Zach LittleZach graduated from the UWG Geography program with a concentration in Human Geography and a minor in GIS. He is currently in the Master’s program in Geospatial Science at the University of North Alabama, where he plans to focus his study on geospatial technologies and economic and political geography. As a student at UWG Zach received a co-op position with Norfolk Southern in Atlanta in which he worked on calibrating the rail lines in the company’s GIS to make sure they were geometrically correct. This refined data is integrated into the communication system to allow remote dispatching stations to help navigate the train, alerting engineers of sharp turns, intersections, etc. Also, at UWG Zach worked as a research assistant for Dr. Seong and Dr. Rose on a project examining the urban heat island effect in Los Angeles and Sacramento, CA, and another with Dr. Rose to study mercury poisoning in fish in the Chattahoochee River. He also assisted Dr. Seong in mapping the 2007 Complex Bay fire scar in the Okefenokee Swamp with Dr. Seong.
At UWG, Zach’s favorite courses were Dr. Gerhardt’s Phenomenology of Place seminar and Dr. Walter’s Urban Geography and Senior Seminar courses. His most memorable experience was attending the AAG meeting in Washington, D.C. because it revealed the many options he had with his background in geography. His advice to current majors at UWG is, “Learn at least a little bit of GIS (be prepared to spend time to get good at it) and do research projects--these are what helped me get a job with Norfolk Southern because they look good, I developed skills, and I gained confidence. Also network--get to know your professors and go to conferences and meet people.”
Markevious L. Thomas
Here is what Markevious has to say about his experiences at UWG: “The knowledge and overall experience working in the field for the UWG Long-term Watershed Monitoring Project allowed me to become accustomed to the environmental hazards around Georgia waterways, site investigation, and sample transporting. I used many of my experiences in my resume which led to my current position as a Mobile GIS/GPS Technician at Arcadis U.S. As of today, the focus of my site investigations has shifted to the man-made structures that convey water from impermeable surfaces to natural waterways, control flooding, and reduce erosion. These structures are part of a local system known as a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4), and using mobile GIS and GPS, I photograph, inspect, map, and if necessary, perform illicit discharge detection and elimination (IDDE). The sampling protocol and measured parameters such as conductivity, pH, and turbidity are identical to what I learned at UWG and I still rely on the situational awareness and eye for the unusual that I developed there.
After graduating from the University of West Georgia I was struck with wanderlust, which I followed into the mountains of North Carolina. There, I have spent my summers as a whitewater guide for the Nantahala Outdoor Center. I also pursued my passion for climbing across the country, and even spent a winter as a ski bum in Crested Butte, Colorado, just for the sake of experiencing a Rocky Mountain winter. I recently moved back to Georgia to begin pursuing a career in teaching in which I want to help students develop an intrinsic appreciation for exploring the natural and human-made beauty of this country’s landscapes. Not a day passes when I am not reminded of the lessons I learned at UWG. My advice for fellow UWG students: Life is full of valiant attempts that end in lukewarm successes or blatant failures, but it’s what is learned from trying, not the results, that really matters. At UWG I spent my entire sophomore year working as a paid research assistant for Dr. Seong, on a project that ended up being a prime example of the limitations of using satellite images to delineate fire scars in a drought stricken swamp. That is just a mouthful for don’t stress the results, but instead enjoy and learn from the experience. College is also a rare opportunity to experiment with a variety of class subjects. Branch out and take a class that you never thought you would enjoy. You may surprise yourself with discovering a hidden passion. Minimize the amount of student loans that you take out. Trust me, even a small amount can be overwhelming when you graduate, and finishing debt free enables you to travel anywhere and do anything.
