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Vol 37  No 17
July 21, 2005



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New lab enhances undergraduate teaching

By Tracey Mills

The new and improved GISciences Teaching Laboratory is an excellent resource for students interested in GIS or remote sensing. Pictured (L-R) are GIS diploma student Christopher Boyce; graduate student Jennifer Higdon; GIS/RS specialist Glenn Crewe; Dr. Rodolphe Devillers and Dr. Alvin Simms. (Photo by Chris Hammond)


Students interested in studying cartography, geographic information systems (GIS) or remote sensing now have a new and improved teaching facility available through the Department of Geography. The GISciences Teaching Lab located on the second floor of the Science Building consists of 25 top-of-the-line workstations. It is a technological haven for students to take the theory they are learning in the classroom and apply it using the most-up-to-date software available on the market.

“This is a fantastic resource for undergraduate students interested in cartography, GIS or remote sensing,” said Dr. Alvin Simms, Department of Geography. “This facility will give students real-world experience before they graduate, thus better preparing them for future employment.”

Until recently, cartography, GIS and remote sensing were divided into two separate entities, the Memorial University Cartographic Lab (MUNCL) and computer lab for GIS and remote sensing (GEOIDAL). According to Dr. Simms, over time the three sub-disciplines in geography have become known as GISciences, whereby the three areas are linked through data processing and software applications.

GIS and remote sensing involves taking data from many different sources and analyzing and evaluating spatial patterns. Remote sensing uses satellite and airborne images as the primary source of data. Ultimately GIScientists whether they are digital cartographers, spatial analysts or remote sensing specialists all produce information from various types of spatial data.

“The ultimate aim for a GIScientist is to produce information that is usable and useful. For example, if you want to determine the best location for a new hospital you need to know where people are living, how far they have to travel to get to an existing hospital and use this information to identify potential hospital locations that will minimize travel and maximize the number of people who have access to hospital services,” added Dr. Simms.

“We essentially do analysis, take the results and produce information that can be presented as summary tables, graphs or maps. End users are ultimately interested only in the results and don’t see all the data analysis that went into producing the tables, graphs or maps.”

Because of the heavy technology requirement for this work, the Department of Geography needed a lab that could carry out computer analysis using the most advanced software available. Aside from being of tremendous benefit to students in geography, this facility has cross-disciplinary potential for students in biology and archaeology, or any other discipline where having spatial data analysed and mapped would be of benefit.

GIScience students will also have access to the lab at anytime so they can work on applications and practice using the software. Graduate students will have access to another facility in an adjoining room that is reserved for GIScience research, where there will be four or five workstations. A separate satellite area will also be open for geography students or faculty members who have a general interest in mapping.

The lab will be run by a committee consisting of Dr. Alvin Simms, Dr. Élizabeth Simms, Dr. Rodolphe Devillers and Dr. Keith Storey, all from the Department of Geography, each representing a specific area of GISciences as well as the overall department.

“We are providing GIScience students the resources they need to excel in their studies,” added Dr. Simms. “It is an investment that is sure to bring large dividends for all involved.”


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