Student internship experience with the UKFDRS project, summer 2022

By Andrei Badea, 2nd year Geography student, University of Manchester

I applied to this internship in March 2022 as part of my professional placement programme, hoping I could get some practical experience within the GIS industry and become more familiar with research practises as part of a nationwide project. I was happy to have been accepted on the internship by such an enthusiastic team, and I remember the day when I got to sit at my desk for the first time. It was an awesome feeling, because I had never done an internship before, especially on a topic closely related to my degree!

In the first week, I did some training courses about StoryMaps, ArcGIS Pro & Online, and Creating a Web Map, all by ESRI Academy. These assessed courses have helped me so much in my role, as they gave me the confidence to start experimenting with the StoryMap builder myself, and to do spatial analyses on ArcGIS Pro to find ways of improving a masters student’s research on wildfires in the Cairngorms National Park. My colleagues also made available readings on wildfire research, which made my work very pleasurable and resourceful, and little did I know I would meet some of the papers’ authors via Zoom! I had the opportunity to join two external meetings with my colleagues, UKFDRS partner universities, and Forestry Commission representatives, and it was inspiring to see what everyone was working on through team discussions and presentations. I also had the chance to contact external partners such as Julia McMorrow and other researchers via email, in order to obtain information on the Swinley Forest Wildfire Threat Analysis study they developed. Together, these actions enabled me to enhance my critical thinking, interpersonal skills and active listening skills. I also strengthened my hard skills by taking up multiple challenges in ArcGIS Pro week by week. Some of them included learning about the geoprocessing tools available on the software and the limitations related to previous research, and extracting data from Digimap on population and land cover.

While not all of these tasks went smoothly all the time, I managed to complete them in the end, with the help of my team. I needed to create pivot tables in Excel for two graphs on the evolution of wildfires in the Cairngorms, which is something I had never worked with before. I am grateful to have got the help of my colleague Jack, who was happy to explain every step to me patiently. Another rather stressful task I needed to complete was transferring sensitive data from my personal ArcGIS Online account to the organisation’s account, but thanks to Gail’s support (my supervisor), the action was completed successfully.

On the social side of my experience, it was exciting to be surrounded by friendly people in the office. Ana-Maria and Gareth made sure I had everything I needed to do my work with peace of mind, and they have been very supportive regarding my progress on the Cairngorms StoryMap I created for the project.

Now that I have completed this internship, I am excited to say I have become interested to explore more of what the GIS industry has to offer, and study UI/UX Design and Writing for the Web for academic and personal purposes. This opportunity has also motivated me to use GIS as a method for my dissertation plans in third year.

Perhaps one suggestion for future internships on this project would be to include photo editing training as part of the tasks to be completed in the first week of work. Other than that, I am delighted to have been part of the UKFDRS team, as they did a great job with keeping the interns active and excited about a topic of such great importance to the UK, especially in light of the recent heatwaves that have impacted the country this summer.

Thank you Gail, Ana-Maria, Gareth, and Jack for your kindness and support! I hope our paths will cross again in the future!

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Note from Gareth – it was a pleasure to have you working with us over the summer. Thanks for your reflections on your experience – apologies it took me a while to upload it to the website!

Andrei was supported by a University of Manchester Student Experience Internship

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