Women in GIS

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Catalina Llanos

Senior Geospatial Technologist at ENPLAN Environmental Science & Planning

Catalina Llanos is a Geographer from South Central Los Angeles, and the Senior Geospatial Analyst at ENPLAN in Redding, California. She is a first-generation, Mexican-American, university graduate with an academic background in Physical and Environmental Geography, Land-use and Environmental Planning, and GIS Technology from CSU Chico in Northern California. Her passion for GIS and geography ignited during university while working with the CSU Chico Research Foundation on several state and federal projects, followed by additional research opportunities in the Cape York peninsula, Australia. Catalina's mission is to make geospatial tools easily available to the non-GIS savvy community, while promoting spatial thinking to help individuals make data-driven decisions in their businesses and life. 


What made you interested in GIS?

I sort of fell into GIS. I was studying geography and my advisors approached me about this. I started taking GIS classes and really liked it. So, I kept taking classes and decided I would get the certificate. I had also gotten a planning certificate. I like being outdoors, and GIS fits well with how my mind thinks. Even when I was a kid, I liked math, science, art, coordinate planes, spatial things, using data and maps. Then I got an internship at the Geographical Information Center at Chico State.

 

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Working for a private company, my responsibilities are really spread out. There are two people in the GIS division. We have an online subscription service.  I could be making online maps for them one day, answering phone calls to provide support, or I could be helping on a property measurement, making maps for clients on contours, for example. I also work on design and developing our online platform which takes GIS concepts and tools and makes them into a very simple way for people to use GIS to measure maps. Other things I do include gathering and processing data, in addition to planning activities, writing CEQA documents and Environmental Impact Reports to a lesser extent.

 

What is the project that most sparks your passion?

I worked with the State auditor on a few projects, including a Highway maintenance Project where they were looking at the question of whether roads were being maintained equally, or how repairs were influenced by how economic factors. We looked at the demographics of money, race, and climate and if highways were maintained equally throughout the state. It was interesting to observe how these factors were involved in road maintenance. For instance, it turns out that climate was the biggest factor.

 

Could you expand further on the climate issue?

 

In Siskiyou county, snow is a key factor in getting repairs done. They need snow plows to get work done. So, maintenance is more expensive here even though the population is less dense compared to other places in California where there are more people.

 

Do you have any female role models?

Kathy Benjamin was my previous supervisor when I worked at the Computer lab at Chico State University.  She taught me the most important thing is to learn how to do research and use resources to find information. I also learned from her that there are so many tools in GIS. 

 

“Probably no-one is ever going to know all of them, so be collaborative and use other people’s knowledge. Having a female boss really encouraged me to go forward in this field.”

 

Are you reading anything right now?

I was just in Ashland last year and I went to an antique shop. There were a bunch of geography books. One jumped out at me because of its cover. It was green and had a gold-plated map on it. I bought it for the cover. It has a history of maps, which I just started reading. I am also reading a few other books, which my supervisor has provided me on influencing people and communication.

 

Do you have a favorite GIS tool?
I really like the Networking package, Routing and Transportation planning tools. I think its fun to add stops and routes to a network. I also like spatial analyst where you can work with imagery and do classifications.

 

Do you feel there are any significant barriers as a woman in the GIS industry?

When I first started in geography, there were no women in my class. It wasn’t until my junior year that women started coming into the geography program. At first it was weird to come in to a male dominated field. I wondered how it was going to be. I think there are differences in how men and women approach GIS. Also, my current boss is pro-women. We have discussions about that.

 

Do you have any advice for women trying to get into this field?

Be assertive, stand your ground. Be straightforward. Don’t let any stereotypes tear you down.

 

Do you have a favorite GIS conference?

Maybe not a favorite, bur recently I went to the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers GIS conference at Chico State University.

 

Favorite quote?

I like Tobler’s first law of geography. All things that are connected are related. It is true.


Interview conducted by: Denise Wesley.

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Women in GIS

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