If you are looking to impress your boss at your internship DO NOT resort to flattery.  Instead, look to these few key actions you can take to ensure you will be looked at in a positive way.  We’re not talking about just dressing the part and showing up to work on time but working intuitively on the tasks assigned to you (which as an intern is most likely data intensive.)   

Reducing data to only that which you need to complete your tasks.  Remember that tons of information can be useful but not always relevant.  Don’t use an entire image of your county as a refernce layer when all you need is one region, town or city.  Instead, clip it to the area you need to speed up your loading time between zooming and panning through ArcMap. 

Renaming your layers so that not only you understand them but an outside user can as well.  This means changing layer names in ArcMap to illustrate exactly what you are looking at.  It’s all about preferences but I’ve found that using simple names in ArcMap not only cleans up the appearance of the documents in the map document but also makes it easy for anyone to understand what they are looking at.

Remembering the end user.  Your boss will love you.  After all, someone is going to look at the data and maps you create and either get it or not.  In the map industry, as in all industries, we do not want the latter.  The objective of a map is to be as cogent as possible delivering relevant information to solve a problem or complete a task. 

As an intern, your immediate customer may be only your boss.  You may not see projects reach the public eye.  Nontheless, be prepared to explain to your supervisor the reasons for your decisions and link them to the customer.  After all the key component of GIS is the end user.

Using folders in ArcCatalog for easy referencing.  ArcCatalog is just that… a catalog!  Keep it organized.  Even if your GIS data is limited it will only get bigger.  Database organization is an art finding just the right amount of folders and subfolders.  How you organize your data will depend on how much and what kind of data you have.  If you are unsure where data should be saved in your employer’s database… ask them.  There is nothing worse than investing time into creating or editing shapefiles only to have them be floating somewhere where they shouldn’t be.


1)    Venture out on your own:  Always be on the look out for positions not only around your college campus but also back home.  If your home for the summer you’ll want your internship to be close.  College Career Services will typically have networking connections to local agencies but may not look far outside the immediate area limiting the results they can give you.

2)  Know Your Skills:  You may feel you don’t have any yet… that’s why you are pursuing an internship.  Keep a log of everything you do in and out of the classroom.  Recall the skills learned in your introductory classes, what you excelled at and what you have training in.  Include skills or topics covered in your college classes that can be related to your internship search, your activities, your minimum wage part-time job; anything that can be used as material to demonstrate your worth as an employee. 

Employers know that your education is limited as an undergraduate but will still hire you if you can demonstrate in words that you are hardworking, know the basics, work well with others and are willing to learn more about their company.

3)   Email, Email, Email:  Some employers may not advertise that they want an intern or may not have thought about it before.  An email is your chance to explain (in a professional way) that you would like to know if internships are available. 

For example:      

I am a college student enrolled at _______ University earning a degree in _________.  I have experience with ________ and would like to learn more about your company.  Do you have the need for an intern with my skills?

The example above should be re-worded to sound more professional and create a solid first impression but the essential information is there.  If you are unsure what a professional sounding email should look like have an advisor or english professor critique your correspondence first.  First impressions matter and begin at first contact even if it is just an inquiry.

Half of this past semester in transportation geography has been devoted to the fascination of mass transit;  different approaches in various cities and its successes and failures in those cities.  The common problems facing Americas development of successful urban transit involve many issues that need to be addressed. While these are common to most areas not all cities experience these same issues.

  1. Existing transit inadequacies resulting in a declining reputation of public transportation.  There is a social stigma attached to “those people” who ride the bus.  Poor scheduling spurs poor service.  Ridership declines along with any funding to sponsor it.
  2. Pedestrian foot traffic is ignored as another means to decrease cars during rush hour.  Many dangers are associated from walking on foot in a city with one being the threat of injury from automobiles.  Current land use policies disperse residential areas from commercial areas decreasing the likelihood of walking to work.
  3. Parking is a big issue resulting in inefficiency looking for adequate parking facilities.  This leads to more time in the car resulting in traffic jams.
  4. Environmental Impacts: The environmentalist would like to do away with the automobile for the many pollutants it releases to the air, to the land, and visually/auditory.  Think about land value near a major freeway; the ones with sound barriers attempting to extinguish to roar of traffic.  These are typically lower cost homes as the land value diminishes through visual and auditory pollution.  Many community activists protest the addition of highways for this very reason; the burden on the quality of life.
  5. Land Use patterns have an undeniable trend of construction on the periphery of cities rather than enforcing a smart growth philosophy.  Possible repercussions of peripheral construction actually results in the economic death of a downtown core as all activity is oriented to the periphery.

There are other issues to be overcome that will be addressed later on.  For now check out my post on Curitiba, Brazil and its success in the realm of public transportation and other public services.

Interesting concept this is, ecotourism.  It seems to be taken for granted by many who consider themselves part of the newly revitalized Green Revolution in regards to the luxury, all inclusive cruise ship.  Two things you must know about me before I explain are that I’ve never been on a cruise and nor do I plan to.  I’ve been blessed with a guilty conscience (or burdened… however you want to look at it).  Anyway, as a person who strives to at least be environmentally aware,  I was shocked to discover the treatment of third world and Caribbean ports by the Cruise Industry.  Bilge water and waste being dumped into the pristine waters of these island nations.  I never thought about it before but it has to go somewhere.  I guess the waste can’t wait until they return to there home port.  After all we have our own environmental standards to uphold.

In addition to the dumping of waste, the masses of tourists venturing onto the island bleeds resources and influences the counter to smart and sustainable growth known as urban sprawl with development to appeal to tourists.  On an island such as Dominica this does more harm than good for the long-term sustainability of the nation.

