GeoCarta Has Moved

May 6, 2007

Ivy League Students Tackle Problems With GIS

When it was founded back in 1769, Dartmouth students were using cutting edge technology such as terrestrial and celestial globes to study geography. Dartmouth Life takes a look at how today's students are using GIS to help solve a variety of problems:

Dartmouth students use the powerful GIS platform to explore environmental, social, or logistical questions. In Environmental Applications of GIS, Caroline Burns '08 documented the optimal spots for landfills in Grafton County, N.H., while Katie Moerlein '08 tracked the movement of a glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska, over the course of seven years. Maxwell Schwartz '07 recommended sites for new wildfire dispatch centers in northwestern Montana, and Brian Schwartz '08 analyzed the economic impact of Wal-Mart stores in Los Angeles County. "I've heard a lot about Wal-Mart, but I wanted better insight on what the truth of the matter really was," says Schwartz.

Guiding many of the students in their GIS projects is Assistant Professor of Geography Xun Shi. "Shi has a knack for breaking complexities down to simple concepts," says Ben Wilson '07. For Wilson's senior thesis, he works with Shi on a GIS map available online that tracks the status of home rebuilding in the Gentilly district of New Orleans. "The purpose of the online map is to allow residents to share information that could aid in restoration decision-making," says Wilson. Shi also works with students on a National Institutes of Health project investigating the potential relationship of environmental factors to lung cancer incident rates in New Hampshire.

Dartmouth is the only Ivy League school with a distinct geography department. Students majoring in the subject have increased from 17 last year to a planned 38 next year.