Geographic information systems (GIS) have become an integral part of our daily lives, allowing us to access essential spatial data on our smartphones. GIS is a computer-based tool that enables the storage, visualization, analysis, and interpretation of geographic information. It combines layers of information about roads, topography, weather conditions, landmarks, businesses, and more onto maps. This technology has extended far beyond our personal devices and has numerous applications in various industries and scientific fields.
GIS plays a crucial role in healthcare as epidemiologists use it to map the spread of disease. Ecologists also utilize GIS to understand wildlife movement and climate scientists employ it to comprehend changes in glaciers, sea levels, and regional weather patterns. Social scientists rely on GIS to study global conflict and immigration, while urban planners and engineers use it to determine the best locations for new development and infrastructure projects.
The U.S. National Science Foundation has been instrumental in the growth of GIS-related technology and science by awarding about 180 grants totaling more than $83 million in the past two years to support research in fields such as geography, math, computer science, geology, anthropology, and education. This continued support underscores the importance of GIS in our modern world and its relevance across a wide range of disciplines.