Student Spotlight with Erika Moylan

Erika Moylan is an FAU alumna who graduated in Spring 2018 with her B.A. in Geology with a minor in GIS and an Advanced GIS certificate. For two years now, Erika has been a Geographer 1 with the South Florida Water Management District in West Palm Beach, FL.

Tell us about your position.

I serve as the Emergency Operations Center GIS unit Assistant Manager, working on the annual hurricane preparedness and training for Hurricane season. The GIS team is crucial for mapping and analysis during real time events such as hurricanes, water shortages, and COVID-19. Typical assignments include the building of Dashboards, WebMaps, or Web Applications related to emergency events. We also run raster analysis, an example would be flooded inundation simulations on a residential area during the breaching of a pump or gate.

I am also part of the Imagery Team, where I coordinate with property appraiser's offices to acquire the county aerial imagery of each county within the SFWMD boundary. I process raw GeoTiff files to build mosaics, overviews, and metadata which are published as layers for the rest of the district to use.

In addition, I help with mapping projects for district lands, support spatial data processing, am the GIS liaison for the west coast SFWMD facilities such as the Big Cypress Basin, and present research and our work at conferences

How did FAU help prepare you for this role?

The education I received at FAU has been the foundation of my opportunities in career growth at the SFWMD. In pursuing my degree, I was able to take advantage of several GIS courses that helped me prepare for my career. I completed most undergraduate GIS courses available to learn all aspects of GIS. The courses not only taught me the basics but encouraged me to think creatively. While in school, my goal was to apply my knowledge and explore how GIS can effectively represent and provide analysis on a variety of topics. I was also fortunate enough to find an internship through the recommendation of Professor Gammack-Clark at the SFWMD which later led to being hired as a permanent employee.

What did you enjoy most about FAU?

The gorgeous campus is what originally drew me to FAU when I was looking at colleges in high school. However, the diversity in clubs and the opportunity to meet and learn from so many different people is what really made my experience great. Friends that came about through extracurricular activities or late-night study sessions in the GIS lab are friends that I intend to keep for a lifetime. Many of us are now spread across the country and world but I am extremely grateful to have met them. During my time at FAU, I also gained valuable insight after establishing a mentor-like relationship with the staff. I relied heavily on their wisdom to guide me into a career that matched my interests and a daily routine I was willing to do for a career. Peers, friends, and faculty have all played a crucial role in my personal and professional development and I could not be happier that it happened at FAU.

What tips would you give to current students in the College of Science looking to pursue a career in your field?

College is the perfect environment to learn and grow your interests, test your ability to balance a healthy lifestyle, and build on your professionalism. It is a challenging and delicate balance, but I believe a wholesome college experience coincides with excellence in both the classroom and interpersonal relationships. I encourage students to study hard, take advanced courses in all corners of your field and you will likely gravitate towards your niche. Put in the extra hours to thoroughly understand your project themes and explore creative ways to find similar results. A deep understanding of the topics that are covered in class will aid in your competitive edge when applying for positions. As an intern manager at the SFWMD, I appreciate it when students show pride in their work, consistency, professional communication, and proactively look to learn new subjects. Time management can be a challenging task from college life to the workforce so start practicing it while you are in school. I also think it is important to build relationships with peers, faculty, and professionals in your field, their wisdom is great insight when you are entering an unknown territory of full-time positions. Lastly, I think an internship is one of the most essential stepping-stones in your career. It will give you a platform to showcase the skills that you learned in the classroom while living up to the expectations and performing in a real work environment. What better way to learn what it takes to be a GIS professional than to dip your toes in and work alongside a professional agency? I wish students in the College of Science the best of luck in their academic and professional careers! With the right amount of drive and creativity, you can have a very fulfilling career in the GIS profession. I owe a lot of my fruition to the guidance of Florida Atlantic University. Go Owls!