UMF student creates GIS tool to help manage municipal storm water system

4 mins read
Natalie Thomsen

FARMINGTON – When Natalie Thomsen, University of Maine at Farmington student from Lisbon, thought about a career in municipal work, little did she know she would be working for the City of Gardiner’s Department of Public Works before she even graduated.

Thomsen, a business economics major with minors in legal studies and geography, was hired by Gardiner as an intern for the summer. The Maine Government Summer Internship Program matched her skills with the City of Gardiner’s need for someone with a knowledge of GIS to digitally map out the city’s sanitary sewer system and storm water assets.

GIS (geographic information system) is a framework for gathering, managing and analyzing data. Rooted in the science of geography, it organizes data into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes.

Thomsen’s digital mapping is providing the city’s Department of Public Works with an accurate storm and waste water system inventory that will help with system maintenance and an understanding of current resources and those needed in the future.

“We at the City have been working for some time to generate a usable and reliable GIS map system to identify our sewer and storm water collection systems as a whole,” said Tony LaPlante, Gardiner public works director. “Natalie is talented and energetic and has done a wonderful job tying all the information we have collected into a user friendly tool that the City staff will be able to utilize.

Her GIS knowledge is also being applied to the Gardiner Public Library project of geo-referencing the city’s nineteenth and twentieth century Sanborn maps. These historical hand-drawn maps were originally created by the Sanborn Map Company for fire insurance purposes.

Thomsen is using the power of cutting-edge digital mapping to align the historical maps with present day structures. This will help the city with determining assessment and property values, economic development planning and ways to increase municipal efficiencies.

“We are exposing Natalie to several levels of municipal government as she told us she is interested in possibly pursing it as a career,” said LaPlante, “Natalie has been a joy to work with and will be a great hire for someone down the road.”

Finding a way to serve her community was a driving force for Thomsen’s college aspirations. She is the first member of her family to attend a four-year college and credits her experience with Upward Bound for helping make it a reality.

Believing in leading by example, she has committed much of her free time to volunteering on campus, at a local elementary school and as president of the UMF Alpha Gamma Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Omega—a national organization involved in community service on campus.

She is also participating in an independent research project on barriers that prevent businesses from donating useable food. Her final activity will be to create a guide to help businesses counter those perceived barriers and positively impact food insecurity in Maine.

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