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Tim Anderson

Senior Water Resources Engineer, GIS Coordinator

Tim with his wife at Pine Butte Swamp Preserve in Montana
Tim in the Beartooth Mountains in Montana
Tim in his backyard “jungle”
Tim Anderson has a long-standing soft spot for maps and problem solving, but admits his moving into geographic information systems (GIS) resulted—quite by accident—from meeting the right people at the right time.

“I started out as a licensed civil engineer and worked on watershed management plans and modeling,” said Tim, “but there was a certain frustration to the way data was developed for modeling. Essentially, everything was measured and drawn up by hand. It was time-consuming and inefficient.”

An early advocate for moving these efforts from the light table to the computer screen, Tim was introduced to GIS and immediately sold, but the GIS software first introduced at Barr was hard to use and fairly limited.

“None of us really liked it,” said Tim. “Five years later, we made the switch to Esri GIS. It took some time to win people over, especially after the problems with the previous software, but GIS is a powerful tool. When they saw what it could do, their reaction was ‘wow.’”

Since then, GIS has been used on an ever-widening range of projects—from modeling deposition in tailings basins and locating potential sites for a major industrial facility to analyzing linear transmission, gas, and fiber-optic corridors.

“I’ve used GIS to process data to estimate land impacts and the cost of possible road and railroad raises,” said Tim, “but I’ve also used it more recently to help delineate flood inundation for 200 miles of river.”

Beyond the sheer power and flexibility of GIS, Tim loves to develop systems that increase its efficiency and make it easier for staff to use.

“I’ve written scripts to automate common tasks,” said Tim. “That saves us time and our clients’ money. We’re now moving into online mapping, which can provide real-time entry of data and immediate access to maps.”

Still, Tim has a fondness for paper maps.

“On road trips, I like to bring old-fashioned folded maps—the kind you get from state tourism offices,” said Tim. “There’s just something about them. They have so much detail and interesting information about places you can visit.”

When he’s not on a road trip out West—Montana is his favorite locale—Tim enjoys gardening and landscaping his yard.

“My yard is mostly native vegetation with about 150 different species,” said Tim. “I also collect water using rain barrels and even have a rainwater garden to infiltrate stormwater.”