The Statue of Liberty, the ocean floor and the physical location from where you shared Madison Magnum’s spectacular one-handed touchdown catch in ISU’s shutout victory over Black Hill State, all have something in common.
Each location carries some type of geospatial existence, and members of the ISU Geospatial Club make it their mission to further their knowledge of Geographical Information Systems (GIS).
“Whether you’re using Google Maps to get to work, bus routes to navigate the city or you’re a biological science major analyzing digital web maps, GIS is all around us,” said Ryan Howerton, geospatial club president.
GIS combines imagery with data sets and vector information that allows researchers to create digital web maps that in many cases feature sortable layers available for statistical analysis.
Static objects such as the Statue of Liberty, large locations subject to change such as the ocean floor and even the locations of your Facebook and Twitter updates are some of many examples of GIS information available in web map form.
“Every physical thing on this planet has some sort of spatial existence. It exists somewhere,” said Jeff May, ISU’s GIS Web Services Analyst and former Geospatial Club President. “What GIS does is answer the “where” question. Where our target markets are, where is the best place for a new shopping center, where wildfires are happening, where diseases are breaking out.”
Another sterling application for GIS information is within the hobby of geocaching.
People hide millions of geocaches, or containers ranging from the size of a bottle cap to a train car, throughout the world attached with GPS information.
Distributed through friends, websites and other methods, this information provides for an outdoor recreational activity similar to hide and seek.
“Secret stashes are hidden in cool places and the coordinates are distributed to others,” said Howerton, adding, “Essentially it’s a virtual treasure hunt with prizes at the end.”
The Geospatial Club meets monthly but as Howerton said, the “bread and butter” of the club is National GIS Day which will take place this year on Nov. 18 with additional information being released in the future.
Last year the GIS Center at ISU and the Geospatial Club took GIS Day mobile, setting up multiple events starting with a chili cook-off at the GIS Center, a GIS presentation at Pocatello City Hall and an event geared towards junior high students at the Chubbuck Library.
“Throughout the day, people who were connected to the GIS Day event online map were able to take and post pictures to the map creating a ping which in turn created a dialog box that allowed others to look at those pictures and see where they were taken,” said May .
This information as well as the coordinates for the three events were updated and accessed in real time, which is still a relatively new feature to GIS.
Not only does the Geospatial Club provide an avenue for GIS students to take the information learned in the classroom a step further, but also provides what May describes as an avenue for like-minded individuals to connect and build a professional network.
“Joining the Geospatial Club shows you are willing to go above and beyond,” said May. “You’ll have the students who go to their classes and do the course work to get their degree without really applying themselves in any extracurricular activities, but employers want to hire those who do more than expected of them.”
Those in various healthcare professions use GIS, including the CDC to track the spread of infectious diseases. Even business professionals are using GIS in a brand new branch of business referred to as location intelligence, which uses spatial information to make more informed decisions regarding distribution of target markets, supply chain management and possible site locations.
Any faculty, staff or student of any major is allowed and encouraged to join the Geospatial Club by completing the form found at http://giscenter.isu.edu/training/asprs/, or by calling 208-282-2757 for more information.
“I truly think GIS touches everybody,” said Howerton, adding, “Everybody, every day at some point in their lives.”