Describe your role at the Washington Post.
My role at the Post is editing and managing our mapping, natural disaster and weather coverage. When I started at the Washington Post in 2017, I was a graphics reporter, which is more of a “making'' role. I’d work on news topics, for instance, if a hurricane was coming and we needed to make a hurricane path map, or an earthquake happened somewhere, or if a volcano exploded, anything that involved a map, I'd work on along with other map makers on the team.
Did you always want to focus on cartography?
My journey to cartography took place during my time at the University of Oregon (UO). I actually started as a journalism major (I had really enjoyed being yearbook editor in high school), but after taking a few classes, it didn’t feel like the right fit for me. I ended up moving back to the sciences. To fulfill a general education requirement, I took a climatology class. I became obsessed with that class. To this day I have the textbook on my desk! That class introduced me to the geography department, which became one of my majors (I also double-majored in Spanish).
I still wasn’t focused on cartography though. Initially, I took a lot of physical geography classes focusing on weather and climate and ended up applying for graduate school in atmospheric sciences. It wasn’t until my senior year that I took the mandatory GIS classes. I saw them as obligatory and not my main focus, which was weather and atmospheric sciences. It’s funny in retrospect, because I ended up being fascinated by GIS and the ability to take data and design it into a map for others to read and learn from. I took the advanced cartography class from Jim Meacham and that's where I learned the principles of cartographic design, and it just felt like a fit, combining all of my interests. I ended up reapplying to grad school, staying on at UO to study cartography and GIS for a Masters degree, and then started my career.
In retrospect, it seems like you were destined to be a climate, weather and natural disasters graphic editor.
It was a mixture of a natural fit with my interests and the opportunities I pursued. At UO, I worked at the Infographics Lab where I gained the cartographic skills that I’ve carried through my career since, and it also gave me the opportunity to assist scientists mapping topics like wildlife migration, which put me in a great position to apply to National Geographic Magazine. At National Geographic, my academic experience helped me take on stories like the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica. All of this positioned me well for the role I’m in now.