Center Stage Video Series: Alexander Bissell

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Detailed Description

The USGS New England Water Science Center features Alexander Bissell in their Center Stage Video Series. He talks about a special project he worked on and his work in water quality. Alexander also discusses his experience in the Pathways Internship Program. Photos in this video showing field work were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Date Taken:

Length: 00:06:32

Location Taken: MA, US

Video Credits

Videographer and closed captioning by Katherine Trickey, U.S. Geological Survey New England Water Science Center.



It was really pedestrian work in terms of OK, we take a probe and we send it down and we see what the water is like next to this cannon, but it was everything surrounding that work that was really interesting

and you could tell that everybody who was there was really passionate about what they did.

They were all volunteers. I think there was only one individual who was getting paid. So everybody was there because they wanted to be there. To get to work with a whole bunch of passionate people from walks of life that I don't get to interact with, I don't know any historians. I don't know really any

divers or anything like that, and to get to work with these world-class historians and these world-class researchers from all across the world was very cool. To sit at the same table with them as "the guy from the USGS [United States Geological Survey]" with my high-vis jacket and my expensive equipment and that kind of stuff. It felt cool. It felt very legit even if the job itself was pretty simple in terms of what we normally do. The reach that the job had in that specific situation I felt was really unique.


I'm Alexander Bissell. I work at the New England Water Science Center. I'm a Hydrologic Technician

for the Water Quality section. I first started with the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] as a Pathways intern working for the Surveying section doing FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] flood mapping. It was a really amazing opportunity in terms of an internship to be able to come into this world-class scientific organization as somebody who knew next to nothing about science or environmental science, and learn on the job and learn the basics of surveying and of mapmaking and get to travel around New England as a whole and go into wetlands and places that you would never really get to go. However, whenever I had the chance when I wasn't out in the field I would go around to the other projects in the Mass. office and just pester them and be like hey is there anything I can help with? Do you need somebody to come out in the field? Do you need somebody to wash dishes in the lab? I was able to meet some really cool people and work on some other projects while I was still an intern and because of the experiences I had as an intern outside of the FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] mapping program, I kind of knew that water quality was where I wanted to be. Doing the lab work and doing this sort of analysis work was really intriguing to me, and so I don't know if it was luck or what, but when I was graduating there just happened to be a GS-5 Hydro Tech position that opened up in the Water Quality section. So I work in water quality which is kind of based all around continuous water quality monitoring year after year at the same sites to kind of get comparative data for states and local governments and so it consists a lot of going out, and collecting discrete samples, sending them into the lab to get analyzed, figuring out nutrient loads, dissolved organic carbon, that sort of stuff, things that key us into how good the water is in a discreet location. I think probably the most amazing experience I've had with the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] was getting to work with the Rhode Island Maritime Archaeological Project. It is a nonprofit group based out of Newport and they brought me out onto their research vessel to help them get kind of water quality data surrounding a shipwreck that they think might be the HMS Endeavour, which was Captain Cook's ship that he used to circumnavigate the world. The USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] was getting water column data and so basically I gave a water quality sonde to a diver and they brought it around to various important points around the wreck to figure out kind of the quality of water and what the water was like around the wreck. They are able to use that data to make storage tanks for when you bring a artifact up you can put it in water that's similar to the water that it was in before so that it doesn't degrade further. So just by using really kind of basic water quality techniques and the equipment that we use every day they were

able to really set apart their research. Not many nautical archaeology projects have that sort of water quality data, and they especially don't have it in a comparative sense, year after year, and so to be able to do a couple of years of data collection for them has been really awesome. For somebody who's interested in the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey], I would say if you're still in college or in education, the Pathways internship is definitely the way to go. Making a little bit of money while you're in college and then also getting your foot in the door is just invaluable. A lot of the scientists that I know and that I work with every day started as interns. So, I really can't praise the program enough. In terms of people who want to work for the federal government as a whole in the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] specifically, just send out applications. Send out a lot of applications, use the USAJOBS resume builder, and build your network and just keep trying. I'm sure everybody has a story about how they got hired and there's no one pathway, pun intended. There's a lot of different ways to get in here, but it's definitely worth it to try and even if it's not something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, just getting your foot in the door I feel is so important and then you can kind of forge your own path once you're in.