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MapPros!

A new Web site features careers in geospatial technologies.

What do you want to do when you grow up? We've all faced that question at various points in our lives, but we didn't always have much information or experience to help us answer it. MapPros!, a new Web site (www.geospatialcareers.net) targeted at high school and college students, gives students an opportunity to explore some of the many career options available for those with skills in geospatial technologies. The site features profiles of professionals who use GIS, GPS, and/or remote sensing in their jobs and students who are developing skills in these technologies. It also includes a trivia quiz and links to career resources.

Visitors to the MapPros! Web site can meet folks like Safa Egilmez, a crime analyst with the Santa Monica Police Department, who uses GIS to analyze crime patterns and manage information on criminal activity. The site also includes librarians, an economic planner, and a climatologist as well as other professionals working in diverse fields such as public health, forestry, research, and publishing. Greg Dobson, a student at Appalachian State University, sums up the message of MapPros! in his profile: "The field of geospatial technologies can be very exciting, and the opportunities for work are almost limitless. There are many different types of jobs that you could do and many different organizations that you can work with."

MapPros! was developed by the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Cooperative Extension and UNH Complex Systems Research Center with funding from the New Hampshire Space Grant Consortium. Nancy Lambert, leader of the MapPros! development team, explained, "The U.S. Department of Labor identified geospatial technologies as one of the three most important emerging career fields, but there didn't seem to be any information about careers in geospatial technologies targeted to high school and college students who are making career decisions. We wanted to try to fill this gap."

The New Hampshire team members benefited from the experience of their colleagues at New Hampshire Sea Grant who had developed a publication and Web site on careers in marine sciences. The Sea Grant project had been wildly successful, so the MapPros! team used Sea Grant's approach of featuring personal profiles of professionals. "NH Sea Grant gave us terrific advice when we were developing the project," says Lambert. "One obstacle we faced, however, was the intimidation and lack of recognition of the term geospatial technologies. Sea Grant had the advantage that most people recognize the word marine and know it has something to do with water." To address this issue, the team used distance education tools to develop an eight-minute narrated presentation for the site that describes what geospatial technologies are and how they are used.

The MapPros! development team wanted to give the site's visitors a realistic view of people's jobs. The folks profiled on the site not only tell about what they do, but they candidly share what they like most and least about their jobs or about being a student. One researcher bemoans the bureaucracy of her job, while an editor of a GIS magazine describes the difficulties of trying to meet deadlines. Students visiting the site may be able to relate to Tim Brooks, a student at New England College, who complains, "Being a student also has its down times, such as taking classes that may not be necessary for the career you are looking into."

The site gives visitors a glimpse of the human dimension of the people profiled. The students and professionals profiled on the site describe what they like to do to relax, reveal who their heroes are, and even give advice to high school students who may be interested in pursuing a career in their field.

Stuart Blankenship, a GIS manager for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, explains, "One of the difficult aspects of having a career in GIS is trying to explain to folks exactly what it is you do for a living. Most people are not aware of GIS and have no idea what you are talking about. I look forward to the day when the technology is recognized more widely." The MapPros! Web site is a step toward increasing the recognition of geospatial technologies and the career opportunities available. Visit the site at www.geospatialcareers.net.

For more information about the MapPros! Web site, contact Fay Rubin, University of New Hampshire Complex Systems Research Center, at fay.rubin@unh.edu or 603-862-4240.

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