Geographic information systems (GIS) are powerful tools that can be useful in a wide variety of fields and applications. The concepts taught in GIS 520 provide solvable analysis problems, but also present the opportunity to examine how these skills can be applied to real-world problems in our own specific fields. An important component of successfully using GIS is to have an understanding and appreciation of the collection, organization, and analysis of data. Some GIS analyses may be too demanding for the non-GIS professional, but the problems can never be solved if the individual does not comprehend the capabilities of GIS.
Data for use in GIS analyses can come from a numerous sources and be in several formats. Data that include spatial components can be added to geospatial databases by geocoding or by joining the data to existing spatial information. Information from hand-held field global positioning system (GPS) units to computer-aided design (CAD) files can be used in GIS analyses. Data may be organized on a continuous scale with raster images or with vector data that can be equally as detailed when organized using linear referencing. This organized data is analyzed, often with multiple methods depending on the questions asked, and the results display in a way that facilitates the decision making process.
With my focus on conservation biology and medicine, I do plan on making use of GIS in problem solving and research. GIS is an important component of wildlife research and the examples I have provided in each exercise show some of the application to actual research questions. While I do not plan to devote my career solely to GIS, I hope that the knowledge I have gained will allow me to more efficiently use it, understand its potential, and know when to seek the guidance of a GIS professional.