Brett Murphy – Younger Geospatial Professional SPotlight Interview

The next Younger Geospatial Professional Spotlight Interview is with Brett Murphy who is passionate about the great outdoors and the surveying profession.

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Brett Murphy                             Younger Geospatial Professional

The surveying profession grabbed my attention due to a confluence of factors. Academically I initially pursued aviation, earned a Private Pilot’s License, and then switched directions to GIS & remote sensing as part of a Geography degree. I managed to remain oblivious to land surveying as a career choice since a natural resource-based Geography program was a long ways from Civil Engineering and other traditional forms of survey education.

Upon graduating from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I set out to work. I wanted to see my way through as much of the American West as possible, so I headed out for wilderness-oriented seasonal work. After jobs such as a cook at a remote geologic field station, forester, dogsled musher, and some other back country data collection jobs I applied to my dream job: a field surveyor for Watershed Sciences, now Quantum Spatial.

From Musher to Geomatics Professional

The position was the best possible blend of wilderness experience, aviation, and a formal education in remote sensing. More than anything the job quenched a nearly insatiable thirst for travel and took me from Mayan ruins in Honduras to surreal landscapes in Alaska.

Various GNSS based survey techniques comprised the majority of the work with occasional exposure to total stations and other tools, so relative to a traditional surveyor’s toolset I learned a lot about a little. Aerial LiDAR acquisition was the primary objective, so for some time it did not occur to me the training and skills involved on the ground might be a piece of a broader puzzle outside the remote sensing industry.

Currently I work for the Oregon Department of Transportation as an Engineering Automation Specialist. I research/tinker with various surveying and positioning technologies with the aspiration of agency-wide process improvement. Both working for Oregon DOT and the daunting task of PLS exam preparation have broadened my view significantly of the profession as a whole, and I am very curious to see how it will respond to the profound advances in technology we see almost daily.

Attracting young people to the survey profession is no doubt challenging; the sheer number and variety of different jobs a surveyor may have is enormous. As the survey body of knowledge adapts and grows with technology, proportionately fewer surveyors will have careers based entirely on boundary work and legal descriptions. Encompassing all that a surveyor might do in his or her career is challenging since in the short time I blindly wandered into survey I have gone from something as new as planning GNSS surveys around aircraft fuel cycles to something as old as running levels. This can make recruitment quite difficult, but it also makes survey the lynch pin for all sorts of bold advances in technology, development, and society.

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Brett Murphy, Brett Murphy

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