Did You Know?: GIS services at Purdue

October 31, 2014  

GIS services

Nicole Kong, GIS specialist and assistant professor of library science. (Purdue University photo/Charles Jischke)
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Purdue students and faculty in all disciplines can benefit from using geographic information systems, or GIS, to visualize and interpret data, and Purdue University Libraries offers vast resources to help them harness this power.

GIS services at Purdue include a wide array of support, from learning the basics about GIS to outlining and creating complex GIS tools for researchers' specific projects, says Nicole Kong, GIS specialist and assistant professor of library science.

"The usefulness of GIS spans disciplines, from agriculture to engineering to anthropology to art history," Kong says.

"No matter the subject of a project, there's a good chance that GIS can help researchers map and organize data so they can better understand relationships, patterns and trends -- it can make their research easier as well as help spur new discoveries and ideas."

GIS resources and knowledge are helpful for students and faculty alike, Kong says. In fact, she partners with faculty in the academic departments to co-teach classes that help students learn how they can use GIS tools to aid their specific needs.

She also offers GIS-related workshops for various groups on campus. Recent workshops have been geared toward faculty and students in the social sciences and toward students affiliated with the Visual Analytics for Command, Control and Interoperability Environments Center of Excellence, or VACCINE.

For faculty, Kong often works one-on-one to help them develop GIS solutions to aid their ongoing research.

For example, Kong has worked with researchers in the College of Agriculture, including Darrell Schulze, professor of agronomy, to create GIS tools to develop students' abilities to use digital maps to learn about soils and landscapes. Normally, that sort of data is housed in mountains of individual paper maps, but the GIS tools help students see and analyze all the data at once.

Another recent project involves Catherine Dossin, associate professor of visual and performing arts, with whom Kong worked to create a GIS tool that shows historical art exhibitions in Europe during a specific time period. The map is searchable by artists' names, genders or countries of origin as well as the exhibitions' details, including dates.

All faculty and students are welcome to use the resources housed at the GIS services Web page, Kong says, and Libraries provides the technology and information resources needed for projects.

In addition to tools available now, Libraries is building a geospatial data portal that allows the searching of multiple GIS databases simultaneously. Once it's ready next year, students and faculty will have much easier access to geospatial information that exists around the world, Kong says.

Further, to continue to spread the word about Purdue's GIS services, Libraries will hold its seventh annual GIS Day on Nov. 7. Targeted toward Purdue students, faculty and staff, the day will include a keynote speech about using GIS in the humanities. There also will be a career luncheon, where students will learn how to pursue GIS studies as a career and how to incorporate GIS knowledge into careers in other fields.

More information about the upcoming GIS Day is available here.

In the future, GIS services at Purdue will expand, Kong says. The operation will move from its location in Hampton Hall's Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Library to the Active Learning Center, which is scheduled for occupancy in August 2017. In addition to all current GIS services, the center will contain a GIS and visualization lab, where students will have convenient physical and virtual spaces to access more GIS learning resources and create their own GIS tools as needed.

More information about current GIS services at Purdue can be found on this Web page. The page details all GIS resources at Purdue, including access codes for free Web-based training modules from Esri, a leading supplier of GIS software and geodatabase management applications.

Questions about GIS services at Purdue should be directed to Kong at geohelp@purdue.edu.

Writer: Amanda Hamon Kunz, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu 

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