Hydrogeologist Sarah Arpin joins KGS Water Resources Section
Sarah Arpin, who was hired by KGS in February to manage the Kentucky Groundwater Data Repository, says she was first introduced to the outdoors when she went fishing and camping with family members during her high school years in Salina, Kansas. She would eventually become passionate about field work, gathering data, and especially studying caves during college and her early career.
Arpin majored in political science at Creighton University in Nebraska with plans to earn a law degree and practice environmental law. But during her undergraduate years, her environmental interests grew while the law interest faded. Just after finishing her bachelor’s degree, she applied for a weeklong Volunteer Vacation, sponsored by the American Hiking Society, at her parents’ urging. She was sent to Mammoth Cave, where she worked with other volunteers on the park’s trails and was introduced to caving. At the end of the week, she asked to continue as a volunteer at the national park and stayed for an additional year, helping to monitor and inventory cultural, biological, cave, and karst features.
She continued to work for the National Park Service at Mesa Verde in Colorado and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Wanting to become involved in more scientific research, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in geoscience at Western Kentucky University. Working with WKU’s WATERS Laboratory and the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, she gathered and analyzed water samples, set up cave data-loggers, and did other research. Arpin returned to WKU to earn a GIS certificate while also working as a wellsite geologist for Columbine Logging in the Williston Basin of North Dakota. She participated in cave survey and mapping expeditions to Quintana Roo, Mexico, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Montana before applying for the KGS position.
She is active with the Kentucky Speleological Survey, where she serves as a board member and chairs the Data Access Committee. “I joined KSS because the organization helped me so much with my graduate thesis work by granting my request for data,” Arpin says. “I saw my involvement in the organization as a way to fulfill the same goals I have for my new KGS position: gathering and disseminating data for the advancement of scientific knowledge and the societal benefits it can provide.”
The repository manager position opened with the retirement of Bart Davidson, and Arpin was hired in February. Her other duties will include assisting with a number of ongoing projects in the Water Resources Section to characterize Kentucky’s groundwater and aquifers.
But Arpin doesn’t plan to leave caving behind. “Caving is a passion; it is fun, but I do it for a purpose, like mapping or monitoring groundwater quality. I also want to do something that can help people and society. I pursued this position to help make a difference.” She noted how important good data is today and what can be done with it in GIS applications that convert raw data into visual graphics and pictures. “Using visualization rather than simply numbers, you can reach more people. I hope we can make our important groundwater information more accessible to a broader range of people who use this important resource or are affected by it.”