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Research Services

Geographic Information Systems

A geographic information system (GIS) lets us capture, store, visualize, analyze, and interpret geo-located data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends. GIS applications such as Google Earth, Google Maps, Bing Maps, ArcGIS, and MapQuest are widely used, as are searches for U.S. Census Bureau data, Center for Disease Control maps, and information about weather, climate, and environment. GIS may be employed in a variety of disciplines including: agriculture, archaeology, business, cartography, defense and intelligence, education, geography, government, health and human services, remote sensing, land surveying, natural resources, navigation, public safety, public utility management, transportation, and urban planning. Boston College supports the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in teaching, research and administrative projects. IT Research Services provide support for software, training options, and consultation.

Data Sources

Some GIS data is available to the Boston College community through the Library.  For more information, see:

Another important data resource is maintained by the State of Massachusetts:

Other resources are available from Environment Systems Research Institute ESRI and US agencies. We work with Boston College  faculty and students to facilitate access to data and find other venues to obtain data for specific teaching and research projects.

Examples of GIS projects at Boston College

At Boston College, faculty and students use GIS in a wide spectrum of projects to analyze geospatial data related to: Census and population change, Health care practices, Geo-economics, Environmental studies, Mapping of natural hazards, Historical studies, and administrative applications.

For example, the Department of Facilities Management staff use GIS to manage campus facilities, create campus base maps, and integrate information in a unified system that can be utilized by many university services. Faculty and students in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences use GIS to address environmental monitoring, change, and pollution studies. Faculty and students in the Lynch School of education use GIS to study Urban Ecology.

We have an annual student contest where research using GIS is presented. A collection of GIS poster contributions is at:


Boston College has a site license for ArcGIS software, produced by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI, ArcGIS is a versatile, globally known, and well-supported tool. ArcGIS for Desktop enables users to manage data, perform advanced analysis, and display the results on high quality maps. ArcGIS Online is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that allows members of an organization to use, create, and share maps, apps, and data, and maps published by ESRI and other GIS users. The software can be obtained by contacting your Technology Consultant (TC) or Research Services .