GSS Spotlight!

ERIN HETTINGER

What is your education and professional background?

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I am from Lindenhurst, IL and graduated from Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Kenosha, WI. I am currently in my junior year of my undergraduate studies at Saint Mary’s pursuing an Environmental Biology Major and a Statistics minor. In past summers I had the opportunity to intern at a medical device company in Illinois and worked with the research and development team doing chemical analysis of the products. Although a great experience, I realized that I enjoyed studying environmental science and wanted to gain more experience in the field rather than the lab. This past summer I was lucky enough to have an internship at Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Learning Center in Rochester. Cascade Meadow is a restored prairie and we mostly worked to maintain the land and keep the invasive species under control, also tracking the phenology of the plants, recording various bird and insect species present, and performing water quality tests on the lake on site.

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

With both of my parents graduating from Saint Mary’s University, it had always been on my radar when looking at colleges. It wasn’t until I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in the environmental sciences however, that I realized that Saint Mary’s was the perfect place for me. Winona is not only a beautiful place for outdoor recreation, but it is also an amazing place to gain practical experiences outside of the classroom, studying a variety of ecosystems and communities in the Mississippi and the bluffs.

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

I am currently working on the mapping of wetlands in North Dakota. This particular project is to aid in the conservation of wetland habitats, especially for ducks, within the state. It is crazy to see how agricultural practices can change the landscape over just a few years and the impact it has on wetland species. This project has given me the ability to learn more of the ins and outs of ArcGIS that I haven’t yet been able to learn through my coursework, while also giving me hands on experience and the ability to accurately map and attribute wetlands. I have also been able to learn the various uses of GIS beyond map-making, and its numerous applications within the field of environmental biology.

How do you see GIS fitting into your future? 

Before coming to work at GSS, I had no idea how many different ways GIS could be utilized. I personally would love to work in the field of conservation biology in the future and I now realize how important GIS is in aiding conservation efforts. Whether it be through making maps to educate the public or making prediction models of habitat suitability, I am sure my experience at GSS will aid in many ways, directly and indirectly.

 

Where can we find you outside of GSS?

If I’m not inside studying and doing homework, you can find me outside and often with friends, whether it be hiking (or snowshoeing) the trails or kayaking on the river when the weather warms up. I also love reading, watching movies, working out, and playing volleyball in my free time.