GeoData Center project featured in Alumni newsletter

This story originally appeared in the 2/12/14 edition of University of West Florida Connection e-news.

New Way to Experience Campus Built by GeoData Center & UWF Students

McKinney standing as GIS Certificate students Zackary Leady and Brittany White work on the campus map project as part of McKinney's Special Topics in GIS class.

The UWF GeoData Center, a center for support of geo-spatial technologies, has recently released a new interactive online map of the UWF campus. This map was built as a Web-based Geographic Information System, or GIS, making the campus viewable at multiple scales and with a customizable display, all in a spatially accurate layout.

As a Web-GIS, the map allows users to search for buildings, departments or parking lots and interact with features on the map to find additional information, photos and links to campus web pages. Layers including parking space types, trolley stops, emergency phones, recreation areas and historical aerial photographs can be displayed depending on user preferences.

Nathan McKinney, coordinator of geographic information systems at the GeoData Center, said that GIS elevates the usefulness of the campus map by enhancing our ability to understand the UWF campus as a place inclusive of its various components.

In addition to being a helpful resource, the project has also served an even greater purpose. Environmental studies students pursuing a Certificate in GIS performed much of the work developing the map over the past two years. As part of the internship/directed study requirement for the GIS certificate program, students spend at least one semester on the project. By participating in the program students easily find employment in the high-demand field of GIS.

"Our students are gaining real-world experience using the skills they have acquired through this project, which make them incredibly appealing to prospective employers," McKinney said. "In fact, one of our students had the opportunity to present this project at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego over the summer."

Although the map is publicly launched and attracting visitors from all over the world, the educational component and involvement of students in the map project development has only just begun.  Students at all levels and backgrounds are encouraged to submit new content, ideas and functionality as projects or as part of coursework within the GIS program. Further, the application can be cloned and reconfigured relatively easily to meet the needs of specific projects or groups.

"Ideas for the project going forward include introducing freshman physical geography students to GIS by plotting GPS locations to a version of the map or using it to promote conservation activities on campus,"  McKinney said.

The current version of the web-GIS map is viewable only on a desktop, but a mobile version with fewer features is in the works. The map is also currently being expanded to cover other UWF sites, such as the Emerald Coast campus and the historic downtown Pensacola properties.

Check out the project by visiting uwf.edu/maps.

Direct link to map: uwf.edu/gis/map
Project About Pageuwf.edu/gis/map/about

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