Waldo Comes Back with a Vengeance

February 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

Ahh, Geographic Information Systems.  Ya gotta love it, and love to hate it.  It’s pretty much my entire life right now.  Every morning I go into work, and (after reading my email and the various blogs I’m addicted to) load up the GIS.  But mind you, this is not as simple as clicking a button.  Nooo waaaay.  In the government, things are always several times more complicated than necessary.

Recently, all of our GIS database information where we can add and edit data was moved to a central database in Kansas City.  Now, to access the data, we have to go to the Kansas website, enter our name and password, navigate to the GIS file (which is always where it opens first for me now that I’ve gone there so many times, making it somewhat easier), and open GIS (takes a while… during this time I generally twiddle my thumbs, send text messages, etc).

Then when GIS is open I have to add the data.  This requires going to another webpage and entering a different username and password (it’s amazing I can keep them all straight!). Generally I add the map of the Gila National Forest and the bazillions of sample points that go along with it.  What I end up with looks something like this:

gila2

The Gila's Burro Mountains, where I am currently editing data

Every single one of those little dots is connected to a site, transect or observation description, consisting of location, soil, and vegetation information, among other things.  How does the information get there, you may ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.  Maureen’s boss gives her a big binder full of papers from the 1970s and then she gets to copy all of the information on the papers into the computer!  I could explain how the information gets onto the paper in the first place but that is a summertime story (that I have partially gone into in previous field work posts).  It takes me about an hour to get through one of the site description sheets and then my boss comes back and tells me I did something wrong and have to go back through all of the descriptions I just did and make changes to them.  So it takes a while.

I’ve just gotten back to doing that work after last week when I spent quite a bit of time working on another GIS project, called learning how to use the TEUI toolkit.  The TEUI toolkit is basically an extension of the toolbox that is already in GIS (if you are familiar with that) but applies specifically to the work we are doing.  It is used as part of the beginning process of creating a field map, whereas the data entry stuff is more towards the end of the process.  Going through the toolkit reminded me a lot of the Where’s Waldo type lab activities I did in grad school.  I learned how to make pretty, colorful maps, like this:

gis

In addition, I also did another fun computer activity: learning how to properly book a flight in our new travel authorization system, which is pretty much the most amazing thing ever invented (that is, according to the people who came up with it).  That took me ALL MORNING, with the help of two of my fellow officemates and then two other people in HR (because the first girl I talked to didn’t know what she was doing and got confused).  But my endeavors were successful and now I get to spend two weeks learning about dead things in nowhereville Arizona.  Hooray!  (Actually it’ll probably be fun and I will tell you about what I learned when I get back as one of my more science-y posts).

Well, now that you know what I do for my job, you could probably go in and do a better job at it than me.  But please don’t do that.  I spent quite a bit of time and money getting that silly dirt degree.


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