GHA Connections: Rebecca Joas


Rebecca Joas, a GIS Analyst and drone pilot in Gewalt Hamilton Associate Inc.’s (GHA) Geospatial Division, embodies a unique blend of professional acumen and love for the outdoors. Her journey at GHA reflects a seamless alignment of her affinity for nature with her GIS mapping and analysis skills.

Preferring the tranquility of country life over the bustle of the city, Rebecca found a perfect fit in GHA’s small company atmosphere. Rebecca shares, “GHA might be big, but it feels like a close community where everyone’s role is significant.” This atmosphere resonated with her lifestyle and provided a platform where her passion for the environment and GIS expertise could flourish together.

In her personal life, Rebecca skillfully mixes her professional expertise with an appreciation for nature. She finds joy and challenge on the soccer field, where playing defense sharpens her strategic thinking and teamwork skills. “Soccer is more than just a game; it’s about working together and using foresight,” Rebecca says. “Which I guess is similar to my GIS work, if you think about it,” she adds with a smile.

Her connection with nature extends beyond the soccer field. Alongside her sister, Rebecca enjoys exploring the diverse landscapes of Chicago, finding solace and inspiration in the city’s unique green spaces. This adventurous spirit is highlighted by her four-day backpacking excursion in Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains, an experience that she describes as “transformative and inspiring.”

It’s not just grand adventures fuel Rebecca’s love of the wilderness. Each day after work, she takes to the woods for hikes with her Husky, an activity she cherishes. “These hikes are my daily reset, a chance to connect with nature and clear my mind,” she shares.

These personal pursuits reflect a deep-rooted passion for the environment, a trait that naturally influences her professional life at GHA. Rebecca’s outdoor activities serve as a source of creativity and perspective, complementing her work in the Geospatial Division. She explains, “Being outdoors sharpens my perspective, especially in GIS. It’s about understanding the environment in a comprehensive and complete way.” This interest in the environment and keen observation skills paved the way for her next venture: becoming a skilled drone pilot at GHA.

Rebecca Joas’ path to becoming a drone pilot at GHA began at Carthage College, where her coursework in drone technology laid the foundation for her future. Greg Newton, Director of Geospatial Services, highlights Rebecca’s impact: “Rebecca’s proficiency as a drone pilot is a key component in the strategic growth of our division. Her creative approach is integral as we evolve, integrating specialized skills into a broader, more collaborative framework that pushes the boundaries of geospatial technology.”


Rebecca leans against a GHA truck while operating a drone to capture pre-construction photos for Benard Drive in Buffalo Grove, IL
Rebecca uses a drone to capture pre-construction photos for Benard Drive in Buffalo Grove, IL

As a drone pilot, Rebecca has expanded her scope beyond traditional GIS tasks. Her expertise in drone operation has provided valuable insights into the progress and environmental impact of projects across all of GHA’s service lines. “Operating drones has given me a unique perspective on our environmental and infrastructure projects, allowing me to oversee their progress comprehensively. It’s fascinating to see our dedication to environmental preservation come to life from above.”

Rebecca’s extensive GIS knowledge led to her pivotal role in GHA’s collaboration with the Village of Round Lake Beach, where she expertly blends technical proficiency with an acute understanding of local community needs. “Facing new challenges and being able to provide solutions is incredibly fulfilling,” she comments. Her involvement is key in advancing community infrastructure, where she manages essential data for fire hydrant and grease trap inspections.

Her responsibilities within Round Lake Beach have expanded to include the local police and public works departments, highlighting the critical role of GIS in enhancing public safety and operational efficiency. “Our GIS services have evolved to meet diverse needs, from mapping areas for enhanced safety measures to charting the village’s summer mowing routes,” Rebecca shares. These contributions not only demonstrate the adaptability of GIS technology but also reflect her dedication to using her expertise for significant community impact. Her work in Round Lake Beach is a prime example of how GIS can be effectively utilized to address and resolve local concerns, reinforcing the value of GIS services in community development and maintenance.

Rebecca’s early career experiences played a key role in developing her GIS expertise. During her time at Carthage College, she learned about survey work for a class that involved detailed mapping of water utilities. This project provided her with foundational skills in GIS applications.

It was during a summer project in the Village of Orland Park that Rebecca’s capabilities were further refined. This project involved carefully mapping sidewalk defects, leading to the development of a comprehensive improvement plan. Rebecca’s work highlighted the critical role of GIS in urban planning and infrastructure management.

Rebecca’s journey at GHA exemplifies the transformative impact of GIS, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and community benefits. Her collaborative efforts with local authorities in Round Lake Beach highlight the expanding role of GIS in community development. “Seeing the real-world applications of our GIS work in enhancing community life is incredibly rewarding,” Rebecca remarks. “It’s a testament to the potential of what we can achieve at GHA.” Her story is not just one of personal growth but also a testament to GHA’s commitment to delivering environmentally conscious, innovative solutions to the communities we serve.