Geology student turned GIS intern on building maps at SEAC

Hi I am Sarah, or probably more well known around the office as “Guy Prentice’s daughter.” I am a GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, Intern. GIS is, in simple terms, the creation of virtual maps. GIS has a wide range of applications from the plotting of Fruit Bat Movements to the locations of houses for sale in a neighborhood and their specs. As an intern for the National Park Service I have a range of tasks that involve working on maps for different purposes for various national parks. A few of the things I have done during my time here include obtaining soil maps for Blue Ridge Parkway for site prediction modeling, plotting the locations of historic monuments in Vicksburg for future virtual site tours, and the mapping of house lots in Fort Frederica that identify who owners were in the mid-16th century.

SPrentice_Fig1
Amherst County in Virginia is one of the 30 sum counties that the Blue Ridge Parkway passes through. The different colors represent different soil types

A very important report required for every park is called an archeological overview and assessment. Among other things it includes maps of various kinds that help understand where sites and potential sites are located. One of my jobs was to produce some maps to include with site forms to send to North Carolina’s state files. Another was downloading soils maps for counties that Blue Ridge Parkway passes through to see if known sites correspond with certain soil types. In addition to soil maps, I also located and downloaded geology maps for similar reasons, and then adjusted the colors of each unit to illustrate the different soil and rock types.

SPrentice_Fig2
The Entire Area of Vicksburg National Park, Each yellow dot represents the location of a monument that I mapped in the GIS.

My work on Vicksburg is by far one of the most tedious jobs I have had. The plotting of monuments involved recording about 1500 points on a map, each one marking where a historic monument is located, and recording from digital copies of old maps made in the early 1900’s what each monument was called and what it was for. Sometimes the quality of the old digital maps is poor and reading the labels is next to impossible, but once you finally figure out what a label says it feels like confetti is raining down upon you as you cry “27th Indiana Artillery! YES!”

SPrentice_Fig3
These are the lots I mapped for Fort Frederica. Each is the same size (60 x 90 feet) and the location of where the actual lots were in 1736. The graph on the right displays the info I input including owner, ward, and lot number.

Fort Frederica has been one of my favorite projects to work on and not just because I got to read tidbits like how the first church leader of the settlement impregnated his maid and then fled the town (Reverend Thomas Norris you scoundrel!).  Founded in 1736, Fort Frederica is one of Georgia’s earliest towns, and it is so cool to be able to plot the actual location of a person’s house and read the information about the person who lived there about 280 years ago.

As my time as a SEAC GIS Intern nears its end I am disappointed that I couldn’t have done even more, but I am also proud that something I helped to create will be in reports and websites. I am also grateful for the experience and training that will surely help me as a geologist when I graduate.

Also, check out Guy Prentice’s interview on 15 Questions with an Archeologist !!

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