Neal is currently working as a Graduate Research Assistant for Dr. Wade Tinkham in the Forest Biometrics Lab at Colorado State University. He is in the Forest Sciences Graduate Program within the Department of Forestry and Rangeland Stewardship. His job is to develop unmanned aerial systems (UAS) forest monitoring methods, which includes responsibilities such as flight planning, flight parameter testing, project design, piloting mapping missions, and maintaining three multirotor UAS.

What led you to a natural resources education/career?

My dad is a research geophysicist for the USGS, so I grew up in a science-focused household. His passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors and for science inspired me to pursue a career in environmental monitoring where I could experience the outdoors while helping inform land management decisions.

What are you up to now in your job? Any noteworthy projects to discuss?

I am currently working on a research project testing individual flight parameters in multirotor platforms. I am working to determine the optimal relationship of flight height, photo overlap, and flight speed for mapping certain heights of coniferous forest canopy. I have flown over 50 flights testing different variables and have produced 10 forest canopy models from the photos I have collected already.

What advice do you have for current students or recent grads?

My advice for current students and recent grads is to focus on your passions and spend as much time on them as you can. If you put in the time, opportunities will come your way. For me, this was learning to fly drones on the side for fun until it eventually turned into a full-time job.