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Rhonda Dodge – “Spotlight on a Young Professional”

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Rhonda Dodge

This interview with Rhonda Dodge is the third Lidar News Young Geospatial Spotlight Interview. Congratulations to Rhonda for what she has accomplished in a short time and please think about sharing your story.

Rhonda, can you please provide a recap of your post high school education and training. Do you have any licenses or certifications? Are you a member of any organizations?

Out of high school I went to the Oregon Institute of Technology for four years (2012-2016) and earned my B.S. in Geomatics-Surveying Option and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics.

During those four years I had two 3-month summer internships, one at the Hawaiian Electric Company in Honolulu, HI where I gained a lot of experience in topographic surveys and boundary surveys for powerline easements. The other internship I had was at KPFF Consulting Engineers in Portland, OR where I gained more experience in boundary surveys and ALTA surveys.

After graduating from OIT I attended graduate school at Purdue University (2016-2017) where I earned my Master of Science in Civil Engineering (study area Remote Sensing) degree. At Purdue I structured my classes around photogrammetry and LiDAR, and my master’s project was on satellite imagery orthorectification.

I obtained my LSIT during college and have passed both the National and State professional licensure exams, but have 2 more years of experience to obtain before getting my PLS. I am a member of the Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon (PLSO) and an active member of the Oregon Young Surveyors Network. I am also an active member of NSPS, ASCE, and ASPRS.

Rhonda, when did you become interested in the surveying profession and what are some of the things that made it a career that you wanted to pursue?

I didn’t know about land surveying until I toured Oregon Tech with the intent of studying electrical engineering. I attended a presentation on the surveying degree program and immediately knew that it was for me. I didn’t want to be chained to a desk, because I love hiking, biking, skiing, and all outdoor activities. In high school I excelled at math and when I saw that a profession existed where you get to do math and be outside, I was hooked.

Rhonda, can you provide a timeline with description of the positions you have held in the surveying profession to date?

(Summer 2014) Hawaiian Electric Company – Internship (survey field work)

(Summer 2015) KPFF Consulting Engineers – Internship (survey field work)

(2017-Present) Oregon Department of Transportation – Remote Sensing Vertical Clearance Specialist

As ODOT’s Vertical Clearance Specialist, I am responsible for coordinating and performing the measurement of mobile LiDAR data on structures along the Oregon state highway system. I perform mobile LiDAR data processing, automating data integration processes via scripting, GIS development and manipulation, writing instruction manuals, and performing point cloud measurements. I lead a team that measures, checks, delivers, and resolves conflicts in vertical clearance data for each bridge in the state for freight routing purposes.

Please describe some of the technology that you have become skilled in using and any challenges associated with using it on a daily basis.

Apart from standard field surveying equipment, my job requires me to be up to date on mobile LiDAR and UAS hardware and software. I perform scanning registration and photogrammetry registrations regularly and have become skilled in determining control point and target positions needed for each data collection and associated accuracy desired. The challenging part is determining which tool to use for which job to be the most efficient, which will come with experience.

Rhonda, do you think this will be a long term career for you? Why or why not?

This will definitely be my long term career field. I love spatial data from remote sensing and how many applications there are for it. From the use of GPS in balls on sport fields to writing a program that extracts certain 3D features from photogrammetry data, the possibilities are endless. I am blessed to have found a career field that is constantly evolving as technology improves, and I love being someone who can keep up with it!

What are a couple of ideas that could attract more young people to the surveying profession Rhonda?

I have attended numerous career fairs and spoken to classrooms of students about surveying but I think the most effective form of outreach I’ve participated in was a high school surveying field day. Being outside and describing a physical problem that needs to be resolved and then using equipment to measure means way more to a young person than being inside looking at a map. Also, showing young people the use of survey-grade GPS in comparison to what is inside their cell phones is a good visual.

I think that once a young person is introduced to surveying, it’s easy to recruit them. The difficulty we face is getting that exposure. Not enough surveying professionals care about outreach or are willing to sacrifice their time to share their profession with young people. I think that going to the classroom teachers and getting them excited is the key. From my experience, once a teacher finds out what we do, they are excited and want to know a name of a surveyor to invite to their class.

Rhonda, any further thoughts or comments?

My current position dealing with vertical clearances is very fun because it’s an unusual use of LiDAR data, and it shows just how many applications there are for the remote sensing data we collect both from the ground and the air. Geomatics is such a fun field to be in and I take every opportunity I can to do outreach so that more people can find out about our niche.

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