Jana Kaeppler - GIS Officer at Mackenzie District Council

Profile - Jana Kaeppler

Jana Kaeppler photo


Caption: Jana getting to know the MacKenzie District better on a climbing trip up Aoraki Mt Cook.

How long have you been doing your current job, and what you do?

Since September 2012 I have been working as a GIS Officer for the Mackenzie District Council in Fairlie, a rural area in Canterbury in the South Island. It has been a challenging and busy role from day one. I’ve been developing internal and external web map applications, and I’m working on a brand new cemetery map viewer complete with headstone information and photos. I’m also working on a small 3D project modeling the proposed developments in the Tekapo Village Centre as a basis for viewshaft analysis later on. And last but not least there is data management work including the establishment and maintenance of a core GIS database for Council that fills my days.

What made you want to work in the spatial sciences?

Being an outdoors person I have always been curious about the elements that form the environment we are living in, and the interrelationships between them. This part of GIS is called GIS analysis or GIS modelling – and it involves looking at the geo-components that form our environment and the impacts and alterations that can change this environment. The visualisation/mapping of the results is the real fun part of it and can reveal a few surprises! I have always been interested in maps - I think they are a great way of explaining our complex world to others.

How did you first get involved in the spatial sciences?

I was studying towards my postgraduate degree in GIS the year after the devastating floods in Middle Europe in 2002. I worked at the Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany at the time and performed GIS-supported investigations in the field of flood protection and Integrated Watershed Management of the Saale River.

What made you want to move to New Zealand?

That’s too private :)

What did you study and how did it help you get to where you are now?

My academic background is in Physical Geography and GIS. It gave me a solid foundation and knowledge on our world’s ecosystems and the things that make our world go round. My GIS skills help me to put spatial data to action and to visualize the results in form of maps, models or web map applications.

What is the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?

I have worked in a whole range of jobs and positions and always enjoyed the challenges that came with each singe one of them.
One of my projects when I still lived in Northern Queensland/Australia was to model bushfire hazard for North Queensland, an area almost exactly the size of Germany. I learned about fire behaviour, conditions that effect fire severity and flammability of the plants in North Queensland. I also had the opportunity to train up as a volunteer fire fighter and got to experience bush fires first hand, which helped my modeling. The project became a real success for the company I worked for and the data is still used to date and incorporated in other ongoing bushfire related projects.

What do you like most about New Zealand?

As an outdoors person I like New Zealand’s pristine landscapes, the close proximity of alpine and costal environments, the wild weather and the clear seas and rivers – it’s just one big play ground.

Professionally I like that our relatively small New Zealand GIS community is like a big family – guards-down constructive, helping each other and working together on great spatial ideas for the future.

What advice would you give anyone considering a move to New Zealand?

While New Zealand might not be the country to save up a fortune, you might have the opportunity to push some big ideas without the big bureaucratic road blocks you possibly experienced - like in some places in Europe. New Zealand is an innovative little country and people strive for the realization of their ideas and satisfaction on the job while maintaining a healthy work – life balance.

Last but not least – “four seasons in a day” is definitely a reality in New Zealand. You might want to buy yourself a nice warm down jacket to retreat into on a cool day or in case you were not lucky enough to find yourself in one of these nice double glazed insulated modern homes.