Environmental issues aside there are money distribution problems.  Once docked passengers usually have an option to either stay with the ship or venture onto the island to experience the island culture.  Little money is actually spent by cruise tourists.  Three reasons for this are  1)  name-brand and luxury shopping is absent or unappealing to visitors 2)   half of the visitors never leave the ship 3)  those who leave the ship return before lunch without having spent any money.  This combined with the cruise industry’s bullying Caribbean islands into competing for their business with little or no part of the profits inherently should infuriate the environmentalist.

I tell myself I will never take a cruise because of my guilty conscience; my own way of being a rebel.  But could I turn down a free cruise… now that’s a tough one.  Am I a hypocrite for driving my car to work?  After all, that harms mother earth too.  I guess it comes down to identifying want from necessity and the weight of the burden it puts on your mind.

Reminder: Not all cruise ships are the same.  Check out this green buzz article on ratings for environmentally friendly vessels.

A hot topic I found on the GIS lounge blogs features a question of Google earth in relation to revealing too much information to terrorists or questionable peoples.  As I expressed in a comment on Caitlin Dempsey’s blog the blurring of federal buildings or potential terrorist targets (such as the white house) on mapping sites does not harm the right to know of the general public surfing Google earth/maps.  After all, it is merely an outdated photograph with low resolution.  First hand reconnaissance of the existing infrastructure would be needed anyway to carry out attacks.  By this point we should also acknowledge that our security and intelligence forces already know of any potential uses of online maps to terrorists.

Although these are low resolution images their is enough detail that can be deemed unneccesary for public view such as military bases or intelligence agencies. Take the comment of Evan stationed in Korea;

I heard the stories of terrorists using internet mapping sites and decided to take a look for myself. To much surprise, my very own duty station was clearly visible with everything highlited and labeled. Offices, living quarters, down to single standing ATM machines. With a VERY REAL THREAT, not much more than an hour away, imagine how costly that is to the lives of our soldiers and their families (some of them here with us).

This issue will not go away but will only intensify as Google expands its data collection and imagery.  Do we really need to see federal buildings and military bases from an omnipresent aerial perspective at the expense of national security?  Even with the white house blurred I am confident it will remain at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C.  If I doubt it I will check for myself next time I’m in town.

How much spatial information is too much?  A related issue lies with Google’s street view feature with issues of anonymity.

Update: On this issue of privacy is an issue affecting thousands of people. The almighty facebook and the latest privacy update from Mark Zuckerberg.

As a geographer I admire the earth for many reasons.  For its beauty, its power, its size, its diversity, its complexity but most of all its my home and a gift from god that should be respected but itself is a resource.  Saving the earth from climate change (not global warming) is not actually the be all end all on my bucket list.  Especially in these economic times.  There are however environmentally conscious industries in the U.S. that deserve more praise and recognition on the world stage, particularly in the realm of sustainable industries.  This means preservation and replacement of resources.  The National Forest program pays testament to preservation initiatives in the U.S. while state initiatives on sustainable development and forestry exist in many states.

So amidst pressure from the world stage for America to lead by example this is an example of an initiative that appears overlooked while complaints of carbon emissions from our automobiles are front and center.  On this topic, an appropriate message to government bureaucrats should be patience… and allow tangible (monetary) reasons for a rural middle class American purchase a clean emissions automobile.  Start in the cities where the highest levels of CO2 emissions occurr and leave rural America at peace to do the heavy lifting it provides for the country with its diesel powered machinery and vehicles.  Time and innovation will  get us there.

I believe in environmental awareness and trust that rural America will do its part how and when it makes the most sense to do so.  Why do we really pick up trash in the first place, because it is unhygienic and not pleasing to look at.  It’s not rocket science; It’s intuition.  Why do we recycle? We really don’t unless it is convenient and easy.  I at least don’t see myself driving 20 miles out of my way on my to or from work to a recycling center to take my trash.  With time and patience, Average Joe will have no problem saving the earth.

Slums of Rio De Jainero

I never thought I’d be the kind of person to WANT to watch a movie needing subtitles.  I probably never would have had it not been for the college classroom.  But this has gotten me hooked on foreign films.  I hadn’t realized how bored I was with blockbuster films until today while discussing with a friend how every time I watch a film in theaters I feel like I’ve seen it.. all… before.  The killing, the end of the world, the love story, the romantic comedy (ahh!), the surprisingly short films that need a lot more, the horrificly long films that have waaay too much (King Kong).

There are exceptions to this that actually beckon me to purchase them on DVD. aka Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Matrix trilogy, back to the future etc.  Cool movies with interesting plots and re-watch value.  Maybe the men who stare at goats will be worthwhile… it looks funny and funny is something with DVD purchase potential.

The foreign films I have viewed have had these qualities.   I found the three films I watched so far (City of God, Che, and Maria Full of Grace) to be a refreshing change.  One thing they have going for them is their base on reality and turmoil of Latin America.  Che, while romanticizing the revolutionary of Cuba, combines many movie elements of humor, love, friendship, and struggle into a documentary of sorts that actually keeps you hooked and wanting more!  Don’t be turned off by the fact that they are presented as documentaries when in reality they are full feature films.

Next on my list of must sees should be Pan’s Labyrinth.  I heard it’s a must see and will be on my list of artisticly created movie productions rather than the run of the mill blockbusters of the American box office.  Creativity is being drowned in the repetetiveness from a lack of fresh ideas.  So… are Americans flocking to the box office because of a lack of choice or plain satisfaction with their movie selections?  I believe a majority of Americans along with me will stick to what we know.  In the meantime I’m going to venture into foreign films for a while but know I’ll probably be back to the regular grind of my beloved American movie theatre.

More on Latin America