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Geographic Information Systems at Tufts

Geographic Information Systems at Tufts is a university-wide resource provided by University Information Technology (UIT) that aims to promote and facilitate GIS, remote sensing, cartography, and geographic research and analysis. A comprehensive website, GIS@Tufts, provides a wealth of information, including a list of GIS courses, workshops, and online tutorials—and a basic definition of GIS as “a set of tools and data that can help researchers, policy makers, and community members visualize, explore, and interpret information across space to understand spatial relationships, patterns, and trends.” You can think of GIS in its most simple form as a map with a database of information behind it. (For examples of GIS, please see “What is GIS?”)

Tufts GIS Center is the physical hub of GIS activities and services at Tufts. The center is a full-service computing facility located in the Tisch Library on the Medford/Somerville campus. Core services include GIS instruction and assistance, application development, database design, data acquisition, geocoding, geoprocessing, and spatial analysis. The GIS Center is equipped with a range of specialized hardware and software to enable users to input, analyze, and display spatial data. Senior GIS staff and student lab assistants help GIS users from across the university. Appointments for individual consultations can be made by sending an email to gis-support@elist.tufts.edu. All Tufts campuses have computer labs with GIS software available for use by the Tufts community. GIS software can also be installed on Tufts-owned PCs and faculty PCs. Tufts students have access to one-year limited student software licenses.

Patrick Florance manages Geospatial Technology Services. “Faculty and students need data to do their projects, and we collect data from all over the world,” he says. GIS@Tufts Data Sources provides links to online data sources, networked data, and CD-ROM and DVD data. The new Tufts Geospatial Data Repository, GeoData@Tufts, allows you to search, preview, share, and download geospatial data from repositories of the many participating universities, including Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, and Columbia. You can also create a web service that will stream data directly to your computer. The website currently offers more than 10,000 data sets, and that number is increasing daily. “Most people don’t map the data on the GeoData website,” says Florance. “They download it and use it on desktop GIS software.”

GIS at Tufts provides consultation services to all Tufts students, faculty, and staff. “We work with faculty and make recommendations on how they can utilize GIS or GIS-like spatial resources in their projects,” says Florance. “We also have a whole new suite of GIS courses we’re rolling out this year. GIS isn’t about pulling up maps; it’s about pulling up data people use to make maps. Using specialized GIS software, you can put multiple sets of data into a map. It’s similar to GoogleEarth, which is a lightweight version of GIS software. A spreadsheet of data is attached to each graphic, so not only do you know where they are, you know what they are. You can not only get the name of the place you choose, you can get information such as country, population, etc.”

For more information, please see GIS@Tufts.



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