Powerful new technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS), the global positioning system (GPS), satellite based remote sensing (RS), and computer simulation have penetrated every aspect of our lives, from digital maps in vehicles to the management and maintenance of city infrastructure, regional forest and agriculture lands. Geospatial technology refers to all of the software applications that are used to acquire, manipulate, and store geographic information.
It is expected that the GIS industry will experience continuous growth in the United States requiring the number of geospatial workers to increase from its current 850,000 nationwide to around 1.2 million by 2018 (GeoTech). As a result, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences (SFWS) has developed the Geospatial and Environmental Informatics (GSEI) degree program with other units on campus including Geology and Computer Science, to meet this increasing demand of professionals. According to SFWS Dean, Janaki Alavalapati, “GSEI graduates can anticipate a wide variety of career opportunities as planners, analysts, consultants, resource managers or developers within public agencies and government, as well as private corporations, consulting firms, NGO and other international organizations.”
SFWS research and curriculum intensely utilize geospatial informatics because sustainable management of forests, wildlife, natural resources and the environment requires a spatially-explicit approach. States Dr. Scott Enebak, SFWS Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, “The new program complements the existing SFWS degree programs of Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resource Management, along with other courses on campus, to enhance the skills and knowledge of undergraduate students in remote sensing, GIS, photogrammetry, cartography and computer simulations and builds upon existing strengths in spatial analysis and modeling.”
The GSEI degree program is designed to provide students rigorous training in fundamental theories, concepts, quantitative tools, analytical technologies and research skills that are used to acquire spatially referenced information and analyze spatial processes. Dr. B. Graeme Lockaby, McClure Professor and SFWS Associate Dean of Research noted, “This interdisciplinary approach of this new degree brings together information technology, spatial science, data analysis, natural resources and ecological modeling that enable us to explore and apply these new technologies and science to the sustainable management of the natural world.”
Purposefully, the GSEI program has been aligned with the interdisciplinary program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) designed to enhance knowledge across multiple fields including ecology, agriculture, geosciences, climate change and civil engineering. This STEM approach supports Auburn University’s goals and priorities in terms of enhancing student success and preparing them for the job market.
The new undergraduate degree was approved by the AU Board of Trustees in June. Pending approval by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE), students currently enrolled in required courses may apply their credit toward the degree beginning Fall 2017. For more information about the degree, contact SFWS Director of GIS and Remote Sensing Laboratory, Dr. Susan Pan, at firstname.lastname@example.org or SFWS Office of Student Services at email@example.com.