department of Geography. I pursued a degree focused on GIS, researching the relationship between genetic variation and environment in deer mice.


I have been working at Blue Marble Geographics since completing my graduate degree. Blue Marble is a GIS software company which makes a variety of GIS applications. As an Applications Specialist, I have a wide variety of responsibilities. I travel to industry conferences to give talks and attend trade shows. I teach training courses around the world and help to write documentation, while providing basic customer support as well. I draw on topics I learned and my experiences as a GIS Certificate student daily. Whether I am teaching basic GIS concepts to users, or troubleshooting more advanced geodetics questions, the GIS Certificate Program provided me with the skillset and experience to succeed.

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