On the map: County, UW Tacoma celebrate GIS Day 2003

A crowd of over 100 people turned out Wednesday at the University of Washington Tacoma to celebrate innovative technology that uses geography to bring countless benefits to the world.

Representatives from Pierce County, area cities, the U.S. Army and other organizations, as well as students and members of the public, came to the Dougan Building as part of GIS (Geographic Information System) Day 2003.

Pierce County GIS and the UW Tacoma’s Urban Studies Program demonstrated how GIS technology is used in local government for solving problems and providing digital government services, and on campus for teaching students how to utilize GIS tools.

The fifth annual Pierce County GIS Day at the UW Tacoma was the local portion of a global event that showcases the real-world application of this important technology. It’s held in conjunction with the National Geographic Society’s Geography Awareness Week (Nov. 16-22).

In fact, GIS Day 2003 was celebrated in some 70 countries, said Linda Gerull, Pierce County GIS manager.

A GIS is a computer-based mapping tool that takes information from a database about a location – such as streets, buildings, water features and terrain – and turns it into visual layers. Seeing geographic features on a map gives users a better understanding of a particular location, enabling planners, analysts and others to make informed decisions.

“Our areas diverse, urban population creates a need for accurate and timely spatial analysis, and GIS is the tool for this task,” said Tom Carlson, UW assistant professor of GIS, in a press release. “Through the GIS Certificate Program, students can acquire the GIS skills necessary to analyze the complex spatial relationships found in the Puget Sound area and beyond.”

GIS technology lets government be more specific in addressing problems, Gerull said, noting, “It really helps them target their resources.”

In fact, GIS technology is used throughout the world to solve problems related to the environment, health care, land use, business efficiency, education and public safety.

“This technology can also help businesses place ATMs and restaurants at more convenient locations, allow people to pull maps off the Internet and help farmers grow more crops with less chemicals,” Gerull said. Other practical applications she mentioned include up-to-date information for more efficient business meetings and GPS (Global Positioning System) technology that is become more ubiquitous.

“I was really proud to see the participation,” Gerull said of this year’s event, even while looking forward to next year’s GIS Day. “I just thought it went great.”

GIS 2003 attendees

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department; CIty of Puyallup; City of Tacoma; City of Fife; US Army-Ft. Lewis; USGS; Pierce Transit; Law Enforcement Support Agency; City of Gig Harbor; Simpson Resource Co.; ESRI (GIS Software vendor); GeoEngineers; Triathlon Inc.; Supportive Housing Association; Tacoma Community College and Green River Community College.

From Pierce County Departments: Assessor Treasurer; Auditor; Prosecuting Attorney; Planning and Land Services; Information Services; Water Programs; Survey and Mapping; Sheriff’s Office; Department of Emergency Management; Road Operations; and PW Design and Construction.

Total Attending:125 (including 10 members of the public and 28 students)