Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
RECENT K-STATE GEOGRAPHY GRADUATE FINDS JOB MAPPING OIL SPILL
MANHATTAN -- Matthew Hosey says he's had lots of jobs, but none has been as stressful or chaotic as his last one: helping keep tabs on the massive Gulf oil spill.
Hosey, who earned his bachelor's in geography from Kansas State University in May, put his degree and skills in geographic information systems to work as a GIS analyst at an oil spill incident command post in Mobile, Ala. His job was collecting and distributing data related to the spill, including making maps. The maps were used daily by the top people making tactical plans for dealing with the spill.
"I also was in charge of presenting maps every day in the situation unit briefings to the highest personnel in the response, including British Petroleum senior executives, the captain of the U.S. Coast Guard and many others," said Hosey, a graduate of Goddard High School.
"Some of the maps we created were air operations maps that the Coast Guard used for aerial visual confirmation of where the oil was flowing. They then contacted commercial vessels to skim in the heaviest oil spots," he said.
Hosey said one of his maps was shown on CNN, while another one -- a boom retrieval-related map -- has been selected for display at a geographic information systems-related conference in San Diego.
Hosey's command post was responsible for oil spill operations in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida's panhandle. He was contracted for the work through the company The Response Group.
"When I first got down there, I didn't know what I had gotten myself into," Hosey said. "It was the most stressful first week of any job I've ever had -- and I’ve had many jobs. It was mass chaos. They weren't afraid to throw me right into the mix either. It took some hard work and endurance to get used to everything.
"The skills I collected at K-State, including from the geography department and its geographic information sciences program, are the biggest reasons I was successful," he said.
The days were long -- 12-14 hours on average -- but Hosey said he enjoyed the two-month experience.
"It's been amazing," he said. "I love geography, so learning about new parts of the world definitely sparks my interest. That's why I study geography -- so I can relate to new surroundings and understand how each region of the globe operates differently. It was very exciting to explore a new place."
Residents of the Gulf shore, understandably, aren't happy about the spill, Hosey said.
"They've been taking the situation in stride -- but that's about all they can do. The overall mood, I would say, is very displeased, but the people are still friendly because they know they're all in it together," he said. "Fishing and the Gulf waters are these people's lives. The spill was always the talk of the town everywhere I went along the Gulf Coast."
As most of the oil gets cleaned up, the jobs phase out -- including Hosey's.
"The mood in the building also changed from chaos to a feeling of success. It feels very good to have been a part in a major response effort like this one. I'm glad that I could help," he said.
The geographer in Hosey is excited about his next career opportunity, whether it be in the U.S. or overseas.
"I've made a lot of really good contacts down there, so I'll take some time to weigh all my options," he said. "The connections I’ve made during the response are a very valuable resource."
Hosey is the son of Alan and Cindy Hosey, Goddard.