Recognizing that young Americans have a gap in their understanding of geography and their roles as global citizens, National Geographic “created Geography Awareness Week to raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education and excite people about geography as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life… Each third week of November, students, families, and community members focus on the importance of geography by hosting events; using lessons, games, and challenges in the classroom; and often meet with policymakers and business leaders.”
To celebrate Geography Awareness Week, Falvey Memorial Library and the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV) invite you to attend this week’s geography-focused events, to check out our list of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) projects below, and to follow along with Falvey’s blogs sharing projects and discussions from GEV’s students.
- Esri Story Map projects from GEV’s 4320/8320: GIS for Conservation Management class.
- Georeferenced historic photography of Villanova University’s campus from 1950-1990.
- A 3D model of Villanova University’s campus created with drone footage (DJI Mavic 2 Pro), 3D photogrammetry software (Pix4Dmapper), ArcGIS Pro, and imported into 3D scene in ArcGIS Online.
Today we talk about GIS for city planning and the robust internship opportunities available in this field.
GIS for City Planning
My name is Charlotte Shade ’19 MSES, and I am currently a data analyst for the City of Boston. The main goal of my position is to help other city departments serve the public. I use GIS and other ESRI products almost daily!
One of my first projects at the City was to help our Parks and Recreation Department build an asset inventory system. The Parks Planner I was working with needed to map the location of all the park assets (playgrounds, benches, sports fields, etc.) and document information about each asset (age, handicapped accessible, etc.). This project was large, and we used ArcGIS Pro, GIS Online, ESRI Web Apps, and more to build and sustain the asset inventory system. After asset locations were plotted, an ESRI web app was built to allow Parks project managers to review the asset points in each park. Once assets are marked as “correct,” the points are automatically displayed on the public-facing map. The public asset inventory map is hosted on an ESRI Hub site where Boston residents can find sports fields, playgrounds, and handicapped accessible parks in their neighborhoods.
As Boston neighborhoods gentrify and housing prices increase, equitable development is an important issue for Boston residents. To help make the process of granting building permits more transparent, I worked with Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) to build the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Tracker map. ISD is tasked with ensuring compliance with the City’s zoning code. If an application for a permit is refused because of a zoning violation, applicants can appeal the decision to the ZBA and ask for an exception. If the ZBA grants the exception, then the applicant can continue with the process of obtaining a building permit. Citizens can use the ZBA Tracker to identify zoning appeals in their neighborhood and learn what step the appeal is in in the process. The ZBA Tracker was built by plotting automated application data from ISD in a GIS Online map, adding that map to an ESRI web app and then embedding the interactive web app into an ESRI Experience site where citizens can go to use the Tracker and learn about the ZBA process.
Maps are a vital communication tool for the City of Boston. We build maps so citizens can easily locate important resources near their homes, such as farmers markets, COVID-19 vaccine locations, age-friendly walking trails, voting locations, public art sites and so much more! GIS allows my team to provide Boston’s citizens with the critical information they need every day.
Charlotte Shade is a Villanova GEV Masters of Science in Environmental Science (MSES) alum from 2019.
Geography and GIS Provide Great Internship Opportunities
My name is Zach Silberman, and I am a current senior at Villanova University studying geography with a minor in public administration and sustainability studies. Throughout my time here, geography and specifically GIS has played an integral role in a vast majority of my academic work, research, and external internship opportunities.
This past summer, I was grateful enough to be selected for an National Science Foundation-funded grant opportunity with Citizen Science GIS in partnership with University of Central Florida as a GIS researcher. Through the program I worked on a team of college students from across the U.S. participating in community-based GIS, youth education, and research. Specifically, my team looked at flood analysis, mitigation efforts, neighborhood resilience, and using local perceptions and voices to tackle these particular issues in Hopkins; a small village along Belize’s eastern coast. A particularly tough challenge we faced was drafting a GIS plan with community partners to provide relief efforts and infrastructural solutions to a place we had personally never stepped foot in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of looking at technical solutions, we instead turned to science communication strategies, focusing on the relaying of geography, drones, and GIS as a tool for youth within Hopkins to fix local problems.
Besides my professional work, I find that studying geography has allowed me to view the world around me in a new lens. As someone who is fascinated by both the natural and built environments, I have found a newfound appreciation for the interconnectedness between the two. Having had the opportunity to do field work ranging from the woods around campus to GPS appendaging of buildings within center-city Philadelphia, I have no shortage of real-world experience that has shaped how I view each and every place I visit. It is not to be understated how deep professions like GIS, remote sensing, or planning can go if you’re eager and willing to learn, and how applicable the things you may learn in your four years here are in virtually any career or field.
Zach Silberman is a senior in Villanova’s Department of Geography and the Environment. He is majoring in Geography.
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