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Geo Week: Mapping Natural Gas, Aiding Developing Countries

Geography Awareness WeekRecognizing 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. 

GIS Projects 

Today we talk about mapping natural gas infrastucture in GIS and how geography can aid developing countries.



Mapping Natural Gas Infrastructure in GIS

My name is Lloyd Willis, and I am a Villanova Alumni who graduated in the Class of 2020. I discovered an interest in Global  Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS) while taking classes in the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV). The GIS specific classes that I attended during my time at Villanova made me realize I wanted to pursue I professional career in Geographic Information Systems in some form or another.

Currently, I am a GIS Technician II and a part of the AIS (Asset and Information Strategies) unit at an engineering consulting firm called Mott MacDonald. We use a GIS application called Smallworld, which is provided by GE Digital, a division of General Electric. Smallworld is widely known as the leader for GIS in utilities and communications. The work that we provide to our clients is updating natural gas main and fitting data from fields documents ranging from the 1940’s to present in the Smallworld GIS application to make the data more accessible and easier to manipulate. Since I began working at Mott MacDonald, I have been able to use GIS in new ways and in my everyday work. My work is specifically focused on the utilities side and involves editing data on maps for engineers to use in the field. This GIS work my unit does daily is crucial in correctly updating and manipulating data for engineers to conduct field work safely and efficiently. Without the use of the Smallworld GIS application, it would make the work of the engineers more complicated and dangerous. GIS allows the technicians to effectively and accurately edit thousands of feet of natural gas main data daily. Meaning we can produce large quantities of precise data to our client in a reasonable amount of time.

The utilities aspect of GIS is something I previously have not had much experience in. That being said, I continue to learn and understand how expansive the range of opportunities are in GIS fields and applications. I hope to continue my GIS journey and learn even more useful and practical skills in this field.

Lloyd Willis is a Villanova GEV undergraduate alum from 2020. He majored in Environmental Science and Geography.


Using Geography to Help Developing Countries

My name is Peter Nikitin, and when I tell people that I am a geography major their first reaction is “what are you going to do with that”, “that is a useless major, you should’ve majored in"GEV Logo" something that can get you a job and make you money”. These comments troubled me for a while, but I always had a strong passion and interest in geography and maps since I was 13 years old, and I never wanted to give that up. I was always able to absorb a wealth of information from simply looking at a map and see the value that most others don’t. Despite the question marks I trudged on in my academic career as a geography major at Villanova.

Deciding to follow my passion has paid off for me as I have learned a lot in the past 3 years of how geography and mapping skills can be extremely beneficial to the developing world. Through a friend at Villanova, I met someone who lit up when I told him how I was learning geography and how to make maps using the programs Arc Map and ArcGIS Pro. He explained to me how it’s such a great skill to have and how he is working in many countries around the world where geospatial software and mapping is highly in demand.

"Map image"He introduced me to a team of people in India that were working on creating child friendly villages. The goal of these villages were to stop child labor in the mines and ensure that 100% of the children had access to education. I used Arc Map to create a map of which villages have a child school enrollment rate less than 75%. This showed spatial patterns of which parts of this area had higher and lower rates of education access. This was extremely helpful to the team. Right now, we are in the planning stages for my senior project. We hope to find a spatial connection between child labor and deforestation to bring more awareness to the areas we are working in and hopefully gain the support of companies that see deforestation as an important issue. I am especially excited to become more involved because it is very fulfilling to use my skills to help create a better world for children in India.

This is a map I created for a class which shows deforestation in the state of Rodonia in Brazil and the spatial relationship deforestation has with official roads and urban areas. A map like this can help people decide on a area that should be a protected forest for example.

I also received an internship this summer through my major with Catholic Relief Services. I received a scholarship for holding this internship as well. Catholic Relief "Nature overhead shot"Services takes requests from all around the world for mapping projects on ArcGIS Pro and dashboards on Power BI. Using these programs helps bring data collected in the field to life and can help developing countries in seemingly endless ways such as disaster relief, planning, and making information more readily and easily available. As an intern, I am especially helpful to the program because I have access to technology that many people don’t, and I have the free time to work on projects that they’ve been unable to devote time to.

My main project has been using deep learning to identify and measure the diameter of tree canopies from drone imagery which would be used to calculate carbon sequestration in Madagascar. This model can tell people how much carbon is being stored in forests and show which areas are important to protect and preserve to mitigate climate change. It is important to know how much carbon is being sequestered when evaluating how much greenhouse gases are being released in an area. This project relies on user input to teach the software how to identify trees and measure the boundaries of them. I am very glad that I’m contributing to such a useful and interesting project, and I can’t wait to work on more projects like this in my career.

"Nikitin creating map of Madagascar"

Here is a picture of me using the software ArcGIS Pro to create a new map of Madagascar.


Peter Nikitin is a senior in Villanova’s Department of Geography and the Environment. He is majoring in Geography.



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Last Modified: November 19, 2021

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