by Riad Lemhachheche, staff writer
Global Positioning System technology has become famous for letting hikers and travelers find their location wherever they are.
GPS devices are used in cars to provide driving directions and in airplanes to display the distance to one’s final destination. But GPS is only the tip of a growing industry and academic field known as Geographic Information Systems or GIS.
“GPS is no good unless GIS is doing analysis with that data”, said Dawn Wright, professor in the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University.
GIS technologies are used for research in forest science or oceanography, as well as being incorporated in products and services used by millions of people every day.
Mapping services like Mapquest, Yahoo Maps or Google Earth rely heavily on GIS to associate topographic data, street and highway layout and traffic information to enable their users to plan their travels.
GIS experts were on the forefront of the emergency response team during the Katrina relief effort. They were able to generate up-to-date maps of transportation systems and locate areas where flooding had the most impact.
OSU is an academic leader in the GIS field, as it is one of the 16 founders of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the major academic consortium in the field, that now counts over 70 members.
Last fall, OSU launched a new program for students and community to provide increased learning opportunities in the field of GIS.