I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. Come join me. #nablopomo2023
I was thrilled to hear that you guys appreciated learning more about what I do as a geographer. It’s hard sometimes to understand what people do in their day jobs and I always love to find out more about that, too. While many of you said I did a good job explaining what I do, there were some follow-up questions that I thought I’d address here collectively. I hope this post will answer your questions.
You mentioned that some of the data will be gathered by airplanes. I wonder, are those special airplanes, or is the data gathered through commercial flights? And do you have to pay the airlines for that? (Tobia)
Data is NOT gathered on commercial flights. Flights have to adhere to certain flight routes and elevations to collect consistent data. There are programs that pay for the data collection or sometimes projects come up with the money themselves.
In the case of a shutdown, do you still get paid? Would your salary stop and then be made up later or are you out of pocket for shutdown time? (Birchie)
This is a good question and not one that is easy to answer. I’ll try to explain. Since I work for the government, you’d assume that I get furloughed during a shutdown (which has happened in the past). We had to stop working and our salary stopped for the duration of the shutdown, but we were retroactively paid back when a budget was passed. This sounds “nice” as we technically didn’t lose our salary, but not knowing when we would get back to work and get paid was very stressful.
However, my office is in a special situation. Despite being federal employees, about 80% of project funds in our office don’t come from Congress but from local and state cooperators. During previous shutdowns, we weren’t allowed to work although our funding was NOT tied to the congressional budget. That was unfair to our cooperators as they were basically funding the time we were sitting at home without producing any work. So, in recent years, our office had a partial exempt status and we were allowed to work (and get paid on time) during a shutdown on projects that were NOT funded by Congress. (This is the simplified version. It is a little bit more complicated like that.)
I think I was always interested in Geography. I remember that I loved looking at the globe at my grandparents’ house and that I loved looking at maps at a very young age. What solidified this interest was my geography teacher in middle/high school. She was knowledgeable and very enthusiastic and just made me hang on her every word.
Geography was my favorite subject in school (besides sports). We had to pick two “Leistungskurse” (advanced courses) for the last three years before the Abitur (high school graduation) and I chose Geography and English. I then went on to study Geography, English, and Physical Education in college.
I originally studied to become a teacher, but when it became clear that this was not going to be my path in life, I knew that I wanted to go into science and work as a geographer.
What do you do with all of this data? How is it used? (Stephany) With whom do you share this information, and then how is it used to monitor and/or change things? And, what is the goal – reducing environmental impact? Improving how we respond to issues caused by water? (Anne)
Your guesses are pretty much spot on. We collect, monitor, analyze, and provide a scientific understanding of natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. We share these data and results with our cooperators (who give us the money to undertake certain studies). Those can be private entities, but more often it’s local and state partners, or other agencies who ask us to study and investigate specific problems.
The cooperators then use the information to gather insights on specific environmental problems and use it for mitigation, to reduce environmental impact, or to monitor how well certain mitigation strategies are working. Some projects span multiple years or even decades.
I should note that our agency is only allowed to provide unbiased, objective scientific information. We don’t make the decisions based on these findings, or even suggest what should be done with the scientific insights that we gained. We have no policy-making powers. Those lie in the hands of local and state policymakers.