Happy GIS Day!

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Gisdaylogo_2Today is National GIS Day!

To celebrate, we’re talking GIS (Geographic Information System) with Charlie Fitzpatrick, K-12 Education Manager for ESRI (Environmental
Systems Research Institute).

Hopefully,
the “Ultimate Asia Challenge” and Land of Natural Wonders" activities have you
off to an exciting start on this week-long tour of Asia.  If you’re new to KML technology, you’re likely as smitten over this
revolutionary tool as we are. I like to think of it as providing me with my own
little globe-trotting satellite. But if you think you’ve reached the height of
geospatial technology with KML, I’ve got news for you: There’s more. There’s
GIS (cue dramatic soundtrack).

Applications
like Google Earth and ArcGIS Explorer allow you to visualize relatively modest amounts of data, georeferenced to
actual global locations. This is what that whole “zoom to” personal
satellite-like feature is all about, and it’s pretty darn cool. By turning
layers on and off and overlaying one on top of the other, you can even begin to understand relationships across
multiple data sets. And that’s super cool. But GIS kicks it up a notch and
allows for even more complex types of analyses.

I
first became acquainted with GIS while studying
geography as an undergraduate. As far as I’m
concerned, GIS is the most advanced contemporary tool for applying a spatial
analytical perspective to real-life phenomena. But don’t take it from me: ESRI
has been the leading distributor of GIS software for the last few decades, and Charlie Fitzpatrick has the low-down on this high-tech tool:

“GIS
is being used all over the world, in all walks of life, because spatial
thinking is essential for coping with challenges large and small….People use
GIS to study geography: the geography of the human body, behavior of people in
a store, the areas of hillsides that most need preventative measures to protect
from fire, how Multiple Sclerosis and Lyme Disease vary across the landscape,
the local patterns and feedback mechanisms that affect global climate change,
and the best potential landing zones on Mars.”

To
celebrate Geography Awareness Week 2007: Passport to Asia,
ESRI and My Wonderful World collaborated to produce an informative,
entertaining video about the power of GIS technology titled Layers of Asia:
A GIS Journey Through Our World.
Utilizing imagery and data sets from
Asia, the video features current events including the Avian Flu epidemic, the
2004 Asian Tsunami, and the on-going construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam. What’s more, it
explores how GIS can be used to better comprehend these issues and develop
solutions where appropriate. For example, GIS can be used to help coordinate
community evacuation plans. (Look for an upcoming blog feature on 4-H students
who are using GIS here in the United States to do just that.)

To
learn more about GIS, watch the video (at 10 minutes, it really is an
excellent overview). Once you realize all that GIS can do, we’re sure you’ll be
hankering to try it out for yourself. Luckily, ESRI’s got you covered. Visit
their Geography Awareness Week page for great GIS introductory
activities that will have you analyzing Asia’s
rivers, cities, people, and geomorphology. My favorite is “Asia’s Big Rivers and Cities,” a step-by-step GIS comparison of Asia’s
water resources and settlement patterns. Charlie
hopes that these activities “help people see the many ways in which geography
matters,” and we do, too.

For
information about GIS events occurring across the country, check out        GIS Day.com. If
you live in the D.C. area, make sure to stop by the National Zoo tomorrow
(Thursday) for their GIS Day
celebration.

Sarah for My Wonderful World


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