Into the Nitty-Gritty of GIS

By Lily McVetty, Summer Intern

My internship with BTLT began with a two-day Introduction to GIS workshop. Two members of Bowdoin College’s Academic Technology & Consulting team, Aaron Gilbreath and Jennifer Snow, welcomed students with two-inch binders filled with practice projects and step-by-step instructions. In the basement of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, we clicked our way through the various practice projects, constantly glancing at the carefully outlined steps in our binders. ArcGIS provides users with many services and possibilities. With a wide range of possibilities comes a complex system, which requires its users to have a general understanding of its jargon and basic functions. Regardless of the detailed instructions and informative lectures, many hands were raised during the GIS workshop.

I was originally introduced to ArcGIS and its complexities through an environmental studies course titled Perspectives in Environmental Science. My classmates and I briefly used this software for a consulting project. Similar to the Introduction to GIS workshop, a lot of questions arouse while consulting teams worked within ArcGIS. The professor, lab instructor, and student teaching assistant zig-zagged between students, answering question after question.

This past week, I was able to apply the knowledge I gained from the environmental studies course and GIS workshop out in the field. When students are given the chance to use and build upon the content they learn in the classroom and lab, it is exciting and fulfilling! Additionally, it is valuable to understand how the material is used in real world situations.

I collected coordinate data at a 121-acre property in Topsham by using a GPS to document multiple tracks. I am in the process of using the tracks to curate a trail map that will help guide users during the winter and spring seasons. This map will be a great aid when tree blazes are hard to see amidst the snow cover.