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Jennifer Laws ’15 – Research Assistant, GIS Teaching Assistant, ESRI Intern

Jennifer Laws '15 has been doing research work with ESS professors Chris Bacon and Iris Stewart-Frey. She was recently accepted to the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara.

I am currently a senior majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Political Science. This year, I have been working as a teaching assistant for the “Introduction to GIS” course and as a GIS research assistant for Dr. Bacon and Dr. Stewart-Frey. I first became interested in research, specifically using GIS, during my sophomore year when I got the opportunity to work for Dr. Bacon, Dr. Stewart-Frey, and William Burke on the first Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment of Santa Clara County. The following summer, I was able to work for the Department of Environmental Services at the City and County of Honolulu, where I used GIS to create maps and reports for numerous watershed remediation projects. Thankfully, all of these experiences using GIS allowed me to become a Community Maps intern at Esri (the leading company in GIS) for the summer of 2014. As an Esri intern, I primarily researched, downloaded, and cataloged free, open, authoritative data from nonparticipating cities worldwide that could be added to Esri’s topographic and world imagery basemaps. After finding how incredibly rewarding it has been to see how GIS research has been able to address and solve many environmental issues, I have been motivated to continue my higher education at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. Hopefully, I will be able to specialize in water resources management and use GIS to solve many water issues that are occurring and will occur in the future as a result of climate change.

The best advice I have to give to students just starting out in the ESS major is to get a solid foundation in basic sciences and math. Not only will this help them figure out whether they want to be an environmental science or studies major, it will also help them to be more flexible in terms of their career goals and more marketable when they begin to look for jobs. After taking many ESS courses and having multiple environmental research and internship opportunities, I have found that the best people in the environmental field are the ones who can understand the scientific, economic, social, and political facets of environmental issues.