From Traverse City via Otisville
- (GM brought family to area years go)
Environmental Science & Planning Major
Planning a Career in GIS Service.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Data, data everywhere — but how do you organize it to make it as user-friendly as possible to locate and extract specific data based on need?
This was a question that members of the Department of Earth & Resource Science and our own librarian, Kui-Bin Im, pondered. Their solution? Create our own.
Next problem; gathering, coordinating and loading the data would be a very labor-intensive project. It would also require hardware, software, internet connections and plain office space to proceed.
Their solution? The Thompson Library co-sponsored the project, providing space and equipment. Next they hired an intern — Jason Dellamater — to provide the labor end of the equation.
Jason, who will be graduating after the fall semester 2013 with a UM-Flint degree in Environmental Science and Planning, comes to Flint area by way of Otisville (where his family settled after answering the lure of employment which General Motors used to draw in so many people to our corner of the world). His parents eventually moved to the Anne Lake area near Traverse City, a geographic area which further peaked his interest in the earth sciences.
Finally back in Flint to attend classes at UM, Jason took two courses which introduced him to the GIS software and how to use it. Not only was he hooked, but he had positioned himself as the perfect person for the job of working on the new GIS project at exactly the right time.
Jason describes his work as drawing existing data from sources such as the US Census tract and plat mapping data as well as a wide variety of other sources, such as Prof. Greg Rybarczyk’s work in identifying underground storage tanks and measuring the “leakage” they produce (“Brown Field” data).
He also uses data available from other government resources, such as the State of Michigan website (Michigan.gov) and the diverse geological data they gather and publish.
Once he identifies and locates the desired data, he pulls it and adds it to his GIS software in “layers.” The layer system, familiar to those who have used standard graphics software such as PhotoShop, allows overlapping layers of data to be created within the file. Researchers can tailor the data available to their specific needs by blending or removing from their results specific aspects (or layers) of the data.
While that may seem a tad complicated to understand, Jason points out that a researcher could ask to view within a specific area — such as Genesee County — just the roads and river trails, or include other aspects in the results as well. Requested aspects will display on the computer screen as an overlay map, indicating the specified geographical aspects of the area. So should you as a researcher be interested in seeing — especially this time of year as Michigan experiences it’s annual rainy season — the flood plains of Genesee County overlaid with the identified “brown fields” (a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination) within our county — it appears as a map on the screen.
The data also includes landmark topographical identifications as well — businesses, schools, roads, city limits, etc, to make it easier for a researcher to identify any specific location being investigated.
While Jason describes his contribution to the project as “a lot of data entry,” and modestly considers it perhaps a tad boring, he is also aware of the value of the new resource of which he considers himself extremely lucky to be working on through the support of Dept of Earth & Resources as well as working in the Technical Services area of our own Thompson Library.
Because of his involvement with this project and his recognition of the value it provides the research community, Jason is considering a future in the field of GIS development, though he expects it will likely take him out of Michigan and off to the great Northwest (where his siblings and their families have all migrated in recent years). However, his time at UM-Flint — and the work he is doing to contribute to this new and growing field of GIS research — is something he will cherish forever.