At a Glance
Imagine watching Vancouver in the midst of a severe earthquake, its coastal areas disappearing underwater, emergency routes cut off, natural gas-fed fires blazing, and buildings collapsing on every street. But you are safe. You are a geomatics technician/technologist thousands of kilometres away in your Toronto office.
What you're watching is a simulation built on a model of Vancouver to demonstrate the destruction of a magnitude 8 earthquake. You were asked to build this model by Vancouver's city planners, who are re-evaluating the transportation and storage of dangerous goods in the city's core and are concerned about the potential for spills should an earthquake hit the west coast. This earthquake simulation model will give these planners valuable information and enable them to make wise decisions for the city's future.
As a geomatics technician/technologist, you took more than a year to build this model, which was a huge project. You and your team conducted a full-scale vulnerability study of Vancouver in order to make the earthquake simulation as real as possible. You started by identifying natural hazards such as fault lines, low-lying coastal areas, unstable slopes, and unconsolidated soils. You took the spatial information from these hazards and entered them into your geographic information system (GIS).
Next, you looked for potential man-made hazards, for example, dams, chemical manufacturing plants, petroleum refineries, and high-rise buildings, to add another dimension to your vulnerability map. You used GPS to gather information on important transportation networks, including freight and passenger train routes, dangerous goods routes, and major intersections through the city. You also added spatial data for underground utilities, water, natural gas, telephone, and electrical lines. You combined all these factors to produce the model, which demonstrates for your clients what would be the city's most vulnerable areas should a major earthquake shake Canada's west coast.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a geomatics technician:
- Gather spatial data and property information on buildings and other structures, for example, bridges, dams, tunnels, and refineries.
- Assist in developing methods and procedures for conducting field surveys.
- Link spatial data to various tabular data for land administration purposes.
- Perform calculations and field layouts for horizontal, vertical, and spiral curves.
- Conduct detailed surveys on projects such as highways, urban streets, and railways
- Produce thematic maps and websites.
- Plan and conduct control surveys for mapping purposes.
- Create and process digital databases to compile geographical information in numerical and graphical formats.
Geomatics technicians/technologists work in a variety of locations, including:
In the office:
- Gathering, entering, and analyzing spatial data, including managing and manipulating databases
- Generating maps, models, and websites
- Reviewing maps, photos, and surveys and capturing data
- Coordinating field logistics, including preparing equipment and materials
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders
In the field:
- Recording and verifying data and map information
- Performing calculations and field layouts of survey sites
- Coordinating field logistics
Where to Work
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Surveying and computer mapping companies
- Environmental and engineering consulting companies
- GIS/geomatics and seismic services firms
- Other industries, for example, oil and gas, tourism, forestry, and mining
- Self-employed consultant
Education and Skills
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a geomatics technician is a college technical diploma. The following post secondary programs are most applicable to a career in this field:
- Geographic information systems
- Computer science
- Land information management
- Natural resource management
It is not mandatory to be certified in order to work as a geomatics technician. If you are a high school student considering a career as a geomatics technician, you should have a strong interest in:
- Computer science
“I get to be creative with my job,” says geomatics technician Sarah MacLaurin. “I get to make visually pleasing, easy-to-read maps, and that definitely involves a big creative component, which I really like.” Sarah had entered an environmental studies program with the intention of transferring into earth sciences. But after a semester of geography and remote-sensing courses, her career choice had been made. “I really like the hands-on technical aspect of geomatics and of course the chance to be creative!”
Today, Sarah is creating multi-dimensional maps for the City of Yellowknife as a geomatics officer. She describes her job as making “maps on the fly” for specific uses by city departments. Sarah enjoys the dynamic nature of her job. “It’s always changing. There’s always something different on a day-to-day basis.” Most days, Sarah is at her desk making hard-copy maps for use in bylaw enforcement, municipal economic development, or urban planning presentations.
Another more recent component of her job is developing what she calls an “enterprise system,” whereby all geographical information within the city is more accessible and relevant to its employees. “I’m creating geographic tools so that a routine job in the municipal government that would normally take days to accomplish now would take minutes.” Sarah’s desire to streamline the city’s geographical information is also about freeing up some of her own time to focus on other aspects of her job.
Those include producing maps for other departments within the city, developing methods and procedures for field surveys, and improving the geographic information provided in current maps. As the only geomatics officer for the city, she is usually very busy. “Everyone really likes those strong visual maps and that visual component included in their presentations and reports.” A challenge of Sarah’s job is keeping abreast of geomatics technology: “You’re always on a steep learning curve with this job.” According to Sarah, if you rest on your laurels even for an instant you can fall behind quickly in this position. Part of her responsibility is to stay connected with the geomatics community: “I’m always looking at what’s changing and how does this new technology fit with my job. How will it help?”