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Students explore technology uses at Marshall University 'GIS Day'

Nov. 21, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The phrase "geographic information systems" may not ring very many bells for the average layman, but for most smartphone owners, those systems are only as far away as their purses and pockets.

The topic of geographic information systems, more commonly referred to as GIS, was the top priority during GIS Day at Marshall University on Wednesday.

The event serves as an opportunity for Marshall students and professors to use the technology to demonstrate its real-world, everyday applications in our society, said Jamie Leonard, a geography professor at Marshall.

"This is a useful technology," Leonard said. "Not many people know it exists, but it's everywhere. It's a part of your life if you use your phone to get directions to the nearest McDonald's, and we're just showing all of the ways our students can utilize it."

GIS is a computer technology for presentation and analysis of all types of science and social data referenced to the earth's surface. The technology uses an infinite variety of mapped data, aerial photographs, digital elevation models, satellite imagery and more to solve problems and answer questions.

GIS Day included displays from about 20 Marshall students who are geography, biology and physics majors, Leonard said.

GIS technology really is applicable to almost any field of study, from traditional sciences to history, criminal justice and sociology, Leonard said.

That fact was apparent to about 30 students from Spring Valley High School who attended the event with science teachers Gary Wroblewski and Greg Page.

"There are tons of uses for GIS technology," Wroblewski said. "These displays show how the Marshall students have compiled and compared data about different topics all over the country -- carbon monoxide emissions, storm water and things like that. This is an opportunity for them to see something new that we can bring back to the classroom."

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