Analyze This!
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
By Barbara Mento

If you've been following the upcoming elections, you've probably seen the red and blue maps for the 2012 elections. This is a great example of how GIS-- a powerful and fun tool for the visualization of any data having a geographic component--is used to analyze trends and patterns. In fact, Boston College has used GIS to track geographic distribution of BC students since 1976 (see Geographic Distribution of Undergraduate Students by State 2010).

GIS image 1

BC has a license for ArcGIS software which supports sophisticated mapping and analysis of data from demographics, history, public health, sociology, environmental issues, and most other fields of study. An interesting example of its use is the 2010 project of then undergraduate Kevin Keegan to map tree species on campus in order to evaluate the ways in which trees offset the university’s carbon footprint (see Boston College Magazine article with an illustration by Kevin Keegan: Chestnut Hill Campus, with colors denoting species of trees).

The Boston College Libraries will be celebrating GIS Day, November 14, 2012 in addition to hosting the Fourth Annual GIS Contest in spring 2013. Note that undergraduate Kevin Keegan was our first winner in 2010! See his entry here. Prizes include Amazon gift certificates. To learn more about GIS Day and the GIS Contest, please contact Barbara Mento, Data/GIS Librarian.

If you are interested in learning more, introductory workshops on GIS are offered every semester, co-taught by Barbara Mento, Data/GIS Librarian and Constantin Andronache, Senior Research Associate, ITS Research Services.

Barbara Mento, Manager, Virtual Data Center, O'Neill Library