There is an immense need for professionals educated in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis techniques. It is a technology and methodology that has been used to conduct site analysis, track wolves, develop land use plans, access damage along the path of a forest fire, and track crime interactively (New York Times, January, 2000). It is estimated that over 500,000 professionals in fields ranging from environmental assessment to retail trade analysis are asked to use GIS in their jobs, with 50,000 being asked to use GIS full-time. These numbers are growing 15% a year and will likely accelerate. The depth and breadth of this technique and associated application knowledge will continue to increase with both governmental agencies and businesses demanding more GIS educated professionals, as well as greater knowledge breadth of their employees. Although many disciplines will provide GIS training, Geography provide the best focus and education for students of GIS (ESRI, 2000; AAG Newsletter, June, 2000).
The Department of Geography/Geology has taught GIS courses at UWSP for the last fifteen years and spatial methodology courses, like cartography, for forty years. Yet, the true integration and utility of these techniques was not realized until the advent of modern computing. Many disciplines outside the field of geography now recognize the impact and importance of GIS and spatial analysis within their own fields. The GIS analyst normally has expertise in a particular area, such as land use planning, forest management, or business and uses GIS knowledge to help solve problems in their main academic field.
The Department of Geography/Geology now offers a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Spatial Analysis minor that provides a mix of theory and practical knowledge having broad application in various disciplines. GIS is used to effectively access, analyze, and interpret vast amounts of spatial data. GIS is employed to explore the interrelationships of geographic variable that can involve weather, politics, crime, environment management, real estate development, forestry inventory, wildlife tracking, and retail trade analysis. For example, one could use GIS to determine the best location for a new department store, or evaluate the impact of spraying chemicals on a local well water supply. The true power of GIS is its ability to combine and synthesize any form of geographic information.
The 22-credit minor (28 credits for students enrolled in the cartography option of the geography major) covers the foundation of spatial analysis and geographic information systems, including cartography, statistical analysis, and hands-on exposure to cutting edge GIS technology. The Department of Geography/Geology offers three courses that provide basic to advanced training in GIS, and several complementary courses in associated GIS technology, such as digital remote sensing. The minor complements programs in geography, geology, resource management, land use planning, wildlife, forestry, water, soils, biology and other fields reliant on spatial analysis.