UMBC Mic'd Up

Maps & More | How GIS Shapes Our World and Future

April 24, 2024 UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise Season 4
Maps & More | How GIS Shapes Our World and Future
UMBC Mic'd Up
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UMBC Mic'd Up
Maps & More | How GIS Shapes Our World and Future
Apr 24, 2024 Season 4
UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise

Explore the fascinating Geographic Information Systems (GIS) world with UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast! Join Dennise Cardona as she chats with Harrison DeFord, a dedicated student from UMBC. Discover how GIS is not just about maps but a tool that shapes policy, helps in disaster management, and improves community services. Learn about the real-world applications of GIS and how it can make a significant difference in society. Are you interested in taking your passion for geography and technology to the next level? Check out UMBC's GIS Graduate Program and see where advanced GIS skills can take you. 

Subscribe to our channel for more insights and stories from students and professionals making an impact with their skills. Remember to like, comment, and share!

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Show Notes Transcript

Explore the fascinating Geographic Information Systems (GIS) world with UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast! Join Dennise Cardona as she chats with Harrison DeFord, a dedicated student from UMBC. Discover how GIS is not just about maps but a tool that shapes policy, helps in disaster management, and improves community services. Learn about the real-world applications of GIS and how it can make a significant difference in society. Are you interested in taking your passion for geography and technology to the next level? Check out UMBC's GIS Graduate Program and see where advanced GIS skills can take you. 

Subscribe to our channel for more insights and stories from students and professionals making an impact with their skills. Remember to like, comment, and share!

Learn More:

Dennise Cardona  0:00  
Hey everyone. Thanks for tuning in to UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs. And today I am joined by Harrison DeFord, a current student in the GES master's program at UMBC. And he is taking some courses in the GIS master's program as well. He did graduate in 2022 with his undergrad in geography. So it's so wonderful to have you here. Harrison. Thanks for joining me.

Harrison DeFord  0:29  
Thanks, Dennise. Absolutely, it's good to be here. I'm excited to chat with you today.

Dennise Cardona  0:33  
Awesome. It's nice to meet a fellow Retriever. I graduated in 2023. With a master's. It's really great to be here with a fellow Retriever.

Harrison DeFord  0:42  

Dennise Cardona  0:43  
You, let's talk about GIS. Okay. I'd love to know what you are most excited about when it comes to advancing your education in that whole sphere or the geography GIS landscape. 

Harrison DeFord  0:57  
Yeah, my people always ask why do you do GIS like why geography all that. And it really boils down to, you can see on the wall behind me, I've got a map hanging out right now people just like looking at maps, and I'm no different, right? You like looking at maps, the next logical step is you just make the maps that's honestly like, in my career, in my learnings, whatever the biggest motivator for me is that I just think it's fun. It's very cool. So I'm excited to go even further and learn more new skills that I can use to look at more maps.

Dennise Cardona  1:26  
I love that. And the reason I love that is because so I'm married to a geography person, he majored in it as well. And we used to take these road trips, we go cross country, and we'd have the now this was way before GPS ever existed before Waze and Google Maps, we didn't have any of that technology. I don't even think we had cell phones. So we just hit the open road. And we had these this big Atlas. I don't know if you remember if they even sell them anymore. But the road atlas, that was just a ginormous thing that you'd open up. And I just loved, I learned how to be the Navigator. And I loved using that, that Atlas. And I actually miss it because I don't use it anymore. Obviously, we have GPS now and things of that sort. But it's a good skill to have. If you don't have internet and you don't have access to Wi Fi or 5g or 4g wherever you are in the world. Being able to learn how to read a map is really important to be able to navigate the world, right? 

Harrison DeFord  2:26  
That's Lily. Yeah. Over the summers, I'm a backpacking guide out west. And so one of the things I have to do is actually teach the scouts 14 to 18 year old people and their parents how to read a map. And so when I came into the GES program, geography environmental systems, I thought, oh, yeah, I want to be a park ranger or a forester, or something of the type. And because that's that was my interest. I like hiking around. I like looking at rocks and trees and birds and all that stuff. And then I took a couple years of GIS got their GES classes at UMBC. And I took my first G, GIS class, right, my first match class, I was like, No, that's what I want to do. I really do think that the skill of reading a map translates very well to what you obviously has to offer. 

Dennise Cardona  3:09  
That's great. Now, what is it that you want to do? You mentioned your after you took some of these courses as as an undergrad, it shone a spotlight, if you will, on what you wanted to do, what what exactly is, for those who are listening in, who may have no concept of what GIS or GES is? Can you explain it in your own words, what it is and why people should be so excited about it? 

