Zach currently works as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst for the State of Alaska -‐ Department of Natural Resources, working out of their South-Central regional office in Anchorage. He assists with managing and mapping land record data related to land ownership, survey boundaries, water-rights, permitting and leasing, mineral exploration, and land classification, to name a few. He works with geospatial data by creating and editing features utilized throughout divisions to make management decisions and in an online interactive map (Alaska Mapper). Along with database editing, he creates both hard copy and online cartographic products used throughout divisions.
Prior to his current position as a GIS Analyst and after graduating from CSU, Zach was a Cartographic Technician at Wrangell‐St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Copper Center, Alaska. Working out of the park headquarters, he provided GIS and global positioning system (GPS) support to all divisions of the National Park.
What led you to a natural resources education/career?
Growing up in western North Dakota, I was exposed to lots of open areas for hunting and
fishing. I gained a love for the outdoors at a young age and wished to study my surroundings as I got older. I had heard pay wasn’t the best in the natural resource field unless you obtain a Masters or Ph.D., but I wanted to study something I loved. My first course in college was an introduction to cartography. I’ve been hooked on the subject ever since.
What do you identify as your 'big break?' Did CSU have anything to do with it?
I spent two years at Colorado Mesa University prior to Colorado State University. With so many different, unique degrees offered within the Warner College of Natural Resources, my choice in courses was almost endless and I was able to have a greater selection of GIS/remote sensing-based courses. I was also able to work under Dr. Michael Lefsky helping with some historic aerial photography research he was conducting. Gaining professional experience early was key. CSU has helped open many doors to my current role.
What are you up to now in your job? Any noteworthy projects to discuss? (or any recently completed etc.)?
I have been working on a 60” x 80” land status map of Alaska to place in various office spaces in the Commissioner's Office. It is pretty neat to have my work viewed by many.
How did CSU set you up for success in your career field?
The networking from my time as CSU has been incredible. I’ve met lots of folks in Alaska with a CSU history. It’s always a great conversation starter as CSU and Fort Collins are such good memories for most.
What advice do you have for current students or recent grads?
Try to work in as many internships related to natural resources as you can while in school. Make sure every summer you are looking for work with experience related to your degree. Having worked every summer and while in school, I was able to further learn while at CSU and in a professional setting. Spend your time wisely while in school, you’ll be thankful later.
Also, if you want a great course on GPS data collection and its relationship to GIS, take
Applications of GPS Systems with Rocky Coleman. This 1 credit course has been worth much more.