Paul Churchyard: Virtually Traveling the Globe to Make Maps

Earth Science and Geography Major
Mount Airy, Md.


Paul Churchyard has traveled all over the country this summer without leaving his office.

That’s because the 19-year-old worked on mapping trails for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s website The Washington, D.C., nonprofit has been vital in helping convert unused railroads into recreational trails, including the Great Allegheny Passage in Frostburg.

“It's a dream internship that allowed me to apply my knowledge in the practical sense,” he said.

This summer, he mapped trails in several states, including the Green Circle Trail in Wisconsin and the C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail in Minnesota, part of an extensive snowmobile trail network.

“I look at satellite imagery and compile information from other sources to create digital maps of existing trails and new trails,” Churchyard said.

Churchyard’s work included layering the satellite imagery with waypoints, such as parking lots and restrooms, and using Google Maps Streetview to create the digital map.

He had a great time diving into online maps and exploring places he’s never been, finding a way to navigate areas to help others.

He’s glad he decided to do an internship that extends the learning in the classroom.

“You really need to do something like this to get a view of how you’re actually using what you’re learning in the classroom and apply it to the real world,” Churchyard said.

The internship gave him a sense of the type of workload and constraints he’d face in a full-time job, as well as what it would be like to continue to take classes with a career. That’s because he was also part of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC), where every week he would take a forensic psychology course and receive advising and career advice.

“One of the assignments required us to do two informational interviews with people in D.C. within our field,” Churchyard said. “It was a good experience for networking and to get to know people in the field whom you can lean on in the future.”

Paul Churchyard

Paul Churchyard