University adds new, profitable major that could help fight climate change

Ecology Major
​Emily Moore​/THE REVIEW
​The Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences recently developed a new program allowing students to obtain a Bachelor of Science in GIScience and Environmental Data Analytics.​

BY
​Senior Reporter

The Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences recently developed a new program allowing students to obtain a Bachelor of Science in GIScience and Environmental Data Analytics.

The program defines GIScience, or Geographic Information Science, as the analysis and mapping of large geospatial data sets to better understand the world. The new major focuses on teaching students how to analyze and harness GPS and geospatial data, and is considered ideal for those who want to apply mathematical and scientific rigor to environmental problems.

The major is composed of an extensive core curriculum, which draws its courses from four different departments. It is supported by electives that are determined based on one of five concentrations that students may choose from: environmental data science, management information systems, cybersecurity, data mining or remote sensing.

Data science skills are increasingly relevant in today’s workforce, and 2.35 million job postings in 2015 considered them a requirement.

“I just saw a job posting from a private company in New York looking for students who have this kind of degree,” Pinki Mondal, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, said. “Companies need to know that the people they hire can actually work with data, and that’s what a degree like this shows.”

Mondal added that these sorts of jobs are profitable, with GIScientists and technologists earning a median annual income of more than $86,000.

GIScientists work to address some of today’s most pressing topics, such as food security, water shortages, climate change impacts and environmental health. They can help protect habitats of endangered species, assess areas at risk of lowered food production, map wildfires and complete many more tasks in the public and private sectors.

Jing Gao, an assistant professor of geospatial data science, said the efforts of GIScientists can help solve the climate change crisis.

“A lot of people in the department do climate-related work,” Gao said. “Personally, I focus on large-scale social and environmental interactions and how that interaction impacts people.”

With the increasing reliance on cellular technology, satellites and the geospatial information that these satellites generate, the field is constantly evolving and likely to develop new applications in the years to come.

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