Before Dr. Bryan Bishop, associate professor of biology, learned about Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, he was mapping anthills in northern Michigan by hand.
The research was for his doctoral work and Bishop had not yet discovered GIS, which would have made his work more efficient.
“I just kick myself now that I didn’t take more interest in it,” he says.
Using mapping software to correlate location with information, GIS impacts many different industries, from agriculture to urban planning to education.
“People are using it,” he says. “They’re seeing it, they’re encountering it. They just don’t know what it is.”
Bishop introduced a course at Concordia that surveys GIS software, its capabilities and its applications.
“My goal was to create a course that taught our students the basics,” he says.
Both Spencer McCombs ’13 and Sara Conley ’14 took the class.
“After taking the course,” McCombs says, “I knew I wanted to continue with (GIS).”
McCombs and Conley are examples of Concordia graduates who have found post-college employment thanks to the knowledge they gained in the GIS course.
“I’m already seeing the fruits of this in my students who have gone on to get jobs and careers,” Bishop says. “I’ve actually had students go out and find jobs directly because of (GIS).”
McCombs has explored the various applications of GIS in independent studies as well as his work for the city of Moorhead.
As a student, he created optimal running routes based on tree coverage in Moorhead and analyzed data from history professor Dr. Richard Chapman’s research on the protestant church in Nicaragua. Working for Moorhead Public Service, he improved snow removal maps and updated property lines.
McCombs is currently working as a GIS technician for the city of Moorhead.
Conley started working with Nokia’s HERE program as a GIS specialist in July.
In her role at HERE, which develops mobile mapping applications for smartphones, Conley tests applications to ensure they are accurate and working properly.
Like McCombs, Conley also pursued GIS beyond Bishop’s introductory course by doing an independent study on oil wells in North Dakota.
Conley says GIS is applicable in many different areas. She sees a strong future for the industry.
“The sky’s the limit with GIS,” Conley says. “It’s only becoming more prevalent.”