I majored in Geography for my bachelor degree and did Ecological Economics for my PhD. I often got questions from people asking if I am more an economist or an ecologist, I would say I am more a geographer. “Oh, I never knew Geography is a major” or “what is that?” If you ever asked me these kind of question, please don’t feel bad about it, because you’re not the only one, and I bet my peers got these questions and response all the time.
One thing you might not know is Geospatial Technology has been listed as the top emerging industry in next decades by United States Department of Labor. To me Geospatial Technology is a combination of art, science and engineering. It’s the art of data visualization, and the thought and skills the analyst/cartographer put behind it. I usually got question about what is my ideal job from friends and family, I would say it’s probably Geographic Information System (GIS) analyst or geospatial analyst within the Geospatial Technology since I moved to the states . It’s difficult to become a good GIS analyst in China, even though China got a huge group of GIS analysts and good Geo-programers because it’s more difficult to access to geo-data there, and the field develops just recently and the fundamental data sources are so limited. You have to work for top research institutes or universities to be able to get the data to do further geospatial analysis, and of course you have to build up the network with the state agents first to be able to have the access to the data. However, the story is so different in the states that you have so much open source database run by the state department, and the people are so willing to share their data, the analysis. I got too excited I guess lol and decide to be one of them….This is a link to more than 300 free GIS datasets shared by Prof. Robin Wilson: http://freegisdata.rtwilson.com. Of course, like you’ve just guessed most of free datasets are run and shared by the research institutes, NGO, state lab and universities in the states.
You’re probably would ask about ‘what is exactly geospatial technology?’ I would say they are just the maps you’re using every day, for example, the fastest or least traffic driving routs that google map tells you to get to airport; the map of the best Thai/Mediterranean/Mexican restaurants Yelp shows you; The price of housing around your neighborhood that your real estate agent tells you; or how about the crime map for police station in your area, some area attracts more serious crimes and some are low. Actually, you only need a very basic mapping skill with good platform to map these data that I mentioned above. Of course, you could do more sophisticated analysis with the geo-datasets you have access to, e.g. the medicare spending in some states (countries) are higher than others? Is that because they have less accessibility to good and clean water/food? Or there are just more health facilities happen to be there? Do people become healthier after they spend more on the medicare and health? Or how about having a protected area in this location and why not a thousand miles away? How much we need to spend on protecting this wildlife? And where would be the most cost-efficient way to fund it?
Everything is spatial and they all can be mapped. Map is so powerful that you definitely could tell the story from the data presents on it. Even though a lot of data is open in the states, but to become a GIS analyst, who works for states department, needs to have a security clearance. It becomes impossible for a non us citizen then. It’s such a dilemma, right? However, there are already such a good and open data source in the states, and I’ve seen so many cool analysis have been presented. Therefore, the work ethics have been highly valued in the field, including what message you’re presenting in the maps and who you present to.
Back to my Geo-Case 3, I had an experience to work with a national nature reserve (state protected area) in China this July. I tried to quantify the habitat quality for future biodiversity conservation under human disturbance and climate change, and to target a location for avoid the impacts from both human disturbance and climate change. We’ve been working with the natural reserve for years and have able to road network, villages location, socioeconomic and demographic data, and historical land-use maps, soil map, vegetation type and so on. My colleagues in World Agroforestry Centre run climate change models, and they impacts on land-use change, which were the land-use change simulation rule for me to run the land-use scenarios.
Data description: To run this geospatial model of wildlife habitat degradation under human disturbance would need the land- use maps in recent years, climate change data, soil, vegetation type, socioeconomic and demographic and so on. I run the habitat degradation models though InVest (you could get more information through here: http://www.naturalcapitalproject.org). It a platform that allow you to value natural capital.
Knowledge need: remote sensing imagery processing for the land-use mapping; Geo-statistics/geospatial through ESRI ArcGIS; InVest, especially, habitat quality and habitat risk management. (Leave me a comment if you need more detail information).
No surprise that human disturbance have more impacts on habitat quality in the nature reserve, which you could tell the degraded areas are along the road network; and the core area for the nature reserve, which has the least human disturbance, would maintain the highest habitat quality (yellow corner on the left corner of the map.).
*** I am now open for a job position in Geospatial Analyst/GIS Analyst around DC area (or telecommuting). I have knowledge on:
- Utilize advanced modeling techniques
- Apply fundamental spatial statistics
- Perform advanced vector and raster analysis
- Perform surface modeling and analysis
- Understand and apply python scripting
- Perform fundamentals of spatial database design
- Determine and define an appropriate coordinate system
- Demonstrate proficiency in application configuration
- Apply advanced visualization techniques
- Understand fundamental network analysis concepts
- Perform some basic network analysis
I mainly using ESRI ArcGIS 10.2, ArcGIS online, server, and have experience using open GIS softwares and platforms on QGIS and GRASS, and spatial modeling scripting via R and Python. I will present the knowledge above in the geo-cases I’m doing in my future blogs. English is my third language, and any comments, proof reading, and advice on language polishing and even the content revision are welcomed.