What’s New In GIS And Biological Research: 20 April 2015

21 Apr

For this week’s summary, I’m going to start with a recent post from the MapsNigeriaInitiative blog, which points out something which is so obvious that it needs repeating. If those of us based in Europe and North America find ourselves struggling to deal with the licence costs for commercial GIS software packages, how on Earth do our colleagues in South America, Africa and Asia cope? The answer finally seems to be coming to the fore in the shape of the free, open source QGIS software. However, while it seems that QGIS has finally caught up with its commercial counterparts in the last year or so, there is still a knowledge gap which needs filling in order for QGIS to taken up and used as widely as possible, and this can only be filled by the widespread availability of good quality training and advice. The MapsNigeriaInitiative are aiming to help close this gap by providing advice on using QGIS, and here at GIS In Ecology, we are doing the same with our GIS For Biologists How To … series of videos.

Having just highlighted the potential benefits of QGIS vs commercial GIS software, it is slightly ironic that the next post I’m going to highlight is a tip for ArcGIS users. However, I think it is an important and useful tip for biologists. This is MaybeItsAMap’s tip on how to create a set of random sampling points within a specific study area. This is something that many biologists and ecologists will need to be able to do on a regular basis, especially when using GIS to plan their field research, so it is always useful to have some advice on how to do it.

The next post I want to mention is a nice example of GIS in action. This is a study which uses GIS to investigate how glaciers are changing over time. Given the importance that monitoring the effects of climate change has for our understanding of what is likely to happen in the future, this type of study is invaluable. However, similar GIS-based techniques could also be used to monitor land use changes, deforestation, desertification, and many other processes that are of interest to biologists, and that is why I chose to highlight this study in this week’s digest.

I’m going to end this summary of interesting GIS-related things with a post from Kitty Hurley’s Geospatial Response blog which highlights how lost you can sometimes feel when doing GIS, and particularly when you’re thrown in at the deep end by your boss or supervisor. This is certainly something everyone experiences from time to time, and it is good to hear from someone who is willing to admit to feeling this way (rather than keeping  it buried inside like the rest of us). However, with the help of hints and tips highlighted in these weekly summaries, and provided in other posts on this blog, as well as the provision specialist forums like the GIS In Ecology Forum, hopefully there is an ever-increasing number of resources out there to help out any and all biologists and ecologists who find themselves struggling with GIS from time to time. And that is something we here at GIS In Ecology are always happy to see.

Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology

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