NEON serves to advance the ability of scientists to examine and understand the interactions between life and the environment at the scale of an entire continent.
The organization’s competitive internship program is designed to provide qualified undergraduates with real-world summer work experience in their chosen field.
“It’s been a remarkable opportunity to work side-by-side with geographic information specialists (GIS) and scientists,” Williams said. “The internship has allowed me to gain real-world experience working in the field of GIS and environmental science.”
Williams has been creating digital, interactive GIS maps that are being used by NEON scientists and field technicians to share, edit, update and manage sampling information for their field sites. While these maps are currently being used internally within NEON, it is likely in the future they will be accessible to the public, Williams explained.
“Montana Western’s Experience One (X1) program prepared me well for the intensive, hands-on work I’m doing for NEON,” Williams said. “The field and travel opportunities with X1 are unmatched. Last semester I spent five days in Moab, Utah learning about sedimentation and stratigraphy with a geology class, which was great experience going into this internship.”
At the end of the summer, Williams will present an 18-page technical report at a conference of fellow interns from NEON and other scientific organizations.
In addition to her internship, Williams was recently awarded the On To the Future (OTF) scholarship to attend the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) annual meeting from Sept. 25 to 28, 2016 in Denver, Colo. Williams is the second Montana Western student to receive this competitive award.
The OTF program is an initiative of the GSA that addresses the organizations overall strategic commitment to building a diverse geoscience community by engaging groups traditionally underrepresented in the geosciences.
“I’m very excited to attend the GSA annual meeting in September,” Williams said. “The conference is a great opportunity to explore graduate school programs, get a behind-the-scenes look at the industry and meet interesting people working in geology and GIS.”
Professor of Geology Rob Thomas wrote the GSA a letter of recommendation on Williams’ behalf, highlighting her achievements and work ethic at Montana Western.
“I was pleased to assist Sharon with the GSA scholarship,” Thomas said. “She is an excellent student who is fully embracing the potential of X1 and using her summer to advance her education. She will have no problem obtaining employment after she completes her studies based on her hard work.”
Williams is currently pursuing an environmental sciences degree with an emphasis in geology. She plans to later obtain a Master of Science in cartography and GIS and begin a career in GIS.
For more information on Montana Western’s environmental sciences program visit, environmental sciences.