What IS GIS?
This section provides an overview of GIS.
connects information about where things are with information about what things
are like. To get a more detailed description, see the links to the right - the following is an overview:
GIS means "geographic information systems". It's a combination of hardware, software and data that allows you to view and analyze places, and to communicate with others about them. When reading the sections below, remember that the most important element in planning a GIS is people, not technology - the skill of a good GIS user (or a consultant) is what makes the most difference for land trusts. See Deciding to Use GIS for more information.
In more technical terms, a GIS is, “An information system that is designed to work with data referenced by spatial or geographic coordinates. In other words, a GIS is both a database system with specific capabilities for spatially-referenced data, as well as a set of operations for working [analysis] with the data.” Geographic Information Systems – J. Star and J. Estes, 1990
GIS has increasingly come onto the radar screens of
land trusts in the past ten years, as well as becoming extremely widespread in
government, business and academia.
Because GIS can examine many types of information and relate each layer
to the other, it allows for much more intelligent mapping than simply using
paper maps. GIS software can also create outstanding graphic images of maps,
helping ensure that spatial information becomes useful to others.
In short, GIS is a mix of hardware, software and data. Chosen appropriately and used with skill, it can be an incredibly helpful tool for almