Introducing Timothy J. Prestby, 2021 Damon Anderson Memorial Scholarship Winner

Posted By: Jeremiah Erickson Awards & Recognition , Community ,

Timothy Prestby (PRESS-bee), is a recent graduate of University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW), who earned a B.S. in Cartography and Geographic Information Systems as an honors student, as well as a minor in environmental studies. Tim, a Suamico, Wisconsin native, is currently a graduate student at The Pennsylvania State University.

Tim is remembered from his time at UW not just because he was a top student, getting high marks, winning awards, and excelling in projects and research, but also for the impact he made in his work at the UW Cartography Lab. He turned other students on to Geography and sparked a passion that led others to follow in his footsteps and work there. Those that oversaw his work and taught him at UW offered their high praise noting that he is an advocate for cartography as an industry and field of study, and that he will have a long-lasting impact in the field of cartography.

I reached out to Tim, and he shared the following update on how his last semester went and how he utilized his scholarship:

My last semester was the most enjoyable of my graduate studies yet. I finally got to move out to State College, Pennsylvania—where Penn State is located. I have had the luxury of taking no classes the last semester; instead, I took full research credits to work on my thesis. My thesis is studying story maps—not the Esri product, but rather story maps as a concept theorized by cartographers to be maps that are centered around narratives and/or driving narratives. I am hoping to determine what design techniques are used by story maps so then future research can analyze the effects of these common techniques on the success of a story.

I have been really enjoying the analysis process as I am working with three former and current UW-Madison cartography students to help me conduct the research. I would not have been able to recruit these three students if I had not received the Damon Anderson Scholarship. I am so thankful for WLIA and the scholarship donor to pick me out of the many talented geographers out there.

I was able to present my initial findings at a conference in Italy before Omicron started to shut things down. It was an amazing experience as I was able to meet cartographers whose papers I have been reading for years. I also met a bunch of graduate students from various programs across Europe and made a ton of connections there.

Besides my thesis, I have a research position that partners with the Grozinger Lab, in the entomology department at Penn State. For this research position, I have been working on developing a map-based decision support tool, Beescape, for beekeepers, conservationists, and other relevant users to promote pollinator health. I’ll be leading a paper on a recent stakeholder workshop we conducted to inform the future design of the support tool.

Outside of academics, I have been active in the geography community at Penn State through two organizations: Supporting Women in Geography (SWIG), and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Center (UROC). As president of SWIG, it has been a pleasure hosting visiting scholars from diverse backgrounds and also events for geography undergraduate students to prepare them for graduate school, industry, and many other career paths. For UROC, I have helped coordinate getting undergraduates involved in research and am excited to start developing mentorship training to enrich UROC’s mission.

I sadly won’t be attending the WLIA conference because of the whole COVID-19 situation and the fact that I am in Pennsylvania right now. My biggest priority this semester is finishing my master’s paper by May so I am on track to advance onto my PhD that will also be at Penn State. I am super excited to start my dissertation which will look into the design characteristics and mechanisms that affect how people trust maps. I am very passionate about science communication and combating misinformation, so I hope my work will help contribute to a key challenge that scientific advancement faces.

I started a new hobby at Penn State by learning the martial art, Tang Soo Do. So far it has been a lot of fun. In my free time I have been reading a lot of fiction books—mostly sci-fi and fantasy, learning how to play some of my favorite classic rock songs on the guitar, and playing board games with friends.

Congratulations to Timothy J. Prestby on receiving the 2021 WLIA Damon Anderson Memorial Scholarship!