What is Geographic Information Science?

Geographic Information Science (GISc) is the study and practice of methods used to collect, store, manage, visualize, analyze, and present geographic data.

Geographic Information Science is often considered to have three components:

  • Geographic Information Systems, or computer based information systems that integrate spatial data with conventional text data
  • Remote sensing, the capture, analysis and display of digital imagery by aerial photography or satellite
  • Global Positioning System or GPS, the global navigation satellite system operated by the US, which allows geolocation of people, goods and services as well as data collection

Examples of the use of GIS include routing school buses or delivery trucks; locating a landfill, an airport or a new restaurant; predicting locations of greatest risk during a hurricane storm surge; mapping the spread of covid-19, analyzing how it spreads, where it is more prevalent, and what types of communities are most at risk.

Geospatial technologies are pervasive in the twenty-first century, used by government agencies, private businesses, research institutions and scientists, health organizations, communities and individuals. Geospatial data is that which can be mapped: since everything happens somewhere, everything can be mapped!

The Department of Geography at UMW offers a robust undergraduate certificate in Geographic Information Science that can be completed by undergraduate students during the normal course of their studies, or taken by working professionals through in-person evening courses. It is well recognized by employers and will help students gain employment or enter graduate school.

We also offer a Master of Science degree in Geospatial Analysis, again through in-person evening courses. There are many online options for GIS programs; we offer small classes and personal attention in a civically, socially, and intellectually engaged environment.