During the summer of 2012, Nathan Sommers, senior UF math major, and Cheryl Cape, UF senior lecturer of natural science, developed an online management system for the Hancock Park District using Geographic Information System (GIS) software. GIS software can be used to track and update data for specific locations.
The park district uses the system developed by Sommers to track the upkeep of the parks, log management records and share planning proposals for administration of the natural and recreational areas. Sommers was introduced to GIS technology during a class on the topic (GEOL 410) during the fall 2011 semester and an advanced topics in geology course with Cape during the spring 2012 semester.
“As a math major, I can see where all the math comes into play with all the data gathering and organizing in a GIS,” said Sommers. Sommers and the Hancock Park District staff gathered all information about the local parks, focusing on Riverbend, Oakwoods and Litzenburg. This process was intensive due to the amount of information needed for all three parks. Sommers used a program called ArcGIS to create informational maps of the parks.
The information associated with these maps includes data such as schedules for mowing grass, where seed was planted and when it needs to be planted, when the park rangers need to burn prairie grass in order to allow native vegetation to regenerate, and much more. Cape, who also has done similar volunteer work for the community by providing GIS information to the Northwest Ohio Flood Mitigation Partnership, strongly believes it is a university’s responsibility to help and strengthen its surrounding city and community.
“The GIS project] was a great use of the University’s resources to help the community,” said Cape. “When the community asks, we’re willing to help.” GIS is paving the way for data collection throughout the world. According to Global Industry Analysts Inc., GIS will be a $10.6 billion dollar industry by 2015 and already is a necessity in many industries.
GIS was used to provide aid and organize relief efforts during Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York and the East Coast in October 2012. Relief groups mapped out information such as geographically low areas, governmental boundaries, intensity of the storm over specific areas, flight analysis for relief aircraft and even the locations of the structures residents use for shelter. Because of what he’s learned about GIS as a student at Findlay, Sommers is considering a master’s degree in GIS.
“[The project] was a great learning experience and I look forward to continuing in GIS,” said Sommers.
Written by Evan Rowland