by Teresa Shipley, '05 '09
Carrie Guiles always knew she wanted to work with maps, but she had no idea how to make that dream happen. Then in 2001, an SCA representative showed up at her university and handed her a brochure. It was like a light bulb went off, she said.
I saw this ad for inventorying thermal features in Yellowstone National Park,” she said. “I was like…people can do this for a living? I had no idea!”
For Guiles, a geography major at Eastern Washington University outside Spokane, the magic words were ‘hot springs.’
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” she said of her passion for thermal features. “I have always had this affinity for hot springs. The fact that there’s hot water coming out of the ground is just so cool.”
She put her passion to good use that summer during her internship at Yellowstone National Park. Guiles spent long days inventorying the park’s thousands of thermal features. “I just fell in love with the place,” she said. “Working on an active volcano, getting to hike around and get paid for it… I didn’t realize such things existed.”
I had a lot of theoretical knowledge but I didn’t really have any applied skills where I’d gone out in the field, collected data with a GPS unit, brought the data back and created maps from it,” she said. “I got to go through this whole process when I was with SCA, and that was huge. You can sit down with a book and you can do exercises, but until you put your boots on and get your feet on the ground you really don’t know what’s going on.”
Kendra Mitchell was in charge of the thermal inventorying project at Yellowstone in 2001 and was responsible for hiring the SCA interns.
“Guiles was easily my first pick when looking for the 2001 crew,” Mitchell said. “That summer she and her co-worker did a great job with the thermal inventory and based on that Guiles was brought back the next summer to work with me on the Thermophile inventory and to run the Thermal inventory.” [Mitchell, who is also an SCA alumna, now studies microbes living on the thermal vents in the Pacific Ocean.
Ann Rodman, Yellowstone’s supervisory Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist and Guiles’s current boss, said that Guiles is just as enthusiastic about thermal features and ready to learn about GIS and GPS technology these days as when she was an intern.
Guiles, now the Yellowstone cartographic technician, manages most day-to-day operations of the GIS program in the park. Guiles estimates that she and an ongoing complement of SCA interns have compiled up to 90% of the accumulated data in the new Yellowstone Geothermal Database, from which 655 new species have been discovered thus far. One bacterium has potential to consume carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. Scientists have used the data to advance the human genome project. And, building on this database, NASA hopes to learn how life may exist under extreme conditions on distant planets.
Guiles said, “I was thinking…what if I’d never done my internship. It just set me on a different path, and I’ve loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here.”
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