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  • Writer's pictureRyan Mello

ESRGC Fall Spotlight 2019

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

“Working as an intern at the my “foot in the door” so to speak, to take on progressively more technical roles”

- Karla


Name: Karla King

Graduation date: 2008

Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

When did you first use GIS? I first used GIS in Dr. Michael Scott's Introduction to GIS class as a geography major in 2002.

What is something you wish students knew about GIS?

It is easier when you have a specific application in mind. There are a wide range of tools available in any GIS software, and generally a user only needs about 10% of them depending on their work. I first really enjoyed GIS when I used it for an undergraduate research project mapping deforestation of cloud forests in Honduras with Dr. Alexis Aguilar.

What interested you in working with the ESRGC?

Though I had envisioned myself going into environmental planning, I was eager to explore the technical skills needed to make the maps planners rely on. Little did I know this would become my main focus moving forward in my career.

What project(s) did you worked on as an intern? How long were you an intern?

I worked on the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program and updated the National Wetlands Inventory in Georgia. It was extremely fulfilling because I grew to love wetland ecosystems living on the eastern shore of Maryland. I was an intern for 11 months.

Where are you working now? And what are you working on?

I work at Descartes Labs, a private company based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The company got its start applying cloud computing to open source satellite imagery for applications such as crop modeling, deforestation mapping, and more. We've since expanded into other analytical areas, including ship tracking and financial modeling. The founders came out of Los Alamos National Labs and I work alongside scientists and software engineers to build a strategic vision for our data analytics platform as a product manager.

How has working with ESRGC prepared you for your current position?

To be a product manager at a data driven company, it is important you are somewhat of an expert in the subject and can get as technical as the scientists and engineers you work with. Working as an intern at the ESRGC was the beginning of a long line of very technical positions I've held that have supplied me with the subject matter expertise that qualify me for my current role. It got my "foot in the door" so to speak, to take on progressively more technical roles.

Have you gone to any GIS conferences? How did they go?

When I moved to San Francisco, California, I joined a professional mapping organization called BayGeo, and we hosted the state's GIS conference one year. I was amazed at how strong the GIS community was in California and became aware that most regions have a similar GIS community you can tap into. Networking and relationship building are critical to establishing yourself in the industry.

Dream job? (doesn’t have to be GIS related)

This is a fun question. I feel like my dream job is always changing, but having worked at a handful of start-ups in the past five years, I am feeling more entrepreneurial as of late. I would love start my own company or non-profit that focuses on leveraging technology to solve environmental issues.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Living in New Mexico, it is all about nature. Santa Fe is a high desert environment that provides stunning landscapes and wonderful seasons. I spend a lot of time camping, hiking, and snowshoeing with my two dogs and husband.

Do you have a LinkedIn ?

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