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What is GIS?

Geographic Information System (GIS) technology refers to computer software, data, and methods that allow users to easily collect, store and manage spatial information, create maps, and analyze spatial relationships. With GIS, you can ask geographic questions, solve geographic problems, and communicate geographic ideas. For example, you can address questions of local importance, such as…

• How many hospitals are within a 60 mile radius of Machias?
• Is there a pattern to the spread of spruce bud worm in Maine forests?
• How would an LNG terminal impact boat traffic in Passamaquoddy Bay?
• Where are the most profitable markets for Maine's blueberries?
• Where is the best location for new salmon aquaculture pens?
• Which scenic vistas are most important to the residents of Washington County?

You can also address questions of national or international importance, such as…

• How many rural US residents lack health insurance, and where do they live?
• Is there a pattern to the spread of bird flu?
• How would new homeland security regulations impact international air traffic?
• Where are the most profitable markets for U.S. fish products?
• Where is the best location for a new nuclear waste storage facility?
• Which national parks are most visited, and where do those visitors come from?

With the advent of fast, inexpensive computers and user-friendly software, use of GIS technology has exploded in the past decade. It is now commonly used in many applications in government, education and the private sector, leading to a growing demand for people who can use and apply GIS technology. These are just some of the fields where GIS is used today:

Agriculture Public Health
Earth Sciences Recreation & Tourism
Education Public Safety & Criminal Science
Humanities Geoscience, Cartography & Surveying
Arts & Design Economics, Business & Administration
Government Environmental Sciences, Management & Engineering
Life Sciences Planning, Landscape Architecture & Civil Engineering

To see a list of occupations where demand for GIS is on the rise, click here.

Visit to learn more about GIS:

Questions about GIS courses or services at UMM? Contact Tora Johnson, service center director and GIS instructor at

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