From Underground into the Future

By now you’ve probably noticed some changes here at Professional Surveyor Magazine, one of which is me as editor at large.  With the rest of the PSM staff, I am committed to building upon a solid foundation from which we can grow in new directions, while focusing on being a valued resource for you.  New directions imply change—something we all hear a lot about these days and that we’ll explore in this and future editions.

First, permit me a quick personal introduction.  Simply put, I’m a land surveyor—just like most of you.  My background is primarily in what might be termed “general” land surveying (there’s only so much wild and crazy to go around here in Maryland!), and I’ve had some strong mentors and colleagues.  I have always considered myself lucky to be between survey generations; I learned the ropes using “old school” methods and equipment, but I am also young enough to embrace the technology explosion that is occurring in surveying.  I strive to stay informed, but there is one thing I’ve learned about this profession: there is always something new to learn.  That’s something I look forward to in my new role here: an opportunity to learn and grow, right along with you.

Back in October we ran an article by Al Butler titled, “You Won’t Like This,” which we knew was rather controversial.  Butler is a GIS professional, and the article, as you may recall, is somewhat critical of surveying.  He even went so far as to say, “The surveying profession no longer exists.”  That’s a pretty strong statement considering it appeared in a publication titled Professional Surveyor Magazine, but it reflects the fact that the profession is, indeed, changing.  Interestingly, we received several letters to the editor in support of the article but just one at odds: a letter from Mike Hoover, who clearly took issue with the article and submitted his opinions in defense of the profession. His letter appears in this issue.

For my part, I find merit in both perspectives, up to a point.  There’s no denying the profession is changing, and that brings both good and bad.  Butler puts forth the argument that “surveying has been absorbed into something much larger: the geospatial profession.”  That process may not be complete, but to a large extent he’s right.  And while we may not like that fact, we should have the foresight to acknowledge it and look for the opportunities this situation presents.  However, the true core of the profession, land surveying, is not—and likely never will be—dead.  People have forecasted its demise before, and Hoover presents yet another fine argument that they have yet to be correct.

On our cover this month is Chilean miner and surveyor, Luis Urzua, upon his rescue from the Copiapo mining accident that held the world spellbound for over two months last year.  We are fortunate to feature our exclusive interview with Urzua this month in which he recounts his role in a unique event that hopefully none of us will ever have to endure.We are all being challenged these days, maybe not for our lives as Mr. Urzua was, but we can learn from his example of integrity, leadership, and resourcefulness. I’m here to share ideas with you, converse, and learn together as we move the profession into an uncertain—yet ever promising—future.

Until next time,

About the Author

  • TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier is the magazine's editor for surveying and has more than 20 years experience in the surveying profession, currently as senior land surveyor for VanMar Associates in Mt. Airy, Md. He also worked in survey equipment sales for Loyola Spatial Systems, now part of Leica Geosystems. He earned a bachelor of sciences degree in business at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He is married and has two daughters. Frazier can be reached at

» Back to our February 2011 Issue