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GI Scientists Use Spatial Data to Examine Real-World Issues

Whether we realize it or not, we use spatial analysis in our everyday lives — from weather forecasts to GPS driving instructions.

Geographic information science uses spatial analysis to study physical, environmental, social and economic events. It applies geospatial information and technology such as geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, geography, mathematics, surveying and programming. Geographic information science also intersects with computer science, engineering, economy and statistics. Because these disciplines intersect, analyzing and processing geographic information becomes crucial.

Scientists use spatial analysis to uncover patterns in geographic, geometric and topological properties. Spatial analysis solves complex location-oriented issues by finding trends and patterns. It can assist in decision-making by analyzing various layers of information to understand and quantify patterns, make predictions, determine relationships and find the best path forward.  

An online Master of Science in Geographic Information Science from Northwest Missouri State University can prepare you to pursue a career in this field in roles such as medical geographer, economic geographer, cartography technician, app developer, GIS manager, marine survey analyst, precision agriculture researcher and more.

How Businesses and Organizations Use Spatial Data

Geospatial data analysis includes assembling, presenting and processing geographic data, such as satellite imagery, population data, socio-economic data, GPS information, historical information, addresses and zip codes to create geographical models that include data visualizations to reveal shifts and changes and predict future variations.

Geospatial data helps with environmental conservation, economic development, climate science, political mapping and health geography; it is also beneficial for United States intelligence agencies and NASA. Businesses and organizations can see potential problems or opportunities and act accordingly with a layered map that incorporates geospatial data.

Here are some examples of how geospatial data analysis can assist specific industries and inform solutions:

  • Large retail businesses and grocery stores are always interested in opening new locations. By using geo-based data sets on populations and specific targeted demographics, retail companies can determine which store locations will be best for business. GIS can also gather information regarding competitors and their target audience and customer base (which helps them launch geo-targeted marketing campaigns to prioritize specific demographics, income and population levels).

    Additionally, GIS allows grocery stores to track supply chain products, like fruits and vegetables, on their delivery status. If something goes wrong, employees can track the route and pinpoint problem areas to ensure the next delivery will arrive better.

  • Public health. The public health field addresses problems regarding the prevention and spread of disease within specific communities. GIS will monitor and track health trends of a specific community in order to map disease transmission and identify high-risk areas. When cities have geospatial data regarding population density and geographical patterns, public health authorities can issue warnings regarding potential flu outbreaks. This information would help residents take precautions in areas of heightened risk. It can also help local stores stock up on cold and flu medications so their supply meets population demand.

  • Spatial data can show information about elevation, soil type, river structures, annual rainfall, temperature fluctuations, dry season details and more. Such information provides insight into the relationship between the environment and human influence. GIS aids in determining how to best use the land, preserve plant species and maintain ecosystems. For example, GIS could inform experts how building a dam would impact the area by combining the spatial data and creating simulations of the natural environment.

Graduates of an advanced degree program in geographic information science use technology to gather GIS data and understand how geo-statistics work in business and research. A degree of this versatility will serve graduates well in nearly any technology-, math- or science-related career.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online Master of Science in Geographic Information Science program.

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