Geographic information science (GIS) optimizes geographic data by combining it with specialized computer software. The GIS software takes spatial information and makes a link between maps and georeferenced data. The database will have a georeferenced system of spatial coordination to link various sources of information together.
The GIS Process
Data is sourced and loaded into the GIS system from such resources as surveys, maps, and aerial photography. This data is stored in a format so it is able to be queried, analyzed and modeled in a geospatial format. Reports can then be pulled from the data in the form of maps, plans, and statistics.
An Integrative Technology
GIS has developed over time from a wide variety of disciplines. Among the fields that have contributed to GIS are geography, civil engineering, computer science, cartography, statistics, and surveying. In practice, GIS combines layers of geographic, infrastructure, and demographic data to create new and more meaningful data sets for companies and governmental entities.
Because GIS has been built utilizing a variety of technologies from several fields, it is a powerful tool for geographical data integration. This comprehensive functionality binds together data sources that would normally be considered separately. This integration facilitates wide-ranging decision-making.
Databases can include information from a variety of data subsets. Here are some examples of specialized databases. Human geography data is highly demographic in nature such as birth and death statistics, population distribution, and disease incidence. Political jurisdiction data indicates countries, states, capitals, and political district representation.
Data about the natural environment concerns geology, soil types, precipitation levels, and hydrography. Natural resources data provides information on animal species, their population, and habitat ranges, wetlands, bodies of water, forests, and special use areas such as parks. Data about economic infrastructure and activity shows the location of such things as roads, pipelines, industrial complexes, and utility networks.
The Power of Layering
Where can the pipeline be routed to avoid wetlands and endangered species? Where are rural areas that are largely Democrat? These are just two of the infinite amount of questions that can be answered by a GIS report through the layering of data. Urban planning, transportation forecasting, and business location planning can all use data from GIS reports.
Each set of data is fully geolocated and can function as a layer with other sets of data about a particular geographic location. This type of locational reference system is what adds value to all of the seemingly disparate data sets. The ability of GIS to separate, manipulate, and combine data is what gives it the power to be a superior tool for planning.
A Rapidly Growing Field
Because GIS is such a powerful tool for a wide variety of planning needs, the GIS field is an in-demand career specialty. Jobs in GIS include programming, surveying, and cartography. Get more information from USC on their online GIS certificate program and find out about the opportunities that are available.
GIS makes a significant impact on emergency and transportation planning, environmental conservation efforts, and business location planning. It is a useful tool to help many fields make better decisions about land and resource management.