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Mapping the Public's Right of Way to Ocean Waters in NJ

Jamie Donatiello found  geography studies a true reflection of 'Jersey Roots, Global Reach'


Sometimes all it takes is one course to awaken a student to their calling.

It was during Jamie Donatiello’s first year at Rutgers when she enrolled in a course called Space, Place and Location.

“I was a little lost–I had no idea what I was going to major in,” says the Nutley native and School of Arts and Sciences senior. “But the course sounded intriguing so I signed up for it.’’

To her surprise, the class, offered by the Department of Geography, covered a remarkable array of issues: language, religion, development, migration and the distribution of power.
Donatiello signed up for more geography courses, and soon she was hooked. She loved the field’s global focus – its ability to examine the experiences, living conditions, and culture of people all over the world. And she also liked the fact she could learn hands-on skills, including working with digital mapping technology, like Geographic Information System, or GIS.

“At one point, I knew this is what I want to do.” she said. “There was such a rich multitude of issues that geography looks at. It opens up your mind to the wider world.”

In her final year, however, she has brought the focus of her knowledge back home to New Jersey and New York, applying her skills to two quintessentially regional issues.

First, as an intern at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Donatiello helped develop a comprehensive, data-rich map detailing access points to the ocean along the state’s coastline.

Working with the Division of Coastal Land Use Planning, Donatiello employed GIS technology to expand the scope of the public data so that it provided a wealth of previously unavailable information. When the project is completed, users can locate access points up and down the coast and learn whether a particular point is accessible to the disabled, or has public restrooms, or whether there’s a fee.

“The division has never really incorporated this level of detail before,” Donatiello said. “People will be able to download it rather than having to go there or contact the division.”

Donatiello also delved into the cutting-edge field of ‘interactive community mapping’ as an intern at the New Brunswick firm Vertices, where she worked on a project examining graffiti occurrence and cleanup in New York City. She tracked the incidence of graffiti and the city’s responses on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level.

As a geography major, Donatiello opted for the geographical techniques track, which provided her extensive background with GIS technologies - skills which she applied at both her internships.

Looking back on her undergraduate years, Donatiello described it as two parallel, complementary experiences: Her academic ‘home’ in geography with its friendly, supportive ethos, and the larger Rutgers community where she joined a sorority and played softball.

“It worked out so well,” she said. “Rutgers offers so many possibilities, but I always had my niche in geography.”



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