By Robert Kendall, environmental quality and land use intern

Geographic Information Systems are tools used to analyze multiple data sets at a specific location, as well to capture, document, store, update, display, and manipulate these multiple data sets.

For the Indiana University Office of Sustainability (IUOS), this allows for thorough consideration when planning projects that are land intensive. Before the end of my internship, I plan to compile enough data for future planning efforts to help minimize land degradation and mistreatment. Necessary data sets would include information on elevation/ topology, soil, heat sinks, solar irradiance, impervious surfaces, tree canopy cover, vegetation cover, and hydrology.

Figure 1
Figure 1

GIS applications have nearly unlimited potential to solve geospatial problems when comparing the correct data sets. The most recent application of GIS used within IUOS is for the preplanning of a project proposal (Figure 1). GIS applications were used to create a trail according to specific locations and coordinate points. It included simple tools within the GIS software used, but with the data, attributes can be added to conduct complex analyzes.

There are countless ways to get involved in using GIS, and most likely you have been exposed to them through the use of participatory projects such as OpenStreetMap and Pokémon GO. They both use data that is gathered passively and actively by users on a large scale and updates through users’ activities. If you would like to know more about GIS or PGIS, feel free to email me at

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