Elizabeth Mather, GISPMy fascination with space and my desire to work in an environmentally beneficial capacity led me into graduate studies in geography and planning at the University of Toledo beginning in the fall of 2000. The research area I was most interested in was the Oak Openings Region of NW Ohio & SE Michigan and how conservation and restoration planning could benefit from the utilization of GIS and remote sensing technologies. During my studies, much of my class research, as well as my thesis, centered on this topic. After completing my course work in the fall of 2002, I took a job as the GIS Technician at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Delaware, Ohio. I completed my thesis and graduated in the summer of 2006. At that time I also received a promotion to GIS/IT Program Coordinator at the District.  After seven years with the District, I took the position of GIS and Conservation Planning Manager at the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (Chesterland/Moreland Hills, OH) in 2009.  In 2012, I received a promotion to Director of GIS and Conservation Planning at the Land Conservancy.

Working at the District was a great opportunity to hone and further develop the GIS skills I learned in graduate school. Some of the work I enjoyed the most and found the most rewarding in that position included the opportunity to provide GIS assistance to staff within the office, landowners and land-users, as well as researchers within the County.

At the Delaware SWCD I provided GIS consultation services both within the office as well as to individuals in partner organizations. One of my primary responsibilities within the job had been to make GIS technologies and information easily accessible to the other (non-GIS) staff within the District. Toward this end, I developed customized ArcView 3.x and 8.x applications.

While at the District, I built onto and expanded a GIS system used to create on-demand, custom maps for sites within the county showing major natural features such as drainage, soil types, topography, wetland areas, etc. in relationship to political or social boundaries such as townships, parcel boundaries, etc. My additions to the system allowed for a more user-friendly GIS-based method to track on-site technical assistance. With the updated system, called TAGIS (Technical Assistance GIS) our technical staff kept track of the locations they had visited in the county with detailed information, including notes. The program also let the technicians generate the forms they needed using the data the user had already entered into the GIS database, reducing data entry repetition. All of the information collected by the system could be easily recalled and periodic reports of technical activities were simply generated, including assistance distribution maps.

Since joining the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, my projects have included a region-wide natural areas conservation plan, a region-wide agricultural areas conservation plan, co-writing and performing research and analysis for a region-wide land conservation report, upgrading the internal GIS system from ESRI ArcGIS 8 to ArcGIS 9 and recently to new server hardware and ArcGIS 10.2.  I have also overseen the expansion and maintenance of our extensive GIS data library covering 19+ counties, helped to develop and manage a more user-friendly and comprehensive stewardship GIS data, build and maintain Microsoft Access databases for project management, managed a small staff of GIS professionals and interns, and provide GIS and conservation planning services to a rapidly expanding organization.

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