An Everlasting Calling

student essay | by Michael Nadeau, PLS, CFedS

SPECIAL ESSAY SECTION: The Future of Surveying

Runner Up: Winner of a $500 cash award from PSM


This “Future of Surveying” essay by contest runner-up Michael Nadeau, PLS/CFedS, comes from the perspective of a non-traditional surveying student. With 18 years of experience, having been a past chair for the Utah Society of Professional Surveyors and having taught surveying classes himself, Michael has gone back to school to complete his four-year surveying degree (standing behind his advocacy for the same four-year surveying program). In his essay, which earns him a $500 award from PSM, Michael touches on the noble legacy of surveying and the need for educational resources to meet technological changes.

The profession of surveying dates back to biblical times and has a prestigious history. In America’s short history, many great men have had the pleasure of land surveying, including the obvious George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, as well as the sometimes-forgotten James Cook and Henry Thoreau. Many historic surveys have also been accomplished, including the Panama Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad. With this rich history, where do we go from here? Are surveyors a dying breed?

One thing is certain: Surveyors are not a dying breed, but rather a cog in a machine of an ever-evolving profession. There will always be a need to resolve boundary-related issues, and professionally licensed surveyors will be in high demand as we go forward into the future. The words of “protecting the public” will ring true more tomorrow than today or yesterday. It’s safe to say that as this profession proceeds, the need for licensed surveyors dedicated to protecting the public’s right, titles, and interests will always be at the forefront and heart of our profession. Whether in a court of law acting as an expert or researching deeds and physical evidence for retracing a 150-year-old boundary line for a new fence, professional surveyors will always have a calling.

If boundary experts will always be a necessity, then what part of the profession is evolving? Technology and how we use that technology is what evolves the surveying profession. Just as distance meters changed the world of surveying, so have robotic total stations and GPS. Now, as even newer technologies come to life and become readily available, such as machine guidance and lidar scanning, geomatics is evolving more into the technological mainstream. This technological evolution has driven up the number of tech-savvy surveyors across the globe. Currently, the cross training and dual emphasis of geomatics and GIS, for example, is much more widespread and accepted on today’s college campuses than even two years ago.

The next generation of surveyors has recognized this technological advancement and is jumping in the deep end of the pool, head first. Technologies related to the geosciences, such as GIS, are exploding. GIS, once considered a swear word by the older generation of surveyors, has been embraced by the new generation of surveyors who live and die with technology, such as their iPads that let them keep their LinkedIn account up to date. This new generation understands technology, wants to keep up with technology, and is even ready to welcome a merger with GIS professionals rather than push them away.

With this new breed of surveyors coming through the ranks, one thing is certain: The future of surveying depends on technology, and the new generation of surveyors is eager and hungry for this technology. The profession of surveying/geomatics is definitely headed for a boom, due in large part, to the advancement of technology and the use of that technology in surveying.

Michael Nadeau, PLS/CFedS, is a four-year student at Utah Valley University, Geomatics Program.

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