GIS For Biologists: Tip #3 – What Are Projections And Why Are They Important In GIS?

16 Mar

One of the most important concepts that biologists need to get their head round to successfully use GIS in their research is that of projections. Projections are mathematical transformations that allow the curved surface of the Earth to be displayed on the flat two-dimensional surface of a map or screen. All projections produce distortions of some kind, and this means that you need to make sure you select the correct projection for any given GIS project. However, the very idea of what projections do is something that biologists often struggle to get their heads around.

This video uses the Google Earth interface to provide an easy to follow introduction to projections and why they are important in GIS. By looking at things from a global perspective, It shows how distortions increase the further you get form the centre of a projection and why it is important to make sure you select one that is appropriate for the size, shape and location of your specific study area.

If you have any questions or queries about this video, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology

One Response to “GIS For Biologists: Tip #3 – What Are Projections And Why Are They Important In GIS?”


  1. GIS For Biologists: Tip #4 – Setting A Projection / Coordinate System For Your GIS Project | GIS In Ecology - 27/03/2015

    […] This video provides easy to follow instructions on how to set the projection/coordinate system of a GIS project in QGIS, the leading open source and freely available GIS software package. As you see, it’s not difficult to do, however, you do need to remember to do it each and every time you start a new GIS project. If you want to find out more about projections in general, you can find a video which explains what they are here. […]

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