Storm Chasing and State Mapping: a Glimpse into the Mind of Student Chris Scheele

Chris Scheele, chasing a storm
Chris, storm chasing

What degrees do you have already?

I received my B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences with a Certificate in Environmental Studies from UW-Madison in 2014. My undergraduate research focused on atmospheric turbulence detection using remote sensing. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I completed the GIS Certificate Program at UW-Madison.

What degree are you pursuing here at UW-Madison?

I am in my second year of the MS in Cartography/GIS Program. My research focus is social media data extraction for disaster events.

You work as a student assistant in the State Cartographer’s Office. Can you describe the projects you’ve worked on?

I joined the SCO (State Cartographer’s Office) in spring 2015 as a GIS/Web Support Technician. At the SCO I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of geospatial projects utilizing different GIS software and tools.

Data standardization is imperative in GIS. For the Statewide Parcel Map Initiative, I worked on the processing and aggregation of county parcel data sets to help produce Wisconsin’s first public statewide digital parcel database.

Another aspect of my job at the SCO is data analysis. For example, I helped create an automated tool for a Wisconsin company that produces reports of crop productivity based on soil and parcel data.

Finally, properly communicating data to the audience is important in cartography and GIS. I am currently helping the SCO develop a web application for coastal communities in Wisconsin which incorporates historic survey and contemporary data to assist in coastal management decisions.

Have you worked with other geospatial groups on campus in addition to the SCO?

The geospatial community is extensive at UW-Madison. As part of my capstone project for the GIS Certificate Program, I worked with Sam Batzli and his team at the Space Science and Engineering Center to build an application that predicts flight delays due to weather. The GIS driven application was built incorporating their atmospheric data visualization tool RealEarth.

Why is geography a good fit for you?

I have always been intrigued by questions related to space and time. Having knowledge about spatial analysis is essential when working in the era of big data. Geography is the ideal discipline to study the theories and methods related to my research.

What led you to UW-Madison?

Before attending UW-Madison, I knew very little about GIS. After taking an introductory GIS course as an undergraduate, I was hooked. I decided to study geography at UW-Madison because of the faculty. Each faculty member is at the forefront of research in their subfield of geography. Additionally, students have the opportunity to gain experience and make connections with professionals through the SCO or the Cartography Lab.

Is it important to have geographers out in the world?

Of course! To put it simply, geography matters. Geography affects us on a regular basis whether we realize it or not. Geographers are vital for explaining and addressing problems related to physical or cultural characteristics in our interdependent world. 

Do you have any hobbies?

I’m a storm chaser. I try to predict the locations of tornadoes in the Midwest, and then my friends and I drive out to them. It’s not your typical hobby, but it’s a lot of fun.

Author: Geography Staff