Cartographer: Nathaniel Kelso

Cartographer: Nathaniel Kelso

Nathaniel Kelso is a cartographer for the Washington Post.

Grades

6 - 12+

Subjects

English Language Arts, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Geography

EARLY WORK

During his childhood, Nathaniel traveled up and down the West Coast with his family, which helped spur an interest in geography. “We took a bunch of trips in the summertime to national parks and the American West,” he says.

After high school, Nathaniel worked for the Redwood Community Action Agency in his hometown of Eureka, California, where he worked on a project that mapped local bicycle routes. “It’s one thing to look at a map when you are on a trip and do some route planning, but it’s a total different experience to make that map and share it with other people,” he says.

While attending Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, Nathaniel took anthropology and computer science classes before majoring in geography. “The last couple of years I honed in on geography and cartography specifically, kind of visually communicating geographic concepts,” he says.

MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK

“It’s exciting to figure a topic out and then help other people understand that topic by showing them the spatial patterns on a map. A map, like a picture, is worth a thousand words. It’s a really powerful way for me here at the Washington Post to help the reporters and editors get their stories across. You can say something in so many words, but if it’s accompanied by a visual executive summary of the same thing it goes a long way in helping the reader comprehend the story at hand.”

MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK

Deadline pressure. “I work in a deadline environment, so there is a very quick turnaround time. Probably the most maps I’ve made in a day are seven, where [I was] just cranking a map out every hour.”

HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?

“Cultural geography is about people and place, and physical geography is about nature and place.”

GEO-CONNECTION

Nathaniel says most of his work at the Washington Post is related to geography. “I make maps, so every day it’s about geography,” he says.

As a cartographer at the Washington Post, Nathaniel utilizes the latest technology related to geography. “When I draw a map, we are using databases that are in a geographic information system (GIS),” he says. “That kind of computer technology allows me to make maps quicker and more accurately and more consistently.”

SO, YOU WANT TO BE A . . . CARTOGRAPHER

Nathaniel suggests taking an Introduction to Cultural Geography course, an Introduction to Physical Geography course, or a Global Awareness course at your local college or university. “All basic 101 classes give different angles into geography,” he says. “They’ll either whet your appetite or satisfy your curiosity.”

GET INVOLVED

Nathaniel recommends that you go geocaching, a game where you use GPS coordinates to locate and hide containers. “You are getting out of your house exploring,” he says of geocaching. “Geography is about exploring.”

Go to http://www.geocaching.com to learn more about geocaching.

Media Credits

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Writer
Stuart Thornton,
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West,
Source
Chesapeake Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge: Public Awareness and Response (CSSPAR), Chesapeake Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge: Public Awareness and Response (CSSPAR)
Producer
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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