OHIO celebrates International GIS Day with open house

M.C. Tilton
December 3, 2015

Ohio University celebrated Geography Awareness Week and International GIS Day with its second annual GIS Open House on Nov. 18, 2015 at the Steven L. Schoonover Center for Communication.

The Open House’s highlight was a presentation from Dennis Dimick, award-winning National Geographic executive environment editor and photojournalist. Dimick led an audience of 100 through a rich photo slideshow depicting the gravity of human impacts on the natural environment, including scenes of mountaintop removal, aquifer loss and the disappearing Aral Sea.

“We have incredibly vast knowledge about our impact on the environment – now we need to ask ourselves what we’ll do with that knowledge,” Dimick said.

Dimick said National Geographic’s focus has been to encourage voters to support legislators who care about the environmental issues they resonate with. Subsistence agriculture, nitrogen fertilizers, ocean acidification and cheap energy production are the issues he believes will be most pressing in coming years.

The Open House also featured several interactive stations where students and faculty showcased their work in data visualization with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Adam Schultz, a graduate student in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, flew a drone in the basement of Schoonover to form an accurate map of the area. He said drones are the future for mapping and inspecting areas not accessible to GPS, such as buildings and forests far off the grid.

“The power to create accurate maps with GIS gives you a starting point to do so much good work,” Schultz said. “Where having someone walk the land is expensive and can’t be fully accurate, GIS can give us real-time accuracy to know even the exact size of a tree.”

Ohio University Facilities staff member Matthew Riley and his students displayed their progress with mapping the “circulatory system” of the university by using an induction locater and transmitter to detect water and power lines beneath the campus. 

“It’s an old campus, and we don’t always have good records of what’s been put underground over the years,” Riley said. “If we didn’t have the GPS survey tools we’d have an impossible time digging and wondering what we’d find.”

“GIS technology is a very powerful tool – there’s probably not a single discipline on campus that couldn’t benefit from it,” Scott Miller, director of the Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3) part of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, said. “What we’re hoping to do through celebrating GIS Day is to expose people to GIS technology to demonstrate to them how it can help better manage resources and answer questions that have some sort of geographic component.”

While flying in Ohio, Dimick saw major changes in the local landscape as development affected the makeup of the earth. Read about his observations in his blog

GIS Open House hosts and sponsors include CE3; the Voinovich School and its Environmental Studies program; Scripps College of Communication; Department of Geography; College of Arts and Sciences Themes: Sustainability Studies and Fire to iPhone; and the Ohio Chapter of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association.

GIS Day was also a Zero Waste Event in partnership with @OHIOZeroWaste in celebration of #ZeroWasteWeek.