GSN

Faces of GSN

Alex Wheatley, Reno, Nevada (Published in September, 2018 GSN Newsletter)

I have always been proud to call myself a native Nevadan. While growing up in Las Vegas my father always encouraged me to ask question and to be curious. There was never a stupid question; he always answered my questions with patience and consideration.

That sense of curiosity instilled my love of science, which only intensified in high school. I went on a camping trip to Lehman Caves and fell in love. I subsequently was mentored by a teacher and her former student to do a microbial survey of the caves for a science fair. Surprisingly, it was the first one done at Lehman Caves! I used that project to compete at the local science fair at UNLV. The project qualified me to go to the international science fair in San Jose. One of the judges at the science fair happened to be a Desert Research Institute Associate Professor, Duane Moser. He asked me to join his lab and do research on subsurface microbes. I jumped at the opportunity and stayed at UNLV to major in microbiology. My research entailed projects located in Death Valley, Armargosa Valley, Homestake Mine, and the Tau Tona Mine in South Africa. To further, my research I spent a summer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography growing microbes from the various locations under extreme pressure and anaerobic conditions. The research ultimately led to me being a coauthor on a peer reviewed publication. Although the research was interesting, I decided I wanted to go a different career route.

My junior year I took a paleontology class at UNLV taught by Steve Rowland, and I couldn’t get enough. The next semester I changed my major from Microbiology to Earth and Environmental Science. I really enjoyed all the geology classes I took from there and got an internship with Nevada Division of Minerals (NDOM) as the first UNLV intern. Yes, you may have heard the running joke of not letting UNLV students participate in the NDOM internship or they’ll transfer to Mackay. That’s all my fault. Every other student I interned with was a Mackay student. After talking with them I realized Mackay had many more resources, so I transferred.

Those extra resources led me to get a GIS internship with NV Energy during my senior year. I graduated from Mackay with a degree in Geography and minor in Ecology in 2016. After receiving my degree I realized my love of science, maps, travel, and cultures made me a die hard geographer. After graduating, I accepted a job in Portland, OR as a GIS Specialist but soon returned to Reno after missing my friends and the city. Upon returning, I started at NV Energy as their sole GIS Analyst for the company.

I left NV Energy in July 2018 to start my own Geographic Information Systems (GIS) consulting company to expand my opportunities and provide value to other businesses. GIS is an exciting field of work where I thrive. There’s a thrill of constantly learning the newest technology, and how it can help improve processes and lower costs for almost any operation. My company seeks to consolidate and use data to provide the most complete picture of historic and current models. That’s why I decided to call my company Grafting Innovative Solutions; grafting means integrating different sources to bring them together in one cohesive product.

Alex Wheatley