GIS is everywhere
by Eric Johnson, numeric and spatial data librarian
You cell phone tells you how to get to where you want to go. Google Maps can give you a picture of any place on earth. Your web searches sometimes seem to know where you are and give local results. All these are examples of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at work.
For your classes, you may want to give your research paper more punch by adding a map or graphic that illustrates a point. How can you do that?
Two resources for mapping provided by the Miami University Libraries are SimplyAnalytics maps and ArcMap software.
With SimplyAnalytics (available from the library website’s A-Z resources list), in a browser you simply click on the data you want to map and zoom to your desired location. The map is automatically created and can be downloaded for use in papers and reports. Data available includes all current census data as well as a large variety of marketing and lifestyle data.
A more sophisticated program that the library supports is ArcMap and its cloud-based cousin, ArcMap Online. With these programs, you can drag and drop spreadsheets of your data into the program and create dynamic geographic visualizations. If you want to plot a heat map by color-coding every house by distance from a fire station or shopping mall, it can be done in ArcMap. The process is somewhat more complicated than SimplyAnalytics, but Library staff are happy to help you with your project.
ArcMap is available on 67 library computers in B.E.S.T. and King Libraries. Additional computers with ArcMap are available at Shideler hall. You may install the student version for free on your own laptop.
Miami University also offers courses in creating geographic visualizations – GEO 242, 340, 441, 442, 443, 444, 445, 448, 451. The four hundred level courses are also cross-listed as graduate level courses. At least nine faculty in geography actively use GIS in their research. Faculty in biology and other disciples also use the GIS resources available at Miami University.