“One challenge we have created is talking too much about GIS, from a technical aspect versus telling the story to better stimulate participation and success. How do we get there? The GIS topic can be overwhelming, so we need to put discussions in a recognizable format and relatable story to achieve a broader project to open the door. I’d like to challenge myself, or anyone, to a meeting and not say “map” or “GIS” – I think it would be difficult,” says Megan Compton, Indiana state Geographic Information Officer (GIO).
Compton became the GIO of Indiana in 2018 and attended her first NSGIC conference in Kentucky the same year. “The first conference was eye opening – I was still relatively green in my job and almost immediately found the NSGIC membership to be all people I have been looking for, who share the understanding of what I’m involved with. With this group, I can step into a conversation without having to explain the background,” says Compton. Learning about opportunities to support advocacy and lead at the national level has helped her implement growth in her own organization.
As GIO, Compton enjoys focusing on community and collaboration. “This is a big role with a large responsibility associated with the robust statute. We have a small team, so it requires effective coordination with multiple agencies to provide joint support. There is great collaboration with local governments, which is rewarding to be a part of. It is great to have the ability to reach out to other experts and openly share knowledge,” says Compton. “The people I work with are amazing.”
The biggest success related to GIS in Indiana, says Compton, is the statewide data sharing project, launched in 2007, which has allowed them to stand behind open data.
“The amount of coordination & collaboration across the state has been exceptionally rewarding … involving non-profits, universities, businesses, and all levels of government, who have all demonstrated a significant willingness to come together and innovate at the holistic level,” she says.
GIOs rely on collaborators to support various efforts. Compton gave special recognition to Charlene Avey, who works closely with the statewide data harvest. Avey, retired, still helps coordinate with local entities to drive collaboration and compile data in standard format across local governments. She volunteers in a technical capacity to ensure proper data alignment across counties. Compton also mentioned Chris Morse, representative from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the resident lidar expert, as the key person for the success of Indiana’s 3DEP project.
Outside of work, Compton prioritizes family time and traveling with her two young children. She enjoys fitness as a way to decompress from the rigors of the job – she is an avid cyclist (both mountain biking and road cycling) and has recently gotten into running and adventure races.