Emma is a geographical information systems specialist at NERC's British Geological Survey (BGS) based in Nottinghamshire.
At school, my favourite subject was geography. I didn't know what I wanted to become, but I enjoyed learning about the Earth, its systems and people. I also knew that I wanted to travel. So I decided to study human and physical geography at university.
It was during my degree that I first found out about geographical information systems and decided to study for a Masters in GIS at Edinburgh University. I was lucky enough to obtain a NERC studentship for the year. It was as a result of this studentship that I heard about the British Geological Survey and I have been here ever since.
"Using a GIS, virtually any kind of data can be placed on a digital map to be compared, measured, and analysed."
I work within the Geographical Information Systems team at BGS. This means that I work with computer systems that can display virtually any kind of data on a digital map, so that they can be compared, measured and analysed. I am currently working on a project developing an application that allows geologists to enter their field data onto a tablet PC in the field. I even get to go out into the field and see how they are getting on.
A proportion of my job involves training others in GIS. I lead training courses within BGS, but I also spend time training people in countries like Zambia, Mauritania and Malaysia. Having another language (I studied French at A-level) has certainly helped. Training is extremely rewarding because you get to meet new people and help them solve their GIS questions.
Working on overseas development projects is particularly rewarding, but it can also be very humbling. In Africa, I have used my skills to train local users of GIS so that they understand the spatial data collected for a project looking at the effects of mine waste on the blood lead concentrations in people. The GIS produced hazard risk maps identifying the worst affected areas. This spatial information is then used to develop remediation programmes.
BGS has given me the opportunity to work somewhere that combines my GIS skills with my interest in earth sciences and travel.