Rochelle (Shelley) Petruccelli
Since leaving UWG, I moved back to California and received a Master's degree in Applied Marine & Watershed Science at California State University Monterey Bay. At CSU MB I worked for the Seafloor Mapping Lab collecting and processing sonar and lidar data. I created bathymetry maps of Monterey Canyon, a seamless bathy/topo map of Elkhorn Slough and it's surrounding wetlands, and a topography map of Hollister Hills, all baseline maps to analyze future erosion patterns. As an intern I worked for the California Coastal Commission on a comprehensive shore parallel coastal armoring geodatabase for San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties. After graduation, I moved to San Diego and now work for an environmental consulting firm as a Marine GIS Specialist. I co-operate a 24' research vessel collecting interferometric side scan sonar data of the seafloor. I map and document eelgrass distribution, which is identified as an Essential Fish Habitat by NOAA Fisheries. We have documented eelgrass in California's bays, nearshore habitats, and around the Channel Islands. In addition, I map nearshore benthic habitats and produce bathymetry maps.
In her own words: "After graduating in 2007, I spent two years in service for AmeriCorps service with Teach for America. I taught first grade in an underserved neighborhood school in Atlanta and there I connected with many of the broader themes covered in Human Geography, such as unequal development, income disparity, mobility, and social justice. After that I entered the graduate program at Georgia State University, where I earned an M.S. in Geoscience focused on Urban Geography in 2014. As a graduate student I served as a research assistant on a study of the social impacts of the demolition of public housing in Atlanta. More recently, I was selected as a finalist for the Presidential Management Fellows program, administered by the federal government to provide intensive leadership training. Through this program I was offered a position with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in Atlanta. In this role I have conducted spatial demographic analyses relating to the elimination of housing discrimination, promoting economic opportunity, and achieving diverse, inclusive communities.
My advice for current geography students is three pronged. First, take any possible opportunity to travel. In order to understand the greater world around us, there really is no better alternative than to get out there and experience it. Second, take the long shots. Apply for highly competitive programs. Submit your research abstracts for presentation at international conferences. You might not make every longshot, but the ones you do will give you the momentum to carry your career forward. Finally, learn how to translate your skills into something employers can appreciate. Geographers develop strong analytical skills, but employers do not always know this, so during interviews, it is up to you to make it easy to understand how you will fit into their organization."
Brian graduated from UWG with a B.S. in Geology in 2006. While at UWG he worked closely with Dr. Jim Mayer on examining surface water/groundwater interactions beneath the Little Tallapoosa River floodplain on UWG campus. While a student at UWG he also participated in the West Georgia Watershed assessment and had two summer internships in National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate programs at Georgia State University and The University of Texas at Austin (UT). After graduating UWG, Brian attended graduate school at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences under the supervision of Dr. Jay Banner, where his research group investigated the use of physical, geochemical and isotopic signals in speleothems (cave deposits) and tree rings as tools for reconstructing paleoclimate. He graduated from UT with a M.S. in Geology in 2010 and is now a Project Manager at Zara Environmental, an environmental consulting firm in Austin specializing in karst hydrogeology, caves, and endangered species issues. He has a range of experience conducting hydrogeologic investigations in karst, particularly in building fully-automated cave drip monitoring systems capable of automatically collecting samples and logging physiochemical parameters. He has extensive experience conducting and overseeing freshwater mussel presence/absence surveys and relocation efforts and is a certified Divemaster and Scientific Diver. Brian’s project experience includes dye tracing, cave drip source delineation, hydrogeological evaluation for EIS, Geological Assessments, presence/absence determination and relocation of state-listed freshwater mussel species, karst invertebrate habitat assessment and surface water quality. In his free time, Brian enjoys cycling, SCUBA diving, caving, hiking, and investing in real estate.
Paul is currently a planner with Three Rivers Regional Commission, the regional planning authority for a 10-county region in west central Georgia including Carroll and Coweta. Working there he appreciates being able to work with so many unique communities on a wide variety of planning projects, including comprehensive planning, land use, economic development, tourism, and historic preservation. He has been fortunate to work for Three Rivers since graduating in 2005 from UWG, where he focused on Human Geography. His favorite courses as a geography major were Urban Geography, Cultural Geography and Environmental Geology. One of his most memorable experiences was the study tour of Ontario with Dr. Heather Nicol (now at Trent University in Canada). He offers this advice for current GEOG majors: “Intern, intern, intern.”