Harrison DeFord  3:30  
Yeah, absolutely. GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. And that's three words that have a lot of meaning. But they're, it's hard to convey in just three words. So GIS can be anything from navigation, right? Google Maps, Waze. We've all used them that can be policy decisions, right? So we look at where people live, that feel different demographic groups, or that fill different niches or people who might be more helpful or disadvantaged in one way or another. You can use it for transportation to see here's where the buses and the trains should go. All kinds of things. So it's really broad. Personally, I really like the human side of it. So you've got the environmental stuff, you can look at elevation gradients, and you can look at hydrology, and you can look at land cover and land usage and all that stuff. And everything has a geographic component, but I'm really interested in the people and the places that they live, they work they exist together.

Dennise Cardona  4:28  
And it's interesting you say that because I think the average person myself included, when we think of geographic information systems, or geographical environment, wait, what is GES stand for, again? Before I go on. 

Harrison DeFord  4:40  
GES is geographic and environmental studies or geographic environmental systems, GIS, geographic information systems.

Dennise Cardona  4:47  
Okay, well when we think about GES, we think about, it's just maps, right? It's learning they map things out, maybe for society for just the general ogod use of land and things of that sort. But bringing in that human element as well, that is something that is interesting, because I don't think that's the first thing people think about. And what is what about that part are you most excited to just tap into and be able to go out there and make a difference in the world through this knowledge, you're gonna, you're about to gain?

Harrison DeFord  5:20  
Yeah, so after my undergrad, and hopefully, while I pursued my master's, I'm working for Baltimore county government, in the BC stat team, which is under the executive office. And so a lot of my maps actually do go into usage for policy decisions. So I've done stuff looking at animal, for example, stray animal pickups, calls for service, we analyze where all of the stray animals are picked up, whether that's cats or dogs, or deer, or birds, or any animal that's picked up by Animal Services. And we look at how we can more effectively either prevent that from happening again, with a trap neuter return program, TNR, were the most efficient shelter to deliver them to is the best way to keep them out of the shelter so they can bring in new animals. I've also worked on the food pantry locator, which was just released a couple of weeks ago, so that any member of the public can go to the website, click on their address, and it'll show what food pantries are nearby. I think that really the public sector is where you have the biggest impact on the most number of people. So using geographic information to drive these public projects, really, I think, is where my, where I hope to take the courses that I'm learning. 

Dennise Cardona  6:31  
Yeah, absolutely. This sounds like there's a great opportunity to make a big difference in their in the society in the world at large. Have you considered how AI may affect the future of what you're doing with GIS and GES? 

Harrison DeFord  6:47  
Yeah, you can ask Chat GPT right now to write you a Python script that will generate a map. But that Python script will not work the first time or the fifth time or the 10th time, you're always gonna have to go and tweak it. So in terms of a career, future jobs ability, I'm not worried about that part. One thing that I do think that AI will do is help with data collection. As people use AI more everything has a spatial component, as people use AI, you can see where people are using it, you can see what people are querying from it. And a lot of this stuff that you think of nowadays, as AI super advanced was put into place by companies like Uber, because everything that Uber does, is has a spatial component, right? They got to know where their cars are, they have to know where the restaurant they're picking up the food is all that AI is really blown up since Chat GBT went live and people could use it. But even before that AI has been artificial intelligence, meaning machine learning models and stuff like that have been in place ng geospatial for a long time. So I'm sure there will be advancements. But I don't think that they'll happen so fast that it will drastically change the field. 

Yeah, and I think hopefully, I'm hoping, being idealistic here, that there will always be the need for the human component part of it. So AI may be able to do a tremendous amount of things, for me, as a marketing person, as a video producer, as an instructional designer, I wear a few different hats. I can use Chat GPT, to create all sorts of wonderful things for me. But there's always that human component. There's, at this point at this stage of its evolution, I know like I can look at it and say what's not quite doesn't sound, it's not quite what the audience needs, or it's not quite what I had in mind. It's not writing these objectives the way I need them to. So at this point, there's no fear. But maybe in the future, it will I think, as society, we're going to have to learn how to engage with it and work almost partnership with it, because it seems like that's where it's headed. And it's exciting, though, I think that the person who embraces that, I think will come ahead, because I feel like if you're not embracing technology, if you're not embracing that AI, at least in the future, can really find yourself maybe behind the mark.

