UTSA Critical GIS Lab is a training ground for future geographers

UTSA Critical GIS Lab

Nazgol Bagheri teaches UTSA faculty members in an inaugural workshop "Thinking Spatially."

UTSA Critical GIS Lab

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(May 13, 2015) -- Geography majors in the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts are taking advantage of the Critical GIS Laboratory located on the fourth floor of the Multidisciplinary Studies Building.

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system that allows users to visualize, question, analyze and interpret geographic data to understand relationships, patterns and trends. A GIS can capture, store, manipulate, manage and present all types of data. GIS-based maps and visualizations can assist in presentations by providing information to get a better understanding of a situation to make informed decisions.

The technology has applications to engineering, planning, management, transportation, insurance, telecommunications and business. It also helps users make better decisions about locations including real estate site selection, route selection, evacuation planning, conservation and natural resource extraction.

The laboratory ncludes 26 computers equipped with the latest GIS computer software that students can use to manipulate, store and analyze data. With the technology, students can review interviews, photographs and architectural sketches.

“We had a student who studied the relationship between the ocean depths and natural hazards such as volcanic eruptions in oceans and climatology-related projects,” said Nazgol Bagheri, UTSA assistant professor of geography and laboratory director. “Some students researched the Middle East and how the wars two decades ago were mapped and affected lives in Lebanon. Other students studied the relationships between disease distributions throughout the ages.”

Currently, the UTSA Department of Political Science and Geography offers three courses in GIS. An introductory class and an advanced class are offered at the undergraduate level. Graduate students can take an advanced course in design and research. Over the last two years, each of the classes have been filled to capacity and the interest has grown so much that plans are in development to open a larger laboratory to accommodate student demand.

Geography graduates can pursue careers as applied geographers working in the field, as urban planning geographers working in cities or as GIS analysts or educators, teaching at the middle school, high school, community college or university level.

“GIS is another tool that geographers, urban planners, environmental scientists, geologists and anthropologists are using these days to represent and get a better understanding of today’s realities. GIS is only a tool not a solution,” said Bagheri.

Bagheri has seen students enroll in GIS courses representing diverse majors such as criminal justice, urban planning, sociology, anthropology, and environmental sciences.

For more information, contact Nazgol Bagheri, director of Qualitative GIS Research Lab or visit the UTSA Department of Political Science and Geography.

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