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College of A&GS Student Stories

Katherine Ho, Senior GIS Major


Katherine Ho has always enjoyed maps. Throughout her childhood, she and her family visited multiple national parks in the western half of the United States. Ho recalls receiving maps of these parks at each stop, and as a "really nerdy kid" she was also drawn to the maps in the "The Lord of the Rings."

While taking a geographic information science course as an elective at the University of Oklahoma, Ho realized there was an opportunity for her to apply this interest to her career and switched her major to GIS.

"I didn't ever know that it could be a career, and I just thought it was a fun thing that I liked," Ho said. "It was really nice that GIS course happened to be one of the classes I took."

In this major, which is located within the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, Ho learns how to use spatial data to help make decisions. For example, someone with a GIS degree might help a restaurant decide where to open a new location by mapping out current locations and looking at some demographics, she said.

This year, Ho serves as the president of the OU GIS club, and she has also worked at the Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling, or CASS, since October. One aspect Ho enjoys is that it is an interdisciplinary research organization, meaning people from across all different majors contribute to the work. Ho works under Dr. Laura Alvarez on hydrology-based research, and one of the other students she works closely with is a computer engineering major. The organization also utilizes drones for atmospheric monitoring projects, so Ho has been exposed to that area of science as well.

"It's really a mixed bag of different perspectives and skills, so it's cool to work with other people and see what they're doing," Ho explained. "I didn't know anything about drones or anything before I started working there, so it's been a crash course to learn how drones work and how the sensing process works, but it's been super fun."

The senior from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, will start OU's Master of Science in geography program next fall and wants to research natural resource management. She said this interest also stems from her family's national park trips.

"Just being exposed to that a lot as a child and doing all the hiking and seeing the natural environment made a big impact on me," Ho shared. "I think they're really important and as much as we can protect but still allow people to see and learn from all of this country's natural resources would be really great."

Kyle Mattingly, Environmental Sustainability Planning & Management Major

Parker Fleming, Master's Student in Geography


Small waterways dotted through Oklahoma are home to a diverse set of creatures, but culverts may pose a problem for fish trying to sustain their population. During the summer of 2018, Master's student Parker Fleming slugged tirelessly through 68 streams, all to keep our east Oklahoma fish swimming. He has a special affinity towards fish and is passionate about doing sampling and research.
    Fleming describes his work as “biogeography” a subfield that focuses on the geographical distribution of plants and animals. During his senior year, Fleming applied to work with professor Dr. Thomas Neeson, an OU geography professor who also has a biology degree and specializes in conservation biology. Dr. Neeson received a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to study “the effects of road culverts and different types of road barriers on fish populations across eastern Oklahoma” says Fleming. “There is a lack of a data set and a lack of fish.” The main concern is that fish have to travel upstream to reproduce in the spring, so if these culverts are blocking their path it may uncover why there is a declining fish population.
    Properly made culverts are structures that allow water to flow under a road, railroad, trail, or other obstruction. Because east Oklahoma is home to logging and farming, some culverts are makeshift and may just be large concrete slabs without proper openings. Even good culverts don’t guarantee the rivers and streams underneath are thriving. In some cases, to try and rectify slowed water velocity, small waterfalls are designed in the culverts that prevent fish from swimming back upstream to spawn.
    From May to August, Fleming and his team of two undergraduates drove across the state to analyze the culverts by collecting various pieces of information. They were analyzing the dimensions of the culverts, stream width, obstructions, and water velocity upstream and downstream. They would also sample fish by scooping a large net through the water, counting how many fish they caught, the number of different species, and the length of each fish. Another part of the project was a “mark and recapture study” where they tagged about 50 fish at each site on one side of the culvert with a visible tag in their dorsal fin.Then they would revisit the area and sample again on the opposite side of the culvert to see if any fish with the tags had made it accross.
    Over the next year Fleming will analyze the data collected and determine conclusions on how the culverts are functioning. By doing this study and developing a dataset Fleming and Dr. Neeson will be able to report to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife any culverts that should be rebuilt by public works projects.

Story written by Kelly Jones

Megan McDaniels, Geography Alumna


Megan McDaniels graduated from OU in 2017 with a B.A. in Geography.

Megan grew up in Owasso and achieved salutatorian at Oologah-Talala High School. When she was 15 she joined her school's golf team and discovered her passion for the sport. "I fell in love quickly but practiced like crazy because I stunk at first," joked McDaniels. She chose OU because of the scholarships and the opportunity to be involved in activities such as the President's Community Scholars, a program aimed at immersing new freshman into college life through community service, outreach, mentoring, and more. She was also active in her sorority, which participated in many philanthropic and fundraising events over the years.

During her time at OU, McDaniels switched majors multiple times. Her path meandered through pre-nursing, international business, health and exercise science, and international security studies. She happened to take a class with retired geography Professor, Fred Shelley, and she cites him as the main reason for switching to a geography degree. "I had always had a fascination with geography, I just didn't know much about the phenominal program until my junior year at OU," said McDaniels. "Once I officially became part of the program, I realized how I should have been there the entire time."

While focusing on her studies and other activities, McDaniels continued golf as a hobby. She helped establish and govern the OU golf club team in 2014. Over her years at the university the team grew and regularly traveled to compete against other club teams in the region. After graduation, McDaniels was able to return to her passion and turn it into a career.

McDaniels said, "It's super rare for girls to work in golf management," and she feels lucky for the opportunity. She is currently an assistant golf professional at Bailey Ranch Golf Club in Owasso, Oklahoma. No two days are alike working at the Club. Her duties include sales and customer service in the Pro Shop, tournament operations, as well as coaching and teaching high school golfers. This past year, she was the varsity golf coach for boys and girls at the Rejoice Christian High School. The boys team improved their scores at almost every tournament of the season and made it to regionals. The girls team, which consisted of only four girls, qualified for the state golf tournament and their top player placed second at that event.

She is enrolled in the PGA's (Professional Golf Association's) Professional Golf Management program. It typically takes three or four years to complete it and become a PGA member. "The fact that I already have a bachelor's degree will help to decrease that time frame" said McDaniels. This is a rigorous educational program for aspiring golf professionals with focus on the people, the business, and the game of golf. There are a variety of courses within this program, from business and customer relations, to turfgrass management and advanced teaching and clubfitting. She travels to Port St. Lucie, Florida once a year for PGA seminars. This year 150 young aspiring professionals, about 10 of whom were women, gathered from around the country to learn the finer points of golf management.

This past year she played in tournaments around Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Her favorite golf course so far is the Patriot in Oklahoma, but one day she hopes to play at St. Andrews Links in the UK or Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, where 2018 Masters were held. Her sports idol is Justin Thomas, one of golf's latest skyrocketing superstars. McDaniels goal is to be a Director of Golf and manage a course one day. For now she is extremely happy at Bailey Ranch Golf Course, mostly "because of the people who are genuine and kind," said McDaniels. She also likes that she gets to meet many different kinds of people of all ages, and it doesn't hurt that she can hang out with the Club's chocolate lab, Maggie, whenever she wants.

Story written by Kelly Jones