#LifeatStewart / National Surveyors Week: A Day in the Life of a Stewart Surveyor

March 19th / 2020

National Surveyors Week: A Day in the Life of a Stewart Surveyor

Check out the video above to live A Day in the Life of a Stewart Surveyor!

Written by Keegan Lumley, Geomatics Field Supervisor in Wilmington, NC

Sometimes, you just can’t predict what the workday holds in store. On this late winter day, I’m gearing up to head out for surveying work on a “Find it – Fix it” project.

This scope is fairly simple: a survey of three corridors which the client plans to clear for an access to a number of manholes and then a separate phase that requires only the top rim northing easting and elevation to be captured, as well as invert elevations. The survey is to be conducted within an area that’s only about 280 feet in length and approximately 50 feet in width, so it shouldn’t involve too much traipsing through the woods.

The 3 corridors are located along an existing easement and a parcel of land that is owned by the City of Wilmington. The areas are within tree cover, so that fact will steer some of the planning of the survey.

Reconnaissance: As a surveyor, reconnaissance must take place at the beginning of a job before the initial field day can happen. Looking up the project area on Google Earth, I can get an idea of what to expect on site before I leave the office. Researching the nearest NGS monument is critical and finding a monument that falls under the required order of accuracy within the scope can narrow down the list by a large margin.

Field Notes and Sketches: The purpose of keeping quality field notes and sketches goes far beyond just “because it is what you have to do.” Field notes and sketches can be used in a court of law to prove whether appropriate actions were taken. They should be clear and precise so anyone can pick up a set of notes or a sketch and understand the information that is conveyed.

Once we’ve completed the reconnaissance planning and set ourselves up to create good documentation, the next step is to set the GPS control.

Setting GPS control: These first stages in setting control can determine the outcome of the project in the long run. Coverage of trees and power lines can cause a disruption in satellite signal that may cause inaccurate positioning or the inability to initialize in that area. We set our GPS control points in “pairs” so that we always have a station setup and a backsight to establish a baseline.

The Traverse: The next step is to run a traverse. There are two types of traverses that we use: a closed loop traverse and a closed connection traverse. A closed loop traverse is starting on two known points and coming back to those two points to close out.  A closed connection traverse is starting on two known points and ending on a different pair of two known points. By traversing in these methods, it allows both the field crew and office staff to check the accuracy of the work that is performed. This helps to minimize errors because, like all things in our industry, there is a standard and we always strive to go farther than the minimum requirements.

Topographic Survey: The scope of services that gets submitted with the proposal is what drives the topographic suryey (topo). Everything that needs to be captured in the field and every exclusion will be stated in the scope and topo is an extremely crucial portion of the entire project. There will always be obstacles and there is always a work around to overcome those obstacles. That’s part of the fun of being a surveyor.

Field Data Downloads/Edits: After a long day of work, it’s time to download the data from the day and upload everything to the appropriate project folder so the office team can get started. From the data collector, we export raw data files and sometimes text files if necessary. The office crew then checks make sure that we are covering all bases to try to achieve total accuracy.

Surveyors know it’s rare to have two days that are the same in our field. Since each project scope is different, we find ourselves at all types of project sites, but the end result is always to capture accurate base information that will start the project off on the right foot.

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