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March 15, 2013
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Geographic information systems students at Northwest Missouri State University presented well at the recent Missouri Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Conference in St. Louis, where they earned three of four outstanding poster awards.
The MO-GIS Advisory Council (MGISAC), a non-profit organization consisting of members from government, industry and academia, hosts the conference every other year to promote GIS to the public. Membership in MGISAC is appointed by Missouri’s chief information officer. Dr. Ming Hung, associate professor of geography at Northwest and a member of the MGISAC, served as chair of the poster session.
“We see and use GIS every day, such as Google Earth, in-car navigation, GPS, road atlas, and more,” Hung said. “There are many job opportunities. One of the reasons for getting into this is it’s fun, and it could be a research-oriented discipline and a practical discipline we can use in our everyday life.”
Northwest graduate student Philip Marley presented research and a poster that earned an outstanding poster recognition. He completed his research, titled “Using GIS to Track Black Bears in Missouri,” with coworkers Spence Lynch and Joel Sartwell at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Marley’s research methods involve placing tracking collars on wild black bears, which replaces outdated, labor-intensive methods using VHS transmitters. Conservationists can monitor bears’ activity in real time from a computer, and the public can view delayed activity to prevent poaching online.
“Dealing with bears is not quite as technical as what other people are doing,” Marley, of Albany, Ga., who is pursuing is master of science degree in GIS, said. “We didn’t go to the conference with a competition mindset. We’re just doing some pretty neat stuff with some new technology and trying to get the word out.”
Marley is completing his graduate coursework online while working with the MDC, and an 18-month experience as a wildlife biologist in Florida. He plans to graduate with experiences in GIS and biology. That unique combination, along with his relevant experience, is job training.
“Northwest’s graduate courses definitely increased my knowledge and have given me completely different ways to look at problems that come up within a project and different ways to tackle them,” Marley said.
Daniel Hyde, a junior GIS and comprehensive crisis response major from Leavenworth, Kan., earned second place for his poster, “Detecting Unregistered Buildings Using Remote Sensing.” Hyde used GIS image processing to locate and store home addresses in a database in order to find locations of unregistered phone numbers during emergency calls.
Hyde completed his work during two consecutive summer internships with Leavenworth County, Kan. He said the research, internship and conference enrich his classroom GIS education.
“It gives you an application for what we’re learning,” Hyde said. “We actually get to learn how this technology will be applied.”
Hyde bridged his coursework to his internship work and used research gathered during his internship to build an award-winning conference presentation.
“The Leavenworth office wanted to know how you find people who haven’t registered their house with the county, so if they dial 911 you can find where it is,” Hyde said. “I just did some image processing I learned in class and applied it.”
William Platt, a senior from Kansas City studying a GIS major with an emphasis in earth technology, worked off of research originally conducted by Hung to build his poster presentation, “The Change of Land Cover Composition in an Urban Area from 1972-1999.”
Using a small part of Salt Lake City as a base, Platt noted that 26 percent of land in that area was urban uses in 1972, which doubled by 1999. His research was awarded third place.
After he graduates in May, Platt will seek employment utilizing his GIS education and experience. He was grateful to meet potential employers during the conference and enjoyed seeing the coursework come to life during his research.
“I think I’ll continue working on this project in the future,” Platt, from Kansas City, said. “It could be used for so many different applications, maybe environmental regulations or disaster response.”
Hyde and Platt completed their work with the help of the undergraduate research fund through the College of Arts and Sciences. Hung encourages GIS training because it is one of the three fastest-growing job markets, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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