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Using GIS to Find the Perfect Summer Internship

About the Author: Lucy DiBenedetto is a fourth-year student in SoMAS Sustainability Studies Program. She currently serves as a mapping intern with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, a GIS Technician for the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, and as a TA for GIS Design & Application I. Her passions lie within the realm of GIS and teaching others how to implement and use a GIS.

The Science of Where?

If you were to ask me six months ago what my plans for the summer were going to be, I would have responded with, “I don’t know, I might take on more shifts at work, go on more ShiRP trawls, spend more time doing research at the Peterson Lab, or go travel somewhere cool, but I know I’ll be doing at least one of those aforementioned things.” If you were to ask me five months ago what my plans were going to be, I would have jumped up and shouted, “I’m going to Redlands to work for ESRI and living the dream!”

For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m a fourth-year Coastal Environmental Studies major with a minor in Environmental Design, Policy, and Planning and a specialization in GIS. Right now, I’m a TA for GIS Design & Application I and a lecturer across Long Island, teaching teachers how to utilize a GIS in their classrooms and teaching folks how to utilize a GIS in their career fields. I spent this past summer interning with ESRI at their headquarters in Redlands, CA with 119 others from across the country and overseas, and it was awesome!

The Science of How

A whiteboard welcomes you to ESRI Support Services

A whiteboard welcomes you to ESRI Support Services

Back in mid-February 2018, I applied for seven ESRI internships and the User Conference Student Assistantship along with internships with other organizations (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, to name a few). On March 13, I decided to take a visit to the ESRI Denver office on a whim, as I was in the area already visiting family and scouting out some possible graduate school options. I was able to get a tour of the office, talked with some cool folks, and received some cool textbooks regarding ArcGIS Pro and using GIS for conservation. Two days after the tour (March 15), I received an email from a Support Readiness Lead, Marco, asking for my availability to have a phone interview; I interviewed the next day. I talked about the tour in my interview, saying that it seemed so coincidental that I went to the office and then was notified about an interview a few days later, and even the Readiness Lead said that it was coincidental. The fact that I had visited the Denver office played no factor in me receiving an interview opportunity. Anyways, the interview was supposed to be a short 30-minute interview; I ended up interviewing for nearly an hour just talking about my experience with GIS and my teaching experiences.

Nearly two weeks went by before receiving an email from HR about making an intern offer. I signed my letter of intent and my offer on March 30, six weeks after applying for ESRI internships. My offer was to intern with Educational Services on the Support Readiness team out in Redlands and my mentor was to be Marco, who I had interviewed with two weeks prior. From that day until the end of the spring 2018 semester, I was preparing for a cross-country move and gearing up for a summer of hard work and fun!

Lucy with ESRI President and CEO Jack Dangermond

Lucy with ESRI President and CEO Jack Dangermond

The Science of Here!

On my first day of the internship, the University Programs managers in HR spoke about the prestige of being an ESRI intern. Out of the 10,000 or so intern applicants, 115 were given the opportunity to intern with the company. Roughly 100 of those interns were based out of the Redlands location with the others interning at regional offices (Charlotte, DC, St. Louis, and Denver to name some) across the United States. I also found out that day that there had never been an intern from Stony Brook in ESRI’s history and the Readiness team also never had an intern before me. It was so awesome to find out that I had etched my name in the history books, paving the way for future ESRI interns from Stony Brook.

As a Support Readiness intern, I was part of the team that is responsible for training those who work for Technical Support/Support Services. Trainings for software update releases and new product releases were typically held on Fridays either in the morning or in the afternoon, depending on the availability of the Training Room.

I had three main tasks and one final project for the duration of my internship. The tasks were to audit and edit 72 E-training modules, write triage documentation for 17 products and 16 extensions, and learn as much of the ArcGIS platform as I could. My final project was to create a video series covering a topic that I found interesting or a topic that had a high demand for trainings. I decided to create my final project on OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) and WMS products, as I thought it would be a good challenge for me while also allowing me to show off my creative side. In addition, I was also tasked with “mini-tasks,” like proofreading presentation materials, attending trainings, giving presentations, preparing for new hires, and, yes, talking with Analysts.

In 12 weeks, I was able to learn most of the ArcGIS platform, including ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Enterprise, Portal for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Server, Operations Dashboard, ArcGIS Monitor, and the ESRI mobile apps. I was also able to beta test an upcoming app called “ArcGIS Indoors,” which allows a user to create maps of the inside of buildings and create best routes to go from an area in one building to an area in another building; the app will be released later this year.

The 2018 ESRI User Conference

The 2018 ESRI User Conference

One major highlight from my internship came from the day of the User Conference. I was asked by my Charlotte-based Program Manager, Jon, to help with giving a presentation to global distributors at the Global CRM Track. The presentation was in two parts: Jon and Hanna would cover Salesforce usage during the first part, Marco would cover the Support Services structure in the second part, and I would jump in whenever I was needed. It was so awesome to be able to present with my mentor during the Conference! When I wasn’t giving my presentation, which was most of the day, I was working the Expo floor with Technical Support and learning about different products that Technical Support receives cases on. I also was able to see my map in the Map Gallery (“A Geospatial Analysis of Quantuck Bay, New York: Making Decisions for Remediation“) alongside my friends’ and classmates’ posters. There were thousands of awesome maps on display and being able to see it all was truly awesome.

