What can GeoPandas do for you?

GeoPandas is a Python package that extends the very popular Pandas package with the ability to read, analyze, and visualize geospatial data.  Like Pandas, GeoPandas is generally used within a Jupyter notebook which provides a powerful framework for documenting your analysis workflow.  Over the past few years I have moved increasingly towards using GeoPandas for any analysis project as I have found it to have many advantages over traditional desktop GIS approaches. (See my blogpost Geospatial Data Science vs GIS for more information)

Some basic knowledge of Python is required to use GeoPandas however you do not need to be an expert programmer to take advantage of GeoPandas. Python provides the syntax necessary to call GeoPandas methods but most GeoPandas code will be very simple and easy to read and understand.  As such it is a great way to learn to use Python. Continue reading “What can GeoPandas do for you?”

Geospatial Data Science vs GIS

The term “Data Science” has become one of the hottest job descriptions over the past few years, but what exactly does it mean?  Can GIS professionals call themselves “Data Scientists”? There has been some reporting that jobs calling for “Data Scientists” and especially “Geospatial Data Scientists” pay as much as 25% more than jobs calling for “GIS analysts”.   Is there really a difference or is it just the latest buzzword?

Continue reading “Geospatial Data Science vs GIS”

The case for open-source GIS

Logos of Open-source GIS projects

I have nothing against ESRI, they have been innovators in the geospatial software world from the beginning. I got into GIS from a natural resources background and I know that they have supported the conservation community for decades through their conservation grants program and many other ways. Jack Dangermond’s recent donation of $165 million to the Nature Conservancy to purchase one of the last large undeveloped parcels of southern California coastline stirred my heart and made me well up in tears with pride in the GIS community. I am not opposed to companies selling GIS software for profit. I believe in capitalism. I believe that entrepreneurs should be rewarded financially for producing high quality products at a fair price. Continue reading “The case for open-source GIS”

What can a spatial database do for you?

Is spatial really special?

Many GIS professionals come into the field from a specific discipline and become interested in GIS as a tool with which to accomplish their goals in their original field and by attrition or intent begin to shift their focus towards GIS. I followed this path myself.  After going to school to study wildlife biology, I learned about GIS and enrolled in a minor program in GIS and spatial analysis. I think that this is a good thing in many ways. People with an interest in solving problems in other disciplines will push the field forward in directions that someone who’s sole focus was on GIS would be unlikely to go. We need those people in the industry.

But GIS is a technical discipline. At its core GIS is database technology, albeit with a spatial focus. In my humble opinion many university GIS departments, especially at the certificate level, focus too much on the “spatial” aspects of GIS and not enough on the underlying database technology. As a result these programs produce GIS professionals who are very good at cartography and spatial analysis but who find themselves unprepared for the modern GIS job market where there is an increasing need for people with skills in enterprise level database administration, SQL, and web-based GIS. Even if they are not performing those tasks themselves, GIS professionals should at least have an understanding of the technology in order to be able to communicate effectively with those who will be performing those tasks. Continue reading “What can a spatial database do for you?”

Do I need to know how to code to be a GIS professional?

The short answer is no. But it will help you more than you can imagine. The GIS world doesn’t need everyone to be coders. Most GIS software is sufficiently complex that one could easily spend their entire careers working with one program and never use all of it, let alone have to improve on it.  It would certainly be possible to specialize in a specific aspect of GIS or a specific type of analysis and never learn to write your own code.  If the thought of programming sends tremors of fear down your spine, fear not. You will always be needed. Continue reading “Do I need to know how to code to be a GIS professional?”

Why your organization needs a web GIS strategy.

What is web GIS?

When most people think about web GIS, they think about publishing a map or a data set for the world to see.  That’s certainly part of it, but only a small part.  For many years when I would try to sell my employers on the concept of web GIS they would reply “We don’t want everyone to see our proprietary information.”  After digging in and learning more on my own I began to realize that there was much more to web GIS than publishing content. Continue reading “Why your organization needs a web GIS strategy.”