Sarah Eason Watson was instantly hooked when she took a GIS class for the first time in 2008 at Austin Community College. As someone who always enjoyed maps and puzzles she seized the opportunity to turn a hobby into a career.
Watson is a 2010 recipient of the USGIF Scholarship Program, having achieved the scholarship while an undergraduate student at Texas State University at San Marcos. Watson said the USGIF Scholarship was a financial boon for her education.
“The scholarship definitely helped make a lot of things possible,” she said.
For starters, the USGIF scholarship helped Watson achieve a master’s degree through the Erasmus Mundus Master in Geospatial Technologies program, a joint program between the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal, the University of Münster in Germany, and the Universitat Jaume I in Spain, in which students spend a semester at each school. Watson believes the program was a challenging yet heartening and memorable experience.
“Compared to a U.S. graduate program, [the joint European program] was very different and fast paced,” Watson said. “In the U.S. we’re used to three or four graduate courses at a time, but at this program I had to take 11 courses at a time with only six months to write my thesis. It was intense but very enriching and eye-opening. It was also culturally enriching to meet other students from all over the world.”
Watson’s academic research included topics such as crime, low water crossing analysis, and strategic noise mapping. Watson found her master's thesis in strategic noise mapping particularly interesting because she used ModelBuilder, an application that produces and manages models, to conduct her research. Watson employed the tool to apply sound attenuation equations and create a multiple noise source propagation and combination interpolation toolset in Esri’s ArcGIS.
Currently, Watson works as a GIS analyst for the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) in San Antonio, Texas. She also works on the Aquifer Protection Team, which includes conducting annual conservation easements (inspecting properties) and writing reports. As the only member of the EAA’s GIS department, Watson teaches her colleagues the basics of ArcGIS to help them learn basic mapping skills.
Watson hopes to continue her education and expand her career by achieving a graduate certificate in remote sensing from a Texas university.
“[GIS] is a really great field to be in and I think it’s important to get the word out about it,” she said. “It’s a huge thing that has become an integral part in city and disaster management. It’ll be fun to watch where GIS will go in the future.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Eason Watson