Since 1999, the third Wednesday of each November has been designated as GIS Day, a grassroots global event developed by Esri — an international supplier of GIS software — that lets users and vendors of the geographic software to showcase their applications to the public.
On Nov. 18, Lakeland Community College hosted a GIS Day event, organized by Lisa Stanich, geospatial technology program assistant, and Mark Guizlo, professor and chair of the department of geography and geospatial technology.
The free and public event took place across two rooms set aside for presentations and demonstations, and a third room for exhibitors.
Lakeland also uses GIS Day to showcase their Geospatial Technology program. Developed in 2011, it is the first program in the state that’s aligned with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Geospatial Technology Competency Model designed to produce a skilled workforce.
“We set ours up based on the needs of the industry,” Guizlo said.
While developing the program, Guizlo attended professional meetings for the industry, noting that there were few academics there at the time. At the meetings, he began building relationships with industry leaders to help shape the program.
“We used the (Labor Department) model to guide what we are doing, and no we have a very professional, skills-based approach.”
GIS program participant Caroline Petersen, who manned the department’s exhibit table, was enthusiastic about her experience.
“It’s an amazing program that’s opened up so many doors for me,” she said.
Fellow student Joe Gragg agreed.
“From what I’ve heard, students coming from Lakeland’s GIS program are a year or two ahead when they go on to four-year programs,” he said.
Starting off the day, GIS instructor Bobby Oliver showed attendees a selection of free and open mobile apps for geospatial data collection. She explained that casual users and consumers can take advantage of app capabilities to gather useful information for things like fitness and health tracking.
One of the apps, Endomondo, can track workouts like running or biking, measuring speed, distance and elevation. Using the data, the app provides feedback on how to meet exercise goals.
“There’s lots of free software out there for your phones,” Oliver said.
Most of these sorts of apps are designed to sync with users’ social media networks, making it easy to share your successes or compare with other enthusiasts.
Sharing large swaths of data across multiple entities is one of the broader uses of GIS data, exemplified by municipal organizations like the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.
Robert Stoerkel and Dennis Quigney, both graduates of Lakeland’s GIS program, presented attendees with a variety of ways NEORSD collects, uses and shares data.
With over 1 million customers in a 355-square-mile service area and over 90 billion gallons of water treated each year, managing geospatial data is vital.
Customized data logged in their Enterprise GIS system is used to aid many other departments, including Homeland Security, in order to coordinate infrastructure projects and ensure safety and stability for both consumers and professionals in the coverage area.
“Everyone in the district is using this app once a day,” Stoerkel said.
Michael Foley, GIS specialist with CT Consultants, a local municipal engineering and planning firm in Mentor, echoed Stoerkel’s sentiments about the importance of geospatial data.
“People don’t care about maps, they care about apps,” he said.
Situated in the exhibit hall, Foley explained the work that went into developing and managing a comprehensive database and map for the city of Euclid’s sewer system using aerial photos and other techniques. The resulting web application allows the city to access and input data as needed.
Aerial photography was also the focus of Cleveland Metroparks presentation, where GIS Manager Stephen V. Mather showed what his department’s fleet of unmanned craft can provide.
Using OpenDroneMap, an open source toolkit, in conjunction with both fixed wing and rotorcraft drones as well as kites, they’re able to reconstruct the world using series of overlapping photos from repeated drone flights.
The highly-detailed maps created allow for precise attention to problems like erosion, stemming invasive species like phragmites and promoting healthy vegetation growth.
Exhibitor Debbie Berkebile, owner of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures, puts her GIS training to use for an artistic pursuit.
Using image data from various locations around the globe, she creates quilts and uses topographical information to hand-paint landscape features on them.
“Each one has characteristics of what the colors really mean,” she said.
“I’ve been quilting for over 15 years, but this I just started after graduation. I like mapping.”