4 Cool Things You Didn’t Know About GIS


GIS, meaning geographic information systems, is a term that does not get bandied about a lot. The field is quite tech-oriented, though, and people in GIS do practically anything, from helping to save endangered animals to improving health care.

  1. It Helps People Better Understand History

Race and racism are two topics at the forefront of many people’s minds these days. GIS tools are being used to guide our understanding of how race affected and shaped many people and how its influences continue today. For example, mapping the rates of police violence made it clear that even cities with high crime rates can have low rates of police violence; in fact, crime rate seems to have no correlation to police violence.
GIS has also been used to create lynching maps based on reports from 1877 to 1950 in 12 Southern states. With the data represented visually, it becomes even more evident that Louisiana and Arkansas had a lot of lynchings. Another project has to do with 1930s and 1940s redlining, which occurs when financial services are denied. Now, you can use map overlays to see which neighborhoods had high and low rates of redlined people.

  1. It Improves Health Care Tracking

Speaking of history, mapping has been used in health care since 1854, as this article from USC explains. It’s still used in the field via GIS to track the real-time movement of such conditions as Ebola and the flu. Consequently, health care organizations can more effectively reach affected populations and identify groups especially at risk. This even enables the organizations to set up new facilities for preventative care and community care.

  1. It Aids in Conservation

The USC article also explains that GIS helps with conservation efforts. In one situation, it is being used to track the locations of endangered plants in Egypt. The net result is that environmentalists in the country can better protect these plants. In another situation, GIS technology identified the best and safest routes for black bears in Banff National Park to traverse the Trans-Canada Highway.

  1. It Guides Urban Planning

Just as GIS technology helps people look back to better understand history, it has led humans to look forward in areas such as urban planning. Factors such as parcel sizes, zoning, transportation, and housing go into urban planning, and GIS improves accuracy, efficiency, and collaboration. It also decreases the rates of human error through automation and leads to higher revenues. For instance, in Charleston, South Carolina, GIS helped planning officials assess the area’s population growth; one result is that transportation and land use planning officials should be able to collaborate to make the two worlds work together more efficiently.

In fact, GIS technology has made planning transit lines more fun. If you play video games, you know that setting up transportation in a game such as SimCity is pretty easy. Now a program called Remix lets this type of planning occur in real life.
Whatever field you are interested in, GIS could probably help. Authors can track the geographical areas of book sales through their website, for example. Family historians can use it to trace migration patterns. It’s a technology that many disciplines use.

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