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Geography Week at the U

Nov. 9, 2009 – Lectures on climate change past and present and on urban sustainability will be featured as the University of Utah’s Department of Geography celebrates Geography Awareness Week during the week of Nov. 16.

Events also will include career panel discussions, an open house, exhibits and a “movie night.” Wednesday, Nov. 18 is Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day, with a series of events related to the computer-based mapping tool known as GIS.

GIS technology “is profoundly changing the way we conduct science, business, government and our daily lives,” says Harvey Miller, professor and chair of geography.

The public and news media are invited to attend Geography Awareness Week activities, which begin Tuesday, Nov. 17 and will be held in Orson Spencer Hall, located just south of the Olpin Union Building on the University of Utah campus.

Geography Awareness Week and GIS Day are internationally recognized events that highlight how geographic thinking and Geographic Information Systems are revolutionizing our understanding and managing of our world. Geographic analysis and GIS skills are in high demand across a wide range of fields and careers. GIS technology, along with nanotechnology and biotechnology, are the three most important technologies for job growth in the 21st century, according to the U.S. Department of Labor

More than 200 students, educators and professionals are expected at this year’s events, which provide an opportunity make people aware of geography and GIS and give anyone with an interest in geography an opportunity to share their enthusiasm.

Geography Awareness Week is sponsored by the Department of Geography, its DIGIT Lab, and the Associated Students of the University of Utah. Here is the schedule:

Tuesday, Nov. 17

  • 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. “The Great Melt: Greenland’s Response to Climate Change,” brown bag lunch presentation by Rick Forster, associate professor of geography, room 215, Orson Spencer Hall.
  • 4:30 p.m. Geocaching activity, room 270, Orson Spencer Hall. Geocaching is like a scavenger hunt for containers with “treasure” that are located using Global Positioning System navigation devices.

Wednesday, Nov. 18 – GIS Day

  • 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Department of Geography Open House. More than 20 organizations will set up exhibits in the south wing of Orson Spencer Hall (OSH) promoting projects, research, career information and products that use and implement Geographic Information Systems.
  • 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Panel discussion on careers, room 215, Orson Spencer Hall. Panelists will be from organizations such as the U.S. Air Force, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, ESRI, Inc, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will discuss career opportunities and how they use GIS in their jobs.
  • 11:30 a.m. Lunch, room 215, Orson Spencer Hall.
  • 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. GIS workshop, room 215, Orson Spencer Hall.

Thursday, Nov. 19

  • 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. “Climate and Collapse? Evidence from Range Creek, Utah,” brown bag lecture by Larry Coats, adjunct assistant professor of geography, room 215, Orson Spencer Hall.
  • 4:30 p.m. Movie night: Selections from Ken Burns’ recent PBS series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” room 215, Orson Spencer Hall.

Friday, Nov. 20

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Urban Sustainability and Public Health: A Remote Sensing Approach,” lecture by Dale Quattrochi, senior research scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., room 255, Orson Spencer Hall. Quattrochi has over 23 years of experience in Earth science and remote sensing research and applications, including studies of the “heat island” effect over cities.

About Geographic Information Systems

Geographic Information Systems take information about a location – such as streets, buildings, water features and terrain – from a computer database and turn it into visual layers. The ability to see geographic features on interactive maps gives users a better understanding of a particular location – enabling planners, analysts and others to make informed decisions about their communities.

GIS technologies are used throughout the world to solve problems related to the environment, health care, land use, business efficiency, education and public safety. GIS provides for efficient routing of power supplies, delivery trucks, and patrol cars and fire trucks. This technology also helps businesses place stores and restaurants at convenient locations, allows farmers to grow more crops with fewer chemicals and helps save forests and buildings from fires.

The technology also helps people explore their world and connect with each other. Google Earth and iPhone “location apps” are examples of GIS in daily life.

The University of Utah’s Department of Geography has one of the leading GIS programs in North America, and one of the first GIS research labs in the United States.

For more information, see: