Teen Tech Tip of the Week #23: Geographic Information Systems 
Welcome back! This week we have an exciting topic at hand, mostly because of how powerful the tools are. In this post you will learn how to make interactive maps to study and compare geographic information.

Take some time to let this map load, and be sure to check out all its features. This week's topic is a rather difficult one, so take some time and explore all that it has to offer.

View Larger Map
(Map relating the proximity of farmers markets to the types of crops harvested in each region. NOTE: Click Legend in the top right corner and give the map a moment to load)

What is GIS?!

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, are systems that store, analyze, and graphically present geographic data, called spatial data. Map presentations (like the one featured above) are created by adding layers of data onto a base map.

In the example above, I started with a map of the US, and then I added a shapefile containing a map of all the counties of KY. Next, I added a layer containing all of the farmers markets in the US and a final layer that shows the diversity of crops harvested per county in the US. This simple map shows the relationship between the density of farmers markets and the agricultural productivity of KY counties.

Maps like this one can be analyzed to better understand that relationship, and information like this may be important to farmers looking to corner new markets. In fact, GIS is a very large field that encompasses many disciplines of study like science, the environment, infrastructure, business, social studies, history, geography, and geology. Many jobs are available to people with strong GIS skills, as well.

Below are some resources to get you started in this exciting field.

Free Map Making Software

Here are some free applications that allow you to access data and make maps:

ArcGIS Online
ArcGIS Explorer Desktop
ArcGIS Explorer Online

Data Sources

Your map is only as good as the data that you have to display. Whether or not you realize it, KY is in the top 5 states in the nation for GIS data! Here are bunch of great place for fast, free data:

KY Geological Survey - offered through the University of KY, the KGS is the repository for a wide range of KY Geospatial data

Geospatial Data Library - this is the KGS library of data including links to the KY Geonet, Office of Geographic Information Systems, KY Dept Fish and Wildlife, University of Louisville GIS, the US Geological Survey, and more.


You've got all the tools you need, now what?! Watch some of these videos to get you started:

Getting Started with ArcGIS Online
ArcGIS Explorer Quick Start Tutorial

If you are looking to take these skills to the higher level, be sure to check ot some of the GIS courses offered through My Library University.

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