Center Stage Video Series: Alexander Bissell (AD)

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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: 00:06:56

Location Taken: MA, US

Video Credits

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


You know it was really pedestrian work. In terms of like okay, we take a probe and we send it down and we see what the waters like next to this Canon. 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. You know they were all volunteers. I think there was only one individual who was getting paid. And so everybody was there because they wanted to be there and to get to work with a whole bunch of passionate people from walks of life that I don't get to interact with. You know, 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. And you know to sit at the same table with them as “the guy from the USGS” (U.S. Geological Survey) you know with my high-vis jacket and my expensive equipment and that kind of stuff. It felt cool. And it felt very legit even if the job itself was, you know, pretty simple in terms of what we normally do. The reach that the job had in that specific situation, I felt was really unique. So 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 as a Pathways intern. Working for the serving 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 learned the basics of surveying, and of map making and get to travel around New England as a whole. And go into wetlands in places that you've never really get to go whenever I had the chance when I wasn't out in the field, I would go around to the other projects in the Massachusetts office and just pester them and be like, “hey, is there anything I can help with? Like, do you need somebody to come out in the field? Do you need something to wash dishes in the lab?” And so 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 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, 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 GS5 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. so I think probably the most amazing experience I've had with the USGS was getting to work with the Rhode Island Maritime Archaeological Project. It is a non-profit 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 was getting water column data and so basically I gave a water quality instrument to a diver and they brought it around to various important points around the wreck. To figure out 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 an artifact up. You can put it in water that's similar to the water that was in before. So that it doesn't degrade further. So just by using, you know, 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. 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, I would say if you're still in college or in education, in 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 it's you know, I really can't praise the program enough. In terms of people who want to work for the federal government as a whole or the USGS specifically, just send out applications. Send out a lot of applications. Use the 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, you know just getting your foot in the door I feel is so important. Then you can kind of forge your own path once you're in.