GIS and Cartography Lab

The Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis Lab is a focal point for contract work, student and faculty research, and classroom instruction. The goal of courses and research has been to integrate field-based research with geospatial analytical techniques. Students and faculty have access to a variety of tools in and out of the lab. The campus has an ESRI site license. The GIS Spatial Analysis lab supports ArcGIS, Arcview and Arc/Info.

GIS & Spatial Analysis Lab Equipment
  • 10 Dell Workstations
  • 1 Sun Workstation
  • 1 Large Format Digitizer
  • 2 HP Large Color Plotters
  • Scanners
  • GPS Receivers
  • Arc/Info
  • ArcGIS
  • Erdas Imagine
  • ER Mapper
  • Freehand 8.0
  • Photoshop
Careers in Geography! Jobs in Geography!

Geography is an attractive major for students. Its theories and methods provide analytical techniques applicable to a wide range of questions asked over a broad spectrum of occupations.

For students planning to end their formal education with the bachelor's degree, a geography major provides marketable skills and the broad perspectives on environment and society that enable graduates to move beyond entry-level positions.

Geography also provides a sound foundation for students who plan to enter graduate work in a variety of fields, from geography to business, land use planning, law, and medicine.

The potential for practicing geography in private enterprise and government has grown considerably in recent years, although few such positions are designated with the title of geographer. Roughly a quarter of all geographers work in the private and public sectors.

What is geography?

Geography is the science of place and space. Geographers ask where things are located on the surface of the earth, why they are located where they are, how places differ from one another, and how people interact with the environment.

There are two main branches of geography: human geography and physical geography. Human geography is concerned with the spatial aspects of human existence - how people and their activity are distributed in space, how they use and perceive space, and how they create and sustain the places that make up the earth's surface. Human geographers work in the fields of urban and regional planning, transportation, marketing, real estate, tourism, and international business.

Physical geographers study patterns of climates, land forms, vegetation, soils, and water. They forecast the weather, manage land and water resources, and analyze and plan for forests, rangelands, and wetlands. Many human and physical geographers have skills in cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Geographers also study the linkages between human activity and natural systems. Geographers were, in fact, among the first scientists to sound the alarm that human-induced changes to the environment were beginning to threaten the balance of life itself. They are active in the study of global warming, desertification, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, groundwater pollution, and flooding.

Cartography, Geographic Information Systems, and Remote Sensing

Thousands of geographers have jobs involving maps. Maps are essential. They are used by planners, engineers, utility companies, state agencies, construction companies, surveyors, architects, and ordinary citizens. One of the greatest growth areas is the use of computers to generate maps and store map-related information.

College geography programs provide a good background in the use of maps. Students usually will learn how to make traditional hand-drawn maps, as well as how to use a variety of sophisticated computer graphics systems to create maps. In addition, students will learn how to read and interpret maps so that they can be used effectively.

Cartographer/Computer Mapper

Cartography is the science (or art) of making maps. Though hand-drawn cartography is still prevalent, traditional drafting is being replaced rapidly by computers and graphics software, which allow maps to be created quickly and accurately. Complex maps are made with sophisticated scanning equipment, while simpler maps can be drawn on a personal computer. Generally, computer mappers begin with a grid, such as the familiar one based on latitude and longitude, to which they add such information as streets, population density, and physical features.

Many cartographers are employed by the U.S. Government to make maps for various purposes. The Defense Mapping Agency has large cartography operations in St. Louis, San Antonio, and Washington, DC. The bureau of the Census collects data on the country's population, maps it and analyzes it. The U.S. Geological Survey employs people to produce topographical maps, which show terrain and key features.

The private sector also employs cartographers. There are companies whose business it is to make and sell all kinds of maps, from road maps to trail maps. Other industries may have cartographers on staff to produce maps needed in their line of work. Subdivision maps are required by builders and municipalities. Telephone companies and other utilities also employ mappers.

Geographic Information System Specialist

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer hardware and software system that is used to store, display, analyze, and map information. Geographers, planners, land developers, real estate agents, utility companies, and municipal officials all use these systems. In fact, modern planning cannot move forward without these systems and those trained to run them. For example, a local government might use a GIS to evaluate alternative locations for roads, landfills, or other facilities. Using the GIS, such topics as population distribution, traffic movement, land availability, real estate prices, enviromental hazards, soil types, and flood zones could be analyzed together to help the government make an informed choice. Jobs are available for those who like to work with computers and understand the importance of information retrieval.

Remote-Sensing Analyst

Another important area of mapping is remote sensing. This involves the interpretation of aerial photos and the analysis of satellite images. Virtually all modern maps of large areas are based in part on remote sensing, among them the land use maps used by the U.S. Geological Survey and the soil maps used by the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Defense, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency employ thousands of people to interpret photos that have been taken by high-flying aircraft or satellites to determine what is going on in other countries. For example, during the Cold War, we learned a lot about crop production, military troop movements, missle launches, and nuclear testing in the Soviet Union through the work of remote-sensing analysts. Remote-sensing analysts should have training in geography and earth science and good visual skills.

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