Olivia Golden’18, Earthos Institute, Somerville, Massachusetts

Fresh Water Availability Map of Nairobi, Kenya Bioregion in progress

Anyone who has taken a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course understands the simultaneous excitement and frustration that comes with the digital mapping process. Over the past couple of weeks I have begun to develop maps for Earthos using Quantum Geographic Information Systems (QGIS) and other forms of GIS technology. Using GIS one can examine and analyze a wide array of data in relation to geographic space. I took the Intro to GIS class in the fall of 2017 and am excited to be brushing up on my experiences with the technology.

The applicability and potential of GIS is something that really excites me. GIS may typically be used for spatial and numerical analysis, but it also has the capacity to represent data in unique and, yes, artful ways. In this regard, it is similar to Photoshop or even Adobe Illustrator. The different layers of information can be manipulated to be visually striking and enlightening. However, sometimes my fascination with GIS makes me forget how challenging it can be to navigate the software.

It had been a little while since I used GIS and my memory was a little rusty. I had to watch a bunch of YouTube tutorials and go through a bit of trial and error to get the ball rolling. Although it took some patience, I am glad that I went through this process because I have been able to reinforce the skills that I built last fall, while having learned some new ones.

My task has been to examine the resource capacity and consumption of various bioregions (a major city and its rural surroundings) across the globe. This means that I analyze the availability of resources, such as fresh water and then compare this availability to regional resource consumption. I have chosen to take a closer look at Barcelona, Spain, Dominica (a country, which is also its own bioregion), and Nairobi, Kenya. After developing these maps, I will be able to examine the resource use across multiple bioregions.

The first step was to gather all of the data that I needed from government and open source GIS websites. Then I adjusted each of these sets to the correct format. This was easier said than done. I had to download the shapes of each region and their municipalities, population data, data on geology, and other similar sets. The challenge is that these sets of data often located on different websites. Additionally, finding international data can be difficult because they are sometimes presented in different languages. This makes it hard to tell whether or not one is downloading the correct data. On top of that, sometimes the data is outdated and may not be representative of the current demographics or land uses within an area.

While it has taken a little bit of time, I am getting the hang of GIS again. Working with the Earthos staff on the maps has diversified my ability to represent geospatial data. I have enjoyed learning to alter the data in ways that are most informative, and learning how to use other forms of software to work with data.

I am really thankful that Earthos has given me the opportunity to explore GIS and develop my skills. The professional development aspect of my internship with Earthos has been extremely valuable and I now realize how rewarding it is to work for an organization that supports my long-term goals.

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