About Philip Riggs

It all started with a Commodore Vic 20 computer

Cartoon of Jake happily holding a Commodore Vic 20 computer.

My first computer was a Commodore Vic 20, and it was like magic to me. I started learning to program with its whopping 4kb of memory and no way to save my programs.

I was 15 years old and had no way to save any work, so to make the computer do anything I had to program it. That was the beginning of my fascination with writing programs to make the computer do things I wanted to do.

That fascination with technology, computers, and languages has been a guiding force throughout my career

In college, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. It was my first exposure to spreadsheets, word processing, and databases. But the skills I developed are extremely valuable in my data career.

In addition to the software I was exposed to in accounting, I learned how to organize, analyze, and communicate numbers. Even though I didn’t work a day as an accountant, searching for missing pennies, finding missing and transposed numbers, and checking numbers with multiple methods has been invaluable in my career of scientific data processing.

From accounting to scientific research

After graduating, I discovered a passion fly fishing. That led me to take courses in fisheries biology. My all-time favorite class was limnology—the study of freshwater lakes and streams. I loved the interactions between the chemistry, biology, and physical processes in the aquatic environment. 

The was the beginning of my career that has led me to work with scientists from many different disciplines: environmental engineering, geology, human and animal epidemiology, aquatic toxicology, wildlife biology, ecology, and groundwater hydrology.

Eventually I earned my M.S. and Ph.D. in GeoSpatial Science focusing on programming custom analyses. While I can still run GIS software, most of my work involves non-spatial data.

Throughout it all, I have continued to develop and refine my skills in data processing, analysis automation, and data communication

Some of the skills that I contribute are … 

Cartoon of Jake stretching a python by the neck with python having a stressed, surprised look.

I’ve been working with Python in research for over 10 years now. During that time, I’ve worked hard to gain control over the language.

  • Data processing with Alteryx. Alteryx is more than just a data processing tool, you build data workflows in a flowchart interface. The best things about Alteryx are that it lets me think about data processing at a higher level instead of low-level coding, and it lets me easily communicate and work with coworkers in a highly collaborative environment.
  • Data graphics and visualization using Tableau. Tableau is much more than a simple graphing program. It is the centerpiece of my data exploration and analysis processes.
  • Python programming to process, automate, build analytic tools, and to do many other data-related things. When Alteryx doesn’t have the tool, I fall back to my scripting experience.
  • GIS analysis and cartography.

These skills have been very valuable because scientists need to get research done

Often they get in a pickle dealing with multiple data sources and formats. 

I specialize in being able to join most any kind of data together for insights otherwise not possible, create custom scripts for analyses they would otherwise be unable to do, and help them communicate data ideas visually. I can take data from many different sources and merge it together to make it usable.

So, do I do research?

Not really, in that I don’t write grant proposals and focus on writing journal articles. I support research with my skills. I discovered during my career that I’m better with technology and computers than generating research questions and writing grant proposals.

Does this bother me? 

Not a bit! I’ve also found that it takes a team with many different skills and interests to come together to make a project happen. I contribute what I’m good at, others what they are good at.

Photo of Philip Riggs Ph.D. graduation with advisor Dr. Denis Dean.

Graduation with my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Denis Dean.

This focus also led me to a Ph.D. in GeoSpatial Science, but focused on writing custom analyses and data wrangling instead of being a lead researcher. This support focus let me develop Python programming skills, R skills, database interaction skills, data (and cartographic) visualization skills, plus presentation and writing skills.

My goal at work every day is to be a positive, creative force. 

Who has inspired me during my career?

I’m probably a bit odd, but my main inspirations have been Roy Underhill from Woodwright’s Shop for fun presentations that teach, Dr. James Schooley for showing me my abilities and building confidence inside me to get advanced degree, Pierre Capretz and his French in Action video series to demonstrate immersion in a topic, and Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics for learning marketing, teaching, and cartooning.

Photos of Philip.

What are my hobbies?

My main hobbies are fly fishing and fly tying, drawing cartoons, hiking, especially to alpine streams and lakes, and traveling to Europe—good food, beautiful architecture, art museums, lots of walking.

I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, because it’s close to the Rocky Mountains and fly fishing, plus it’s just a great city to live in with lots of trails and paths for bicycling and walking. In fact, fly fishing has led to some great experiences. While most fly fishers seem to talk about the fish they catch, my stories seem to involve running into bears, bison, and moose, dodging lightening storms, mountain goating down the side of mountains, and others.

The only negative about fly fishing is that the alpine season is just too short. Most of the year my favorite lakes and streams are under snow and ice. I love the few months in summer, but wish I had more months. 

During early spring and late fall I also like going to ponds and fly fishing for bluegill and sunfish. 

What about the cartoons?

Photo of Philip Riggs in front of a wall-full of cartoons he's drawn.

I draw cartoons for this site, and other places. But I enjoy drawing cartoons about life and things that happen to me, too.

I’ve always dreamed of drawing cartoons. Growing up, I loved Peanuts, Frank & Ernest, The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, and Family Circus. But I never learned to draw.

I finally took a cartooning course with Sean D’Souza and was drawing cartoons I loved within a year. Now I keep trying to improve and have fun.

So, who is Philip?

I’m a creative problem solver, love to learn, and love to make people laugh—Curious George and Snoopy have been my adopted mascots. These qualities keep me growing and developing.

My negative is that I hate to be bored, so I often go to the library to explore, take classes and workshops, and travel for new experiences. This keeps me always developing my skills.

Philip Riggs

© Philip Riggs 2014-2016  Privacy Policy