Geographic Information Systems
Where should we go? What will it be like? What’s there to do when we get there? These are simple questions people ponder whether they are planning a shopping trip to the local mall or planning to go to the NFL Super bowl. At some point in one’s planning, geography will come into play. How will we get there? What obstacles might we encounter along the way? What’s the quickest, safest route? By understanding geography and people's relationship to location, people can make informed decisions about the way they travel day in and day out. This task has recently been made significantly easier with the introduction of the Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS is a tool for understanding geography and can help everyday citizens to workforce professionals make more informed decisions in their everyday lives. GIS organizes geographic data, so that a person reading a map can select data necessary for a specific project or task. A GIS map has a table of contents that allows the individual to add layers of information to a base map of real world locations. For example, a political analyst might use the base map of Waco, Texas, and select data sets from the U.S. Census Bureau to add data layers to a map that shows residents' ages, education level, and employment status. A good GIS program is able to process geographic data from a variety of sources and integrate it into a map project. Many countries have a large amount of geographic data to analyze, and the government often makes GIS data publicly available. Map file data often comes included with GIS packages; others can be obtained from both retail vendors and government agencies. Some data is gathered in the field by global positioning units (GPS) that attach a location coordinates (latitude and longitude) to a feature such as a gas station. GIS maps are interactive. On the computer, users can scan a GIS map in any direction, zoom in or zoom out, and change the level of the information...
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