GIS: Inspiring What’s Next

Since my internship ended with ESRI in mid-August, I have been hard at work with completing my courses of study and teaching the GIS users of the future how to utilize a GIS to their advantage. Right now, I’m a TA for Maria Brown‘s GIS Design & Application I where it’s my goal to teach the students how to use GIS in their courses of study in an easy-to-understand way. I’m also teaching teachers across Long Island how to implement a GIS into their curriculums with Maria.

My goal in life is to teach folks how to use GIS or teach folks different aspects of GIS, and that goal was made a reality through my time as an ESRI Support Readiness intern.


Update from Sustainability Studies Students in Graduate School

Kathryn Norman and Shannon Grogan attended the 46th annual Benthic Ecology Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC on the weekend of April 14th where they both presented posters on their research. They were so surprised to find out that they were presenting next to each other!  They offered the following updates about their lives after graduating Stony Brook University:
We wanted to reach out and let you know we’d run into each other to give you updates on our careers post graduation, since we both owe our success in grad school to our start as Seawolves.

Both Shannon and I were coastal studies majors and graduated in 2015. We’ve both since moved on to attend graduate school and are in research based Master’s programs. I’m currently working towards a Master’s in Biology at George Washington University in the lab of Dr. Keryn Gedan. In my research I use GIS to study how blue carbon varies across spatial gradients in Mid Atlantic tidal salt marshes. Specifically, I’m looking at how elevation, vegetation composition, and salinity might impact soil carbon storage.

Shannon is now also a Master’s student at University of South Florida working in the lab of Dr. Susan Bell studying impacts to mangrove propagule dispersal.

EDP Student Examines the 2016 Election

In Dr. Jim Quigley‘s SBC 308 – American Environmental Politics course, students are tasked to compose a 500 word Op-Ed.  Soo Hyun Ahn, a Junior Environmental Design, Policy and Planning student in the class, chose to write his essay on the environmental effects of a Donald Trump presidency:


2016 has been a year of multitudes of shocking political incidents across the globe. To name a few, Britain’s Brexit triggered the initiation followed by the ongoing scandal of South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye and lastly, the result of the United States’ Presidential Election.


As an international student studying American environmental politics, and as an individual who values philosophy and morality, Donald Trump’s win during this presidential election was a devastating result for me. As many of the Americans and public all around the world has seen during Trump’s election campaigns and in the presidential debates, words that come out from his mouth are not appropriate, which now seems to be only a personal thought.


A shift in the power from a president who has been constantly concerned in fighting against climate change, a president whom we could peek at his decency and virtue by listening to his speech to a president who does not hesitate in name-calling, who triggers people’s hate over one another and finally a president who calls climate change is a “hoax invented by the Chinese”, we are able to conjecture at what his policies regarding the environment may be in the near future.


According to Donald Trump’s official website in the energy category, there was no sign of any information about renewable energy. Two bullet pointed statements had caught my attention; “Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves”. Hydraulic fracturing is infamous for contaminating groundwater with the toxic chemicals that are used during the fracking process. It was somewhat interesting to see how he is solely engrossed in creating new jobs.


Second statement writes as “Rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions. Mr. Trump will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy”. Disseminating and presenting policies implemented by President Obama’s administration as job-destroying undoubtedly proves that environmental protection is far behind in the priorities list for Mr. Trump.


We still have to see with our own eyes about what is going to happen with America when Mr. Trump’s administration takes its place in the White House, which means that we still have hopes as of now. However, there were people saying how practical he is and how he keeps his words inevitably worries me. My view about this country was that it has a lot of great potential, power and influence over the world. As with the energy policies, Mr. Obama’s effort to bring the world together for a more progressive way towards the utilization of renewable energy showed how United States was concerned with environmental protection and sustainability, and the responsibility that falls on us in minimizing environmental impacts for the next generations.


If Mr. Trump is to remove all the progressive policies that are already implemented by President Obama and America takes its steps going backward to loving conventional and unconventional fossil fuels, we may get to the point where there is no turning back where global temperature rises as with the sea levels, and many more catastrophes that we cannot predict and anticipate will come as consequences of being indifferent and neglecting the fact that climate change is real.

Sustainability Studies Alum Presents Undergraduate GIS Project at ESRI Conference

From Justin Fehntrich, Coastal Environmental Studies, 2016 alum

Last fall while taking an introductory GIS course here at Stony Brook I produced a final research project that I was pretty happy with. So when I received an email from ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute), the provider of the GIS software used in the class, about submitting an abstract to potentially present my project at their 2016 Oceans GIS Forum in Southern California, I was confident enough with my project that I sent a submission with the “what do I have to lose!?” attitude.


Well, about a month later, I received an email that my abstract had been accepted and I was being invited to speak at the conference. After working out some logistics, I found myself at the ESRI headquarters in Redlands California (abut an hour east of Los Angeles) attended amazing lectures on the most cutting edge oceans research projects to date. Naturally I was pretty nervous presenting my undergraduate research project from an introductory GIS course to an audience of PhDs, post docs and industry professionals, but I came to realize that the crowd was so diverse that my little project held its own with all the pros. After my presentation, I even received some compliments from professionals in the EPA and NOAA. This was such a great experience and I would give the advice to just go with your instinct and apply for anything and everything that you find interesting that comes your way. You never know where it may lead!

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Coffee with Hx2: Courtney Williams

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Coffee with Hx2: Dr. John Warner

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Join us in part 2 of John Warner’s interview where he engages in a Q&A with Stony Brook students.

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Coffee with Hx2: Colin Beavan

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