Creating Data Resources for Park Planning

Zak Wood standing on the Ubehebe Crater at Death Valley National Park.
Zak Wood standing on the Ubehebe Crater at Death Valley National Park.

What is your name and job title? Rafael Wood, but I go by my middle name, Zak. I’m a Geographic Information System (GIS) Specialist at the Denver Service Center, Planning Division.

What experience and education do you have? My career started out as a contract archaeologist working in the southwest and great basin regions. I then pursued a career in photography and landed a photojournalist job at the Colorado Daily and Daily Camera newspapers in Boulder, Colorado. I started as a Pathways intern at the National Park Service Denver Service Center in 2012 while earning a Bachelor Degree in Anthropology with an emphasis in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

What is a typical day like? A typical day involves developing static and web-based maps for 10-15 projects. I also spend quite a bit of time collecting data to help the project team make science-based planning decisions.

What career advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar path? I would recommend having a diverse skill set that aligns with your personal interests. I’ve also had an opportunistic mindset and have been willing to move to new locations in the country if an interesting job presents itself.

What is one of the bigger projects you are working on and what about that project might surprise people? I’ve been working on the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area trail management plan incorporating crowd sourced fitness data into the GIS analysis. It’s been interesting to see where visitors access the park and which routes are the most popular.

Last updated: May 13, 2020