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Courses That Change Your Life: Environmental Applications for GIS (BIOL/ENVST/GEOG 362)

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage | Nov 02, 2015

No technology has revolutionized the practice, management and strategies of modern conservation as much as the development Geographic Information Systems and associated remote sensing techniques. Enabled by such technologies to match and relate different environmental, political, social and biological attributes in space and time to solve complex environmental problems in spatial analysis, and to do so using remote-sensing data collection systems, scientists and managers with skills in GIS applications and its attendant data-organization systems have become some of the most sought-after and highly-paid professionals in conservation science, as well as in other fields, where the same technologies have been applied to social, political and economic analyses, and subsequently better integrated with analysis of conservation problems. Environmental Applications of GIS, will be an applications-oriented course on GIS and GIS data management and organization, and focus on use of GIS technology in the field and in the actual application of GIS procedures to solving contemporary, real-world problems in environmental science.

Au Sable alum Doug Sponsler, now a PhD student in entomology at The Ohio State University says, "I would tell students who are serious about going into ecology that a course in GIS could be the single most useful course they take as an undergraduate. Beyond just preparing them for a career in research, GIS proficiency is a practical and employable skill that they can put on their resumes straight out of college. " Another Au Sable alum, Thad Tuggle, now completing a Master’s in Biology at Marshall University (West Virginia) agrees, noting, “I truly believe having taken GIS as an undergraduate allowed me to be hired on with the Knox [County] Soil & Water District [Ohio]. The class I took, coupled with the on the job experience, has lead me to use remote sensing [and] GIS as a main component in my thesis.”

Today no student giving serious consideration to graduate education or professional employment in conservation can afford to be without GIS skills, and can learn them in this course with firsthand experience in using them to solve environmental and conservation problems.  Mark Gathany, Assistant Professor of Biology at Cedarville University, will be Au Sable’s Professor of GIS, bringing interdisciplinary expertise in such areas as soil microbiology, habitat restoration, animal population dynamics, fire ecology and climate change, among others, to professional training and graduate education in Geographic Information System technologies. Experienced in guiding and directing undergraduate research, Mark will help students in Environmental Applications of GIS to structure hypotheses and experimental designs that will train them how to maximize the effectiveness of GIS in environmental investigations. Au Sable alum Nathan Reed, now completing a PhD in marine biology at the Texas A&M University- Galveston, sums up why this course is so important. "Speaking from the perspective of a current graduate student looking at both possible and current research topics, I would venture to say that it is next to impossible to complete a biological graduate degree program- Masters or Doctoral- without some amount of GIS usage….The understanding and familiarity of GIS is crucial to any person seeking a career in life sciences." See you in GIS!