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PVAMU College of Agriculture and Human Sciences Hosts 3rd Annual GIS Day

story by Gloria J. Mosby, Communications Program Director
Prairie View A&M University

Know your World was the theme of the 2011 GIS Day held on the Prairie View A&M University campus recently. The College of Agriculture and Human Sciences hosted the event that had over 100 faculty, staff and students in attendance and was one of many GIS Day events held in over forty states in the U.S. and sixty countries worldwide.

"This year we wanted to emphasize the importance of using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and related technologies to increase awareness about GIS to the student population and the wider community," said Noel Estwick, Information Specialist and GIS Day 2011 chair. "Using GIS and related technologies such as remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and computer-aided design play critical roles in agriculture, and GIS is particularly evident in the widespread adoption of precision agriculture techniques."

Keynote speaker, Tommie Parham, Director of the National Geospatial Management Center (NGMC) in Fort Worth, which is a division of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), explained the various services that NGMC provides, including mapping sciences, which uses GIS technology, aerial photography, and new soil survey methods. Parham said that new soil survey methods now use GIS and tablet computers to display larger areas for mapping which provide more functionality and data storage.

Parham also talked about the variety of jobs available in GIS that students can pursue, some of which include cartographer and natural resources specialist.

"The inclusion of GIS in our college curriculum would equip students pursuing agriculture and human sciences degrees as well as other disciplines with the requisite skills and enhance their performance as they join the workforce," said Estwick.

Jeff East, Supervisory Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Gulf program office, located in The Woodlands, Texas, gave the audience detailed information concerning the use of GIS technology in determining and documenting environmental conditions throughout the United States. Some of these conditions include surface-water/ground water-interaction and water quality data.

Two Prairie View A&M University students who interned this past summer with the NRCS National Geospatial Management Center - Nicholas Norman, an Agriculture senior and Devin Evans, a Civil & Environmental Engineering junior, gave presentations on what they have learned about GIS and other related technologies.

Norman said that he analyzed the impact and geographic extent of the forest fire events that took place in Palo Pinto County using high resolution imagery. Evans said his experiences helped him learn a lot about mapping science, GIS, remote sensing and elevation and imagery data.

Other event speakers included Dr. Eric Risch, Research Scientist in the PVAMU Cooperative Agricultural Research Center, who gave history and background information about GIS; Dr. Gbenga Ojumu, Assistant Professor, CAHS, who covered the economics of land-use optimization using GIS; and Estwick and Kenrick Ferguson, a graduate student majoring in Animal Science, who gave a presentation on using GIS as a tool for rainfall analysis.

An event highlight was the GIS Day Kids Activity which was held in conjunction with GIS Day 2011 for students in the fourth through eighth grades to increase and enhance their knowledge about GIS. "This year over 65 school children from elementary and secondary schools in Waller and surrounding counties received firsthand experience with GIS through a mapping exercise," said Estwick. "Our College of Agriculture and Human Sciences undergraduate and graduate students also benefited because they provided leadership in the mapping activity."

Erica Rivers, a junior Animal Science major, said "I learned that GIS involves more than measuring distance and creating maps, it also involves food and water."

"Our expectations for the 2011 GIS Day event were met, and we plan to continue exposing our students, faculty, staff, and local residents to the many usages and benefits of GIS and related technologies," said Estwick.

For more information about GIS Day 2011, contact Noel Estwick.

GIS Day speakers

Pictured from left are GIS Day speakers: Samuel Brown, Soil Geodatabases Team Leader, National Geospatial Management Center;
Tommie Parham, Director, National Geospatial Management Center; and Horace Hodge, USDA 1890 Program Manager/Liaison.

Chris Cotton and students Young people search globe for GIS coordinates

Chris Cotton (center), graduate student for the Cooperative Extension Program community
and economic development unit, shows students techniques in using GIS technology.

Young people search globe for GIS coordinates.