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Patrick (Pat) Stephens eased his way into the D&L from summer intern, to freelance contractor, to his current full-time position as GIS Analyst & Cartographer. Patrick manages everything at the D&L that has a latitude and a longitude using GIS (Geographic Information Systems). He uses this D&L-Data to help the staff manage the trail, help users navigate the trail, and to help funders and policy makers understand the positive impact of the D&L National Heritage Corridor. Patrick also manages the D&L’s five-county wide signage program, Visually Speaking. Read a Q&A with Pat to find out more about one of our newest staff members!
You joined the D&L Staff after interning with us for the summer. What skills did you gain as an intern? Would you recommend interning with the D&L to others?
I recommend interning at the D&L to anyone with an interest in cycling, land preservation, GIS, and/or non-profits in general. The D&L has a wide scope that allows interns to truly use the skills that they possess in order to improve the organization. I was able to use what I learned in college and enjoy in my non-work life to carve out a niche of tasks that I fulfilled at the D&L. My internship worked as an extended interview that allowed the organization to understand me and me to understand the organization.
The autonomy I was given as an intern allowed me to hone my skills at establishing my own work plan and using them to the benefit of my coworkers. I learned how to establish a GIS system where field data can be collected and updated into a database in real time, cutting out the need for post-processing. This may sound technical, but it mostly entails me riding my bike and looking at maps and lines on them.
What does a day in the life of a GIS Analyst & Cartographer look like?
It’s kind of like living in a video game. Imagine yourself taking a walk on the D&L Trail. Instead of seeing trees, signs, trails, and rivers – you see points, lines, and polygons with a set of attached fields and attributes from an overhead, google maps interface. When you’re constantly working with spatial data, the world becomes a little more two-dimensional. This may be a symptom of constantly working with maps and data or I have a mental disorder – I’m still working on figuring it out.
At work, I focus my attention toward two main goals: ensuring that the data we have in our system accurately represents the real world and doing my best to visual that same data.
What do you love most about working for the D&L?
Getting people outside and making them happy. That is our main goal and I think it is more important now than ever. In a world where people are constantly tempted with an endless stream of Netflix, television, cell phones, social media, cars, virtual reality, etc…, we fight to get people to enjoy nature, understand the history of the landscape, and get exercise. We aren’t making money or fame. We fight the good fight to create a landscape where people go to relax, smile, exercise, and be with others in a safe and healthy environment.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t making maps and analyzing data?
Well, I kinda do the same thing at home. I am working to establish my own custom cartography firm (offthemaps.net) that focuses on designing recreation themed topographic maps. I’m a nerd at heart and still spend way too much time playing with map design and data sorting. BUT, I also really like getting outside. I’m an avid cyclist and join a few mountain bike races every season. In the winter, I like hitting the slopes and backcountry on my snowboard. I also enjoy cooking, reading, traveling, and long walks on the beach.