Four University of Richmond students have begun mapping out their futures through a summer fellowship in the Department of Geography and the Environment Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL).

The lab features the latest geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing software programs. The SAL also houses an extensive map collection and a rapidly growing library of digital data.

Shaquille Christmas, ’16, Jared Goldbach Ehmer, ’17, Andrew Loesch, ’17, and Marissa Parker, ’16, are working on a variety of projects that include collaborating with faculty, campus community members, alumni, and outside organizations. This summer, their efforts have focused on everything from conservation planning with the Chesapeake Conservancy to panoramic trail mapping with a Richmond-based organization.

In several of the projects, students work with faculty members to provide maps related to their research projects that could be included in books or other published works. Sheila Carapico, professor of political science and international studies, focuses on research in the Middle East. The summer fellows have been working with her to create maps showcasing economic and resource access inequities. For example, the students are creating maps to juxtapose the low gross domestic product (GDP), high population level, and limited access to drinking water in countries like Yemen to visually complement Dr. Carapico’s research on the area.

“It’s nice to be able to help faculty members realize all the options they have to share their research visually,” says Parker. “I think people underestimate what maps can help them illustrate.”

Goldbach Ehmer, who plans to pursue a career in a GIS-related field, says he knows this summer fellowship is meaningful for his future.

“I know I’m learning the skills that I need, as well as some of the more sought-after ones, so when I’m in that job interview and they ask me, ‘Can you do that?’ I can say, ‘Yes!’” he says.

Kim Klinker, director of the SAL, notes that other colleges and universities have similar labs, but UR’s is special.

“Nowhere that I know of focuses on undergraduate engagement the way we do here,” says Klinker. “Our students are exposed to invaluable work experience while making meaningful contributions to both the campus and greater community.”