GSS Spotlight!


Peter McColl

Student Intern

What is your education and professional background?

I got my B.A. in History with a focus on Medieval Literature and Philosophy since those subjects are in such demand in today's workforce (not). After graduating, I stayed in the area and taught for two years at a tiny parochial school, along with assorted desk jobs for another year. Once I started the M.S. GIS program, I focused on bringing my resume up to speed with relevant field experience. In addition to working at GSS, I've worked for a small forestry company out of Houston, MN primarily doing prairie restorations. For the last six years or so, I've also occupied a variety of roles with the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, an experience which has been pretty formative in the way I approach teamwork and confirmed me as a dry, boring music snob who no one should ever invite to their party.

What made you get into GIS? More specifically, how did you get to Saint Mary's University of Minnesota (SMUMN) in Winona?

My B.A. is from SMUMN and I've always wanted to stay in the area, so when I started looking into some alternative career paths, I naturally gravitated to local colleges. There were a variety of areas I wanted to develop professionally that weren't really an option with the background I had. I've always wanted to do work that really benefits my local community. I really just discovered GIS through research and was immediately intrigued by the possibilities and the variety it offered.

Explain briefly a project at GSS you've done that contributed to your overall knowledge and skillset.

This summer (2017) I had the opportunity to work with some local archaeologists on a dig they were conducting in Virginia. They wanted to analyze clusters of the various artifacts they has unearthed at the site. It was an excellent learning experience translating minimal spatial information into an accurate map display and working with the client to provide the analytic output they needed. Even the small amount of project management I contributed to getting the product delivered provided a window into how complex (and time consuming) that aspect of GIS can be. So shout out to Project Managers! 

To see Peter's work, check out our past blog post: GIS and Archaeology

How do you see GIS fitting into your future?

The field is so versatile, I could see myself applying it in any number of ways. As I said earlier, I'm fascinated by the tools it provides to local community development projects. Whether its protecting a natural resource, analyzing demographic statistics, or used as a tool to promote local tourism, GIS can support and enhance any number of efforts to improve quality of life for communities of all sizes.

Where can we find you outside of GSS?

I am a husband and father of three, so if I'm not working or studying, I can be found with my amazing family. Outdoor recreation figures prominently in our lives and we're constantly adding to our ridiculously outsized menagerie of farm animals. Rabbits, a cow, chickens, sheep, dogs, and cats thus far, not to mention the odd hamster. In my rare moments of unoccupied time, I really enjoy reading - mostly fiction or alternative agriculture propaganda.