Guest Column: Promoting the Surveying Profession
As a profession, we have failed to promote ourselves as surveyors or promote what we do as a career choice. Consequently, the public, for the most part, remains ignorant of what we do and how the profession benefits society on a daily basis. Until we become more proactive in promoting our profession, nothing will change.
There is no better way for surveyors and professional societies to promote our profession than to become involved in our communities, schools and local civic organizations by volunteering time and expertise to assist, inform and educate about who we are and what we do.
When an opportunity to assist a nonprofit organization, church project or other local worthwhile endeavor presents itself, we should take advantage of that opportunity and donate time and resources to help them achieve their goals. Financial resources are hard to come by for many of these groups, most of whom rely on donations and grants for funding. Being able to accomplish their objective is often difficult or impossible when a significant portion of their budget might be spent on professional services like surveying and engineering.
In 2015, the Basin School District, a small rural school located in Idaho City, Idaho, acquired a patent from the federal government to approximately 87 acres of land near their school through the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. This act is a vehicle for nonprofits and educational entities to gain title to federal lands that are of little or no use to the government but expensive to maintain. Out of this, the district created the Idaho Center for Outdoor Education (ICOE) with the purpose of developing a regional public usage site for utilization by students from the Basin School District, other schools, colleges, universities and the community at large as a recreation and education facility. Part of their mission is to design hands-on activities that make the sciences engaging, challenging and relevant for learners, while enhancing their appreciation and passion for the natural world.
The property contains a year-round stream, an intermittent seasonal stream, a large riparian area, forested hillsides and more than 20 acres of placer dredge mine tailings. It is of particular interest to surveyors in that it is comprised of an aliquot part, two government lots and has a patented mineral survey bisecting the property.
So far, the district has spent approximately $40,000 in grant money to begin developing the property, most of which was used to rehabilitate and clean up the site following decades of illegal dumping and noxious weed growth. School staff, students and community volunteers have also installed a bathroom, picnic tables built by the shop class, frisbee golf course, 3D archery range and constructed the only ADA accessible nature trail on the Boise National Forest.
When fully developed, the center will include a covered pavilion, wireless sensors and cameras for acquiring data remotely, an indoor classroom and science lab, boardwalk and wetlands overlook into the riparian area, an astronomy observatory on the hilltop, footbridge, trail markers and signage, maintenance shed, bunkhouse and mess hall, guest cabins, addition of another bathroom, and an observatory yurt. The goal is to make the ICOE as self-supporting as possible by creating a revenue stream through rental of the facility to outdoor recreationists such as campers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers or special events like archery competitions. The site is already being used for high school cross-country track competitions using the creek as the water hazard.
In spring 2016, I was approached by a neighbor involved in the ICOE who asked about doing a wetlands survey for a 404 permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers. Following that conversation, as well as another with Boise County Sheriff and former school resource officer Jim Kaczmarek, I saw an opportunity to involve the Idaho Society of Professional Land Surveyors (ISPLS) in outreach to potential future surveyors. Sheriff Kaczmarek and John McFarlane, Basin School District superintendent, attended an ISPLS Southwest Chapter meeting to discuss how ISPLS could become involved with the project and possibly provide some pro-bono professional services using students to accomplish the needed tasks. Hopefully, some might develop an interest in what land surveyors do and pursue the profession as a career.
On Oct. 4, 2016 a contingent of land surveyors representing ISPLS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spent the day with 37 high school students from the Basin School District exposing them to the opportunities available in a surveying career. The morning began with a presentation about the early history of surveying. That presentation explained how land surveying impacts society in ways most people are unaware of, how surveying involves much more than boundaries, what future technologies for surveying might be and concluded with a discussion of education and licensure requirements.
BLM cadastral surveyor Dan Young, PLS, followed with a presentation on the history of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), Idaho’s Initial Point near Kuna, Idaho, and, as the BLM surveyor who did the survey for the transfer of title to ICOE, the process he followed to accomplish that survey. Following the morning presentations everyone traveled the short distance to the ICOE site where the students were divided into three groups. Each group rotated through three different stations and were allowed hands-on use of different surveying equipment and technologies. Station One was manned by Nathan Dang, PLS, Kerry Albright, PLS, and Brandon Grant from Accurate Surveying and Mapping in Boise, Idaho. They demonstrated the use and operation of a robotic total station and data collector by retracing a portion of the previously completed wetlands survey.
Station Two was manned by Dan Young, PLS, and John Zink from the BLM at a nearby mineral survey corner located on the boundary of the parcel. Students were shown original stone monuments and bearing trees, and they used compasses and tapes to measure to bearing trees, scribed logs using a scribing tool, and stamped brass cap monuments using steel dies.
Station Three was manned by myself, John Yatzun and Kyle Koomler, EIT, from Civil Survey Consultants in Meridian, Idaho, as well as Ada County surveyor Jerry Hastings, PLS. Students at this station used GPS receivers to perform a topographic survey of the football field and surrounding infrastructure located on part of the mineral patent bisecting the ICOE parcel.
Students spent approximately an hour at each station before rotating on to the next. Further discussions were held at each station and many questions were asked and answered.
After the students had rotated through the three stations, everyone returned to the high school where Hastings gave a presentation on the survey of the boundary between Ada and Boise Counties, which he and Ada County staff have been working on for several years. A raffle drawing was held where an ISPLS tote bag, a notebook with the ISPLS logo embossed on the front, and an aluminum replica of the Initial Point monument were given out to the lucky winners.
Since then, we have received feedback from Basin School District students and staff. The students were very enthusiastic about what they learned and several students have expressed an interest in possibly pursuing a career in surveying because it involved all the things they enjoy: being outdoors, problem solving, and using new and emerging technologies.
ISPLS has also been working with the Basin School District to acquire surplus and outdated survey equipment from the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). Recently, ITD donated a Wild T1A theodolite, a Wild T2 theodolite, a Wild T2000 total station with data collector and assorted targets to the school. Several local surveyors have donated tripods, prisms and other unused equipment to the school as well. ISPLS will be holding a workshop later this spring to work with the students and staff to instruct them in the proper use of the equipment. The donated equipment will be used for future ICOE projects, as well as being incorporated into the trigonometry and geometry curriculums at the school.
In the future, ISPLS will have opportunities to work with ICOE and help them accomplish their goal of creating an education and recreation resource that can be utilized and enjoyed by everyone. I am sure we will take advantage of those opportunities by donating our time, resources and expertise when called upon to assist with small mapping projects, laying out of trails and structures, or giving presentations to students. The students are excited about the opportunity to assist on these projects as survey crew members. In the process, these students will become further exposed to the profession and may become some of the future surveyors needed to replace our aging workforce.
I challenge everyone to seek out opportunities to spend time at your local schools, civic organizations and non-profits talking about what we do as surveyors. Any outreach to the public we can do will only enhance our profession’s profile. Plus, it’s a lot of fun spending time with the students and others, and seeing their enthusiasm, excitement and inquisitiveness about what we do.
For more information on the ICOE and surveying as a career project, visit them on Facebook at the Idaho Center for Outdoor Education.