Joe DeChellis, PLS, has been a professional land surveyor for 21 years. As the deputy county surveyor for the Ventura County of Ventura Public Works Agency, his office mostly performs and public works improvement projects and right-of-way acquisitions. 

“Though we do a fair amount of work for our Fire Protection District and Airports,” he explains.

Right out of high school, a friend introduced DeChellis to the land surveying profession. 

“A friend who had graduated the year before me,” he says. “Although I am in the office mostly these days, I loved the field for the different scenery every day.”

One day, while performing a right-of-way and boundary survey by Matilija Dam, north of Ojai, DeChellis’ field crew uncovered a brass cap monument set in 1937 with a scorpion guarding it (photo above). DeChellis was thankful to be in the office. 

The land surveyor who snapped the photo, Luis Lechuga, had a reaction of of shock and awe. 

“I was in absolute wonder for both the nicely preserved patinaed BCM find and the menacing scorpion that appeared to guard it,” Lechuga shares. “I thought to myself, ‘Does it get any more wild?’ I felt like Indiana Jones, archeologist and adventurer. Moments like this, which offer adventure and excitement, similar to that of the Lewis and Clark survey expedition, is what makes us fortunate to be surveyors of the land, like this scorpion, protectors of survey monuments.”

As things continue to change in the surveying profession, DeChellis says working together across industries will be crucial. “With the advancement of UAV technology, machine grading, and GIS, I see surveying becoming a marginalized profession if land surveyors do not step up, embrace technology, and take the lead and/or work together with other industry professionals.” Working with the scorpion is a start.  

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