Geographic Information Systems
The Office of Sustainability is home to Loyola’s blossoming GIS capabilities and courses. With state-of-the-art facilities and software, a full-time GIS Specialist is on staff to handle all mapping, visualization and analysis to improve the University’s understanding and actions toward greater sustainability.
What is GIS?
A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.
GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.
GIS links characteristics or attributes of features to their location (such as people to addresses, buildings to parcels, or rivers within a network) and layers that information to demonstrate how it all interrelates. You choose what layers to combine based on your purpose.
A GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.
With its array of functions, GIS can play a crucial role in comprehensive decision-making processes.
Why Use GIS
- Map where things are: GIS can find places that have the specific features you're looking for.
- Map quantities: GIS can map quantities of features to find places that meet desired criteria, or to see the relationships between places. This gives an additional level of information beyond simply mapping the locations of features.
- Map densities: While you can see concentrations by simply mapping the locations of features, in areas with many features it may be difficult to see which have a higher concentration than others. A density map lets you measure the number of features using a uniform unit of area, such as acres or square miles, so you can clearly see the distribution.
- Find what is inside: Use GIS to monitor what's happening and to take specific action by mapping what features exist inside a specific area.
- Find what's nearby: Find out what's occurring within a set distance of a feature by mapping what's nearby.
- Map change: Map the change in an area to anticipate future conditions, decide on a course of action or to evaluate the results of an action or policy.
Loyola University Chicago & GIS
Since 2005, the capabilities of Loyola’s GIS program have expanded enormously. Collaborations and projects have been conducted by GIS staff for faculty, staff and students in University departments as varied as Environmental Sciences, History, Human Resources, Chemistry, Enrollment Management, Social Work, Campus Safety, Journalism and Experiential Learning courses, to name a few. Some of the ways GIS is currently being used to advance the work of Loyola University Chicago include:
- We are improving the spatial literacy of students with new GIS courses. As demand has grown for exposure to the incredibly powerful tools and techniques offered by GIS, courses have been developed to serve this need. The job market for those with GIS experience, in many different fields, is strong and growing.
- Faculty members are discovering new ways of analyzing research questions with the geographic approach. Loyola faculty benefit from having GIS tools and expertise at their disposal as they come together for collaborative research projects and grant proposals. High quality, professional maps are produced for publications and presentations.
- University staff and administration utilize mapping to accomplish complex tasks, such as student recruitment, resource allocation and program improvement. Being able to visualize information enables greater efficiencies to be achieved and better decisions to be made during the operation of this University.
- Community members benefit from the connection to Loyola University Chicago through collaborative asset mapping projects done by students and supervised by a GIS Specialist. Edgewater and Rogers Park have taken advantage of this University resource to further their own sustainability efforts. We share this specialized format of knowledge and expertise with community partners that may have limited access to such resources.
GIS Capabilities Offered
The GIS facility is housed in the Quinlan Life Sciences Building, and computers are available for faculty and graduate students to use ArcGIS for research projects. We offer access to a comprehensive geospatial database of the greater Chicagoland area, with in-depth knowledge of the numerous publicly available spatial datasets from national, state, regional and local agencies and geospatial data gateways.
The GIS Specialist is available to consult with you on how to incorporate GIS mapping and spatial analysis into your work at Loyola, whether you be a student, staff, faculty, administration or community member.
Starting in 2009, Loyola University Chicago offered UNIV 410: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems to graduate students. The enrollment for this course more than tripled in size in just 3 terms, and it will be offered again during Spring 2013. While this is a 400 level course, upper level undergraduates are welcome to enroll.
Seminars are offered to introduce faculty and graduate students to the basics of GIS and how these tools can enhance their research and learning. Some past presentation titles include:
- Introduction to GIS: Spatial Analysis for Interdisciplinary Research
- The New Paradigm of Collaborative GIS: Online Web Mapping
- Remote Sensing Applications for the Environmental Sciences
- Community-Based Asset Mapping: Data Collection and Presentation
- Geographic Information Systems for Historical Scholarship
- Visualizing Patterns: Data Analysis and GIS for Investigative Journalism
For information on having a customized presentation developed for your department or class, contact the GIS Specialist.