Yeah, absolutely. I took a class, sometime in '22. I don't remember it was spring or fall semester. But when Mr. Ron Wilson and the class was called Just Maps, were just refers to justice maps that accurately show what you want to show. There's a very popular book among GIS people called How to Lie with maps, or how to lie effectively with maps. And the whole point is that you can use color schemes, you can use legend, breaking news, all kinds of stuff to show the same data in a lot of different ways. Right, so you can leave it as point data, you can show where every single incidents of, for example, a 311 report is, or you can aggregate it by neighborhoods, or by the city as a whole or the county or whatever level you want to aggregate it at. And each one of those shows a different connotation. So if you show points on cluster, you can see really small hotspots if you show it as the city though, that's not super useful to somebody who wants to see what their neighborhood looks like. And I think that's one thing that AI like you said, that human element of someone has to make these decisions of, what story are we trying to tell or what are we trying to showcase with our maps and our cartography?

Dennise Cardona  10:03  
And really, you just hit the nail on the head, it tells a story data tells a story. And I think as data people, it's important to have that ethical consideration behind the work that that is done, because there are many implications that can be positive, or the flip side of that if someone's not keeping a careful eye on that and presenting the data in a way that is ethical and truthful.

Harrison DeFord  10:30  
Yeah, absolutely. 

Dennise Cardona  10:31  
Yeah. So with UMBC, why did you decide to pursue your masters?

Harrison DeFord  10:37  
Um, it circles back to what I was saying, I just like to learn. I've made a lot of good relationships, specifically UMBC. I could, there's a lot of places that could have gone and got my masters. But I picked to go back to UMBC after my undergraduate because of the relationships that I have with so many of the professors Dr. Moody, Dr. Fagan, Mr. Wilson, Dr. Taylor's so many professors that have just been such a good influence in my studies, and really understand my ideologies when it comes to to GIS and environmental science as a whole. I really don't think I looked at a couple other schools and I couldn't find anything that really matched the priorities of the program here at UMBC. 

Dennise Cardona  11:15  
That's great to know. And one last question about the, I know that prospective students considering a graduate program, they may be concerned about what the peer to peer interaction is like that you've taken some Just Maps and things of that some courses in GIS here at UMBC. What was that peer to peer interaction? Like? Did it help to promote your learning? How was that experience?

Harrison DeFord  11:40  
Yeah, I'll be honest, I work best by myself, especially on projects and stuff like that. So for me, it probably wasn't as big of an influence as it was for others. That being said, I did proctor for Dr. Kaler for 386. And just being in the room while other students were working together, especially on a class that I'd already taken, it was really eye opening to me because especially as a proctor, sometimes you just want to sit in there and do your homework or whatever, get your own stuff done, and make sure that nobody breaks a computer. But it was really cool to see people trying to talk out solutions to problems and stuff like that, before they'd come talk to me to try and, or to see what my thoughts on an issue were. So I definitely think that culture is there if you want it, I never felt like in any of my classes, I was forced into being in a group or interacting when I didn't want to, and I felt I could do the work on my own. But yeah, I do feel like that culture is there in the present definitely promoted, they'll tell you like on labs and stuff. As long as you're not like copying each other's answers, please work together, bring up tables, computers next to each other, and discuss.

Dennise Cardona  12:43  
Yeah, that collaborative learning, you learn so much from each other. Because one, you might have one little element that is missing from somebody else's brain and vice versa. And sometimes it makes all the difference in the world. 

Harrison DeFord  12:56  
Yeah, absolutely. 

Dennise Cardona  12:57  
Yeah. Now, I lied. I do have one more question for you. So my question is, what are you most excited about once you complete your coursework here in the GIS program?

Harrison DeFord  13:06  
So once I've hopefully graduated, completed the coursework that I'm that I'm taking the UMBC GES programs, the GIS certificate, I hope to be able to expand the skills that I learned. So you'll learn stuff, that's spatial statistics, or even stuff as simple as here's a buffer and then an intersection of a polygon. But once you get that foundation, you can expand it to all kinds of different skills. So I find myself super interested in mobility. So I hope to use the skills that I learned from the UMBC GES program to to look at transit, or scooters or bike share programs, or even sidewalks in connectivity of neighborhoods and networks. That's, I think, probably the domain that I hope to most expand, and that I'm most excited to expand to in the future. But yeah, I think probably mobility transit, and just equality in those scenarios.

Dennise Cardona  13:07  
Wow, that's great. That's a great thing to shoot for. I wish you much success with that. You're gonna do great. I can see you're very excited about this. And that's what it really, that's half the battle right there is having that motivation behind you to want to do a great thing in the world. And yeah, kudos and good luck with that. I know you'll have great success. Thank you, everyone for tuning into this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. If you'd like to learn more about our offerings, do a search for UMBC GIS master's program or even GES master's program, or simply click the link in the description.

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