Using Spatial Data and GIS for Remote Internships Through the EcologyPlus Program
Presenters: Travis Belote, The Wilderness Society, Edem Yevoo, University of Maryland, and Teresa Mourad, Ecological Society of America
Abstract: The EcologyPlus program recruits and supports a cohort of diverse students to pursue a variety of professional development opportunities through a diverse network of organizations. The Wilderness Society, as a partner organization, hosted three EcologyPlus student interns in the fall of 2018. The internship began with a week-long trip to Montana to visit Yellowstone National Park, meet local scientists, receive a short-course on geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial data, and develop research questions. Each student developed separate but related questions requiring various spatial datasets, data management, and analytical approaches. The students completed most of the work at their home institutions throughout the fall semester of 2018. The remote internship included biweekly check-ins including “shadowing” via screenshares to work through data analysis challenges. Students presented their work during a one-hour presentation and webinar at the end of the semester. We will discuss the value of spatial data and GIS in undergraduate education and provide recommendation for a successful remote internship. Our key recommendations include spending time together in-person for a kick-off event, regular check-in meetings with video conferencing and screenshares, and developing clear deliverables (report or professional presentation) to bookend the experience.