Emilio Mateo: Mapping the World

From a young age, 2019 USGIF Scholarship Award Winner Emilio Mateo loved to observe the world from above


While on family vacations, Emilio Mateo enjoyed the flying portion of their trip the most. He loved to look out the window and observe the world’s features from above. That fascination led him to the University of Michigan, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Statistics, followed by a Master of Arts in Geography from the University of Denver.

“When I went to undergrad, my interest grew. It wasn’t just planes or seeing the earth from above at a single point in time any more. It was bigger, being able to see it over a period of time and identifying changes over time,” Mateo said.

Thereafter, Mateo accepted a Trail Management position for the National Park Service in Rocky Mountain National Park where he assessed and mapped trail bridges. Ultimately he created a Mapbook of all of the bridges, which provided the National Park Service with a consolidated database of the bridges and their current status.

Photo Credit: Emilio Mateo

“[Here] I became more interested in the actual tradecraft, the GEOINT tradecraft,” said Mateo. “I started to use GIS a lot more for applicable practices. I was mapping trail bridges and assessing their condition.”

In 2017, Mateo enrolled at Ohio State University, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography. His research is focused on debris-covered glaciers in Cordillera Blanca, Peru, and their changes over time.

“My focus specifically is looking at these glaciers that are covered in rock debris and how they melt in relation to the clean ice glaciers that we are used to seeing,” Mateo said. “And I’m interested in mapping those changes in the water, but also mapping the surface changes of those glaciers over a period of time, about 20 to 30 years. By understanding those changes, we can make predictions about what the future of this region will look like.”

As he continues to pursue his Ph.D., Mateo also contemplates which GEOINT career branch he will land in, academia or government.

“I would like to continue doing research, but I would really enjoy incorporating some sort of teaching role. When I think about those two together, it’s academia. But I’m not entirely set on that,” Mateo said. “I’m going to leave my options open. But I will definitely incorporate GEOINT somehow in my work in the future.”


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