Geography students help map local cemetery
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Two University of Wisconsin-Platteville students are using special computer software to help map the East Side Cemetery in Dodgeville, Wis., as part of a summer internship with the Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in Platteville. The project will continue through the end of October.
Cassie Jorgenson, a senior geography and history major from South Wayne, Wis., and Katie Wiederholt, a senior geography major from Darlington, Wis., completed fieldwork at East Side Cemetery, which included collecting more than 6,500 Global Positioning System coordinates from gravestones as well as information etched on the gravestones – names, birth years, death years and veteran status. Once the information was collected, they input the GPS points into ArcGIS software and then analyzed the data.
ArcGIS is a geographic information system that provides an infrastructure for making maps and geographic information available throughout organizations, communities and the web.
Data they are collecting will be used to create an online database and query tool that will enable Dodgeville residents, past and present, to locate their descendants in the oldest cemetery in the state. Creating this will not only provide a service to Dodgeville residents, it will also result in significant long-term cost savings to city staff who now have to search more than 8,000 paper records to answer genealogical and other cemetery-related questions from the public.
“Cassie and Katie’s work to modernize Dodgeville’s cemetery record keeping will be a permanent improvement to the city’s operations,” said Troy Maggied, planning program manager at SWWRPC. “Working with the UW-Platteville students is win-win-win for our organization, the city of Dodgeville and the interns we hire. We want to provide a real-world work experience for students, so we treat our interns as full-time employees and expect them to perform as such, and Cassie and Katie excelled in this respect. Likewise, our local partners appreciate seeing interns work on their projects, since they’re able to invest in the region’s future workforce.”
“Cassie and Katie spent more than 550 hours this summer collecting, inputting and analyzing data,” said Katherine Burk, assistant planner at SWWRPC and manager of the project. “It’s been a great experience working with these students. Along with their understanding of the newest GIS technology, they also bring to our organization their enthusiasm and a great work ethic.”
Jorgenson and Wiederholt said they felt well prepared for the internship, as they had completed Intro to GIS and Advanced GIS courses at UW-Platteville.
Jorgenson said the courses provided them with background knowledge in how to use ArcGIS software in real-world applications and tested their knowledge of the software and spatial concepts through weekly labs. She said that in the advanced course, students completed individual projects with minimal assistance from the professor as well as a class project that gave them basic experience with the GPS units that she and Wiederholt used for the internship.
“I am grateful for this internship opportunity with SWWRPC,” said Jorgenson. “It is exciting to have the opportunity to work with the GIS software, see what we have accomplished and learn how diverse GIS can be.”
“I love working with the ArcGIS software because it is very straightforward to use and there are many ways to represent the data, depending on what the audience wants to see,” said Wiederholt. “GIS is an amazing tool that can be useful to someone in any career.”
The SWWRPC is an extension of local government in Southwestern Wisconsin and provides planning and economic development services in Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette and Richland counties. As an ongoing service to these communities and community partners, SWWRPC maintains and makes available a collection of data for cartography and Geographic Information Systems needs. Custom maps and spatial analyses are available through special order.