Happy GIS Day!

It is finally that one special day in November for which everyone is thankful, and warm sentiments can be found in people all over the world — GIS Day. Today is the middle of the week of my Geography Awareness Week celebration, can you believe it’s half over already (tear)? Other posts this week include great geography toys, a list of books for little map lovers, and Maps, Apps, and Crafts at Jacksonville Moms Blog. Enjoy!

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Image from Mapbook 23

What on Earth is GIS Day?

Per the website of Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), the dominant powerhouse of GIS software, GIS is:

GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society. The first formal GIS Day took place in 1999. Esri president and co-founder Jack Dangermond credits Ralph Nader with being the person who inspired the creation of GIS Day. He considered GIS Day a good initiative for people to learn about geography and the uses of GIS. He wanted GIS Day to be a grassroots effort and open to everyone to participate.

In simple terms, GIS is a map-making software program that allows complete and total customization for specific mapping needs. The importance of mapping to solve problems is traced back to London in the 1800’s. Scores of people were being struck ill with cholera and, once the locations of the sick individuals were placed on a map, the problem was traced to a local well. Problem solved! Now, on to mapping Ebola

11-19-2014 8-39-54 AM

Image from Mapbook 23

What do you do with a Geography/GIS Degree? Aren’t all the maps already made?

I’ve heard both questions countless times. If you’re looking for a career in geography and/or GIS, check out these resources. As for all of the maps — GIS is used to solve many problems and it will be a tool that is around for generations to come. One example is the UPS Right Turn Method (pretty amazing). By mapping routes and traffic, logistics mappers discovered that UPS could save time and money by making only right-hand turns whenever possible. GIS is also used in FEMA flood zone mapping, marine surveying and mapping, police crime mapping, ATF/DEA drug and weapons tracking, local city planning, fast-food restaurants for site situation analysis (locations near churches, schools, etc.), and thousands more. If you can give me a need, I can pretty much find a way to map it for you. When we were deciding to move from the DC area, I made a map that showed the U.S., and did a city selection narrowed down by which attributes that were important to us. I selected zones within a specific number of miles near family, miles to the beach, our favorite stores/restaurants, and proximity to our outdoor activities.

I worked for 12 years in a career as a GIS Technician/Analyst/Manager/Aeronautical Information Specialist, all utilizing GIS technologies for different private companies and government organizations. One of the most interesting positions, in my opinion, was when I worked as a contractor for FEMA during the 2004-2006 hurricane seasons, which included Hurricane Katrina. It was quite intense, to say the least, being tasked with a map request while watching a news anchor live on CNN discussing that they were waiting for the results of that map before acting on movements. My closest moment of fame was being called by the White House, on my cell phone, to request a large plotted map. Once we created the map, we went to the only super secret location in the D.C. area capable of the print requirements (coughKINKOScough in Georgetown), where afterward they would meet me on the street to pick it up while President Bush waited in Air Force One idling to leave for New Orleans. I was excited to make “the drop,” and was nervous as the huge, black, tinted-windowed SUV pulled up in front of me, yet the person who got out was some preppy young college kid, but now at least it makes for a good story. I think I am still recovering from working three months of 12-14 hour night shifts during that hurricane period.

Local Events and GIS Resources

Through the City of Jacksonville, JaxGIS

Northeast Florida GIS (NEFGIS). NEFGIS is a group open to the public for anyone with an interest in GIS. Check them out and sign up for their mailing list if you are interested.

Now, the only thing left to do today is to get that #GISDaySelfie in! (coughNERDcough)

11-19-2014 7-50-41 AM

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***All nerdiness in this post is fully represented and embraced by myself, except for that selfie thing above. Now THAT is nerdy. I sure do love maps though.***

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