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GIS Center proves valuable to University, community

Several Tennessee universities incorporate geographic information systems (GIS) within other departments, but Austin Peay State Universitys GIS Center is a dedicated center, which enables it to provide community and University service as well as hands-on experience for students in this increasingly popular field.
Several Tennessee universities incorporate geographic information systems (GIS) within other departments, but Austin Peay State University's GIS Center is a “dedicated” center, which enables it to provide community and University service as well as hands-on experience for students in this increasingly popular field.

According to Mike Wilson, director of the center, since GIS is a technology-intensive field, few local governments have the staffing and finances to operate a full-time GIS Center. Thus, APSU's center functions as a GIS department for several middle Tennessee counties.

Among its community service, the GIS Center has mapped gravesites in Montgomery County, provided new digital information for Robertson County election maps and created a Web site with the mapped locations of known sex offenders.

The GIS Center works closely with the local seven-county homeland security district. Compiling data about vital infrastructures, the GIS Center staff helps evaluate the region's vulnerability. Wilson said, “In the event of a natural or manmade disaster, first responders and homeland security personnel can use our mapping for planning and evacuation.

“And using the GIS Center's data in ‘plume' modeling, decision-makers are able to visualize geographical areas that would be affected by a chemical spilland adjust plans according.”
The GIS Center is working on several projects with other APSU departments.

“We've been working with the history department on a Civil War project,” Wilson said. “We're assisting Dr. (Richard) Gildrie (professor of history) in mapping the Confederate line of retreat at the Battle of Riggins Hill. Dr. Gildrie has historical accounts and journals describing the line of retreat. Our staff obtained historic Montgomery County maps and, armed with the historical accounts and the maps, created a digital representation of the battle and retreat.”

Additionally, the GIS Center is providing the APSU Department of History and Philosophy with maps as part of an upcoming exposition on the Roman Empire.

The GIS Center also is assisting the Center of Excellence in Field Biology with some projects, especially in the area of watershed management in Tennessee and Kentucky. Faculty and students in the Center for Field Biology are collecting data, after which the GIS Center staff generates maps and assists with analysis. According to Wilson, the GIS Center staff also is teaching Center for Field Biology students how to use GIS as a research tool.

“Our GIS Center is sharing resources and GIS experience with several of the classes offered by the School of Agriculture and Geosciences,” Wilson said. “In this way, students are receiving hands-on experience on real GIS projects. When they graduate, this real-world experience should greatly enhance their employment opportunities.”

In the past, the GIS Center has been involved in several projects, including:
*Working with the APSU Department of Political Science to map poverty in Appalachia;
*Working with the Office of Alumni and Annual Giving to map the location and density of alumni in specific areas;
*Providing mapping of regional schools for the School of Education;
*Mapping University property and structures; and
*Providing a mapping analysis for the TRIO programs.

For more information about the GIS Center, go to its Web site at http://gisweb.apsu.edu or contact Wilson by telephone at (931) 221-7500 or e-mail at wilsonm@apsu.edu. -- Dennie B. Burke