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The Mass Media

Enviro-Glossary : GIS

A GIS, or a Geographic Information System, is a computer program that has the ability to be used in spatial problems such as natural resource use, public policy, facilities management, environmental dilemmas, and for many other decision making opportunities. A GIS map is made up of layers, or a collection of similar geographic objects. An example of this could be one layer of “cities”, a layer of “rivers”, and one of “countries”. Certain information can be queried on each feature within the layers. Each feature of the cities would be classified by one point, the rivers would be a line, and the countries would be in polygons. The information in the database about each of these features could as diverse as elevation, political boundaries, population density, energy consumption per capita, land use, or thousands of others. The most widely used GIS applications are developed by ESRI (The Environmental Systems Research Institute). Their programs include ArcView, ArcGIS, and the free ArcExplorer. This can be downloaded from http://www.esri.com/software/arcexplorer for simple viewing of geographic data. A helpful place to obtain data on Massachusetts is the MassGIS website at http://www.state.ma.us/mgis.UMass Boston has an undergraduate GIT (Geographic Information Technology) department within the Earth and Geographic Science department. Classes in this department include GIS, Remote Sensing, Programming, and Cartography courses. These classes teach real world applications for the different GIT components.

Sources: http://www.prenhall.com/clarkehttp://www.esri.com

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“What good is a house, if you haven’t got a decent planet to put it on?” -Henry David Thoreau