Meet Tanner Jones, the newest member to the Illinois State Water Survey. Tanner works to visualize and better understand water usage across Illinois. When he's not studying one of the world's most valuable resources, he enjoys chasing storms, volunteering with his church, and serving his community.
He recently answered some questions about his work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your role at PRI.
I have grown up in and been around South-Central Illinois my whole life. I specialize in all things Geography from environmental and human sciences to the visualization software that help understand the world better. I love to storm chase when possible and enjoy volunteering with my church and several not-for-profits around the community I live in. I currently live with my wife, two dogs, and, depending on when you are reading this, our first child! At PRI, I work with the Illinois Water Inventory Program (IWIP), specifically on the irrigation side to find new ways to collect water usage figures that can help us understand the water status and water needs around the state and work on the data side to pair irrigator information with the information existing in the Water Survey. I also like that I am helping to communicate further analysis to the general public.
What drew you to the scientific field?
I have been interested in numerous science fields for as long as I have been able to understand that there are a trillion different processes always happening simultaneously to make our world work the way it does! I’ve always had a special affinity for the connection between humans and the environment, which puts my current role right in that sweet spot as I get to see how water usage has changed over time, especially within the agricultural community. I love getting to discover new things!
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career/your program (IWIP)/your current project?
The challenges that I work through most often seem to be involving the historical procedures of IWIP and the survey. I’m often looking through historical documents which may require formats that were used decades ago. Procedures have evolved over time as well and at times the only way to move forward is by understanding the past few sets of procedures and why they were implemented.
What is one surprising fact about water usage in Illinois?
I would have assumed every municipality in a 30 mile radius of Lake Michigan would have been pulling water from it from the start, but as it turns out, many still aren’t to this day.
What has been the most enjoyable part of your current or past jobs?
I’ve enjoyed the culture that is present at the water survey. Despite the addition of hybrid or remote schedules, I know when I come into the office that I will be greeted with friendly faces. There is a significant effort to provide learning and fun networking opportunities within the Water Survey and overall PRI as well.
What advice would you give to those just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and make your workspace and work practices your own. The media, including social media, plays off our fears of acceptance in that we have to put on this fake face to be successful in the workplace, and that is exhausting. People aren’t as polarized and politically charged as they are made out to be, and if you are respectful of others, you can have confidence in being yourself around them.