My Roepke undergraduate research project with Dr. Cienciala involved the identification and analysis of specific rivers and watersheds in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. The work Dr. Cienciala had assigned involved a collaborative effort with another undergraduate research assistant and helped me gain experience in basic remote sensing analysis and navigating spatial data that needs to still be identified.
There was a lot of data cleaning and methods that required extensive searching in order to identify unfamiliar territories and watersheds in the Pacific Northwest, but being able to see the bigger picture and the necessity of the work for the overall research on environmental controls on spatial patterns of organic carbon storage and its movement in the temperate rainforests provided me a great perspective of environmental research with GIS.
This project had provided me the opportunity to see the extensive and substantial work that is involved in research, even in the smallest of tasks. It allowed me to actually see how essential GIS techniques are in most research areas in all fields of study. Before this project, I may have been aware of the many uses of GIS, but never understood its indispensable power of allowing people to make better decisions from the work of researchers.
I'm really happy to have had this opportunity in academic research with GIS because prior to this Roepke experience, I believed that research in the natural environment was something I'd like to further study and have a possible career in. However, seeing the amount of commitment and dedication one has to have in all aspects of their research made me realize that if I wanted to lead a life of research, I need to find a topic I'm willing to put my life's work into. I hope to have another opportunity to do research with GIS, but my experience as a Roepke scholar has only expanded my curiosity about the possible careers GIS has to offer.