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STEP-UP supports students' employment goals.

STEP-UP students have acquired skills that have helped many of them achieve their goals of employment and greater independence, despite the persistently high national rate of unemployment among persons with disabilities. Overall, of the STEP-UP students with known employment outcomes, about 60% have found employment either with USGS or other organizations. While there is no promise that STEP-UP students will be offered employment, 12 have been hired by USGS since 2012 under the Federal Government’s Schedule A authority for hiring individuals with disabilities.

Here are just a few examples of student successes:

Kevin Kim and the Well Pad Identification Project

Kevin Kim
STEP-UP graduate and USGS employee Kevin Kim (public domain)

Kevin Kim, digitized over 18,000 gas, oil, and water well pads in ArcGIS, helping USGS evaluate the ecological impacts of energy development in the Williston Basin. His work was considered so integral to the project that he is listed as a co-author on the resulting publication.

Kevin is now a valued USGS employee. Details of his story were included in a feature piece on STEP-UP produced by KQED Radio and distributed on National Public Radio’s Here and Now.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Datasets Project

Several students have been listed as co-authors on data releases. Using the USDA’s National Agriculture Imagery Program’s 2016 and 2017 products, Nathaniel Rosenbloom, Anastashia King, and other students digitized 1,710 polygons representing small bodies of water (ponds) within 500 meters of those poultry feeding operations. The data were created to support avian epidemiology research by the USGS Chesapeake Bay Studies program to investigate disease transmission risk of migratory birds to farms.

Boat Ramp Dataset

Anastashia King, Mason Schermerhorn, Shanamon Tangkulwarodom, and others, identified and listed the location of over 500 boat ramps in six states. Their work has provided a new valuable data source that will be used for numerous federal, state, and university projects assessing the potential spread of invasive species as “hitchhikers” on boats and trailers.

Nick Gillespie & the Bird Banding Data Scanning Project 

A man in a gray hooded sweatshirt sits at a computer that is displaying a map.
USGS Scientist Assistant Nick Gillespie, a graduate of the USGS STEP-UP program, works with Eastern Ecological Science Center.

Over the years, STEP-UP students have contributed to the scanning and cataloguing of more than 1.5 million sheets of bird banding data. With no funding available to digitize the records, the data would have remained in a largely inaccessible format; they are now available for use by scientists studying biodiversity and migration.  

One of those students was Nick Gillespie, who came to USGS through STEP-UP in 2016. During his time in the program, he learned how bird bands are used by scientists to record data over extended time. His mentor, Elaine Nakash, describes him as a kind, dedicated, and hard-working collaborator. His contributions were so significant he was hired as a USGS Scientist Assistant by the Bird Banding Laboratory team at the Eastern Ecological Science Center. He continues to expand his computer skills including the use of ArcGIS for mapping and analysis.