140 hours in the life of a student GIS analyst: an industry placement experience

Desiree Gowell reflects on her 140 hours on industry placement with the Wet Tropics Management Authority

As part of my Masters (NRM) program at JCU, I had the option to undertake a professional placement with an industry of my choice. I had a number of NRM organisations on my list of industries to apply to, but at the forefront was the Wet Tropics Management Authority, which had been on my radar since commencing my Masters degree in July!  Having a background in Zoology, I’ve been particularly interested in the biological diversity of the Wet Tropics region: even during my time volunteering at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (Gold Coast) I chose to work as a keeper for the tropical rainforest avifauna. I’ve always selected subjects encompassing fieldtrips to the region and assisted with research projects focussing on rainforest ecology and resource management in the Wet Tropics. Its international ranking as an irreplaceable wonder of the world has inspired much of the work I’ve done at university.  Thus, the chance to witness the ‘cogs of the machine’ at work within the Authority I’d learned so much about was a window of opportunity I wasn’t going to let slip by.

Since March, I’ve been working within the Learning Landscapes team under the wing of Mike Stott and Steve Goosem. My project has involved completing a geology coverage for the entire Wet Tropics bioregion—the coverage the Authority had (derived from the Stanton vegetation and geology mapping) was only associated with those areas mapped as remnant vegetation. The remaining 30% (roughly 550,000 hectares) of the bioregion encompassing cleared or regrowth areas were missing their equivalent vegetation and relevant geology codes.  Therefore, I needed to ensure that the final map was consistent with the existing Stanton vegetation mapping, joined seamlessly with the pre-existing map polygons and that the geological units represented meaningful drivers in explaining patterns of vegetation community change. 

I sourced the comprehensive Detailed Surface Geology of QLD coverage produced by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines to fill the voids. Using the Queensland Herbarium Land Zones dataset as the common ground between the three datasets, I was able to stitch the coverages together just about seamlessly—I explained and accounted for any minor inconsistencies in the accompanying metadata document. I hope the completed geology layer will be a useful aid for research into habitat suitability, revegetation projects, modelling change in vegetation patterns and improving development in the Wet Tropics bioregion.



I am incredibly thankful to all the staff at the Wet Tropics Management Authority for the knowledge they’ve shared with me in this time and for being so welcoming to me.  The whole experience has given me great insight into what I might expect from future careers and has pushed me to develop new skills in my field. I hope what I’m leaving with is just a taste of what’s yet to come. 

140 hours in the life of a student GIS analyst: an industry placement experience

Published: 23rd Jun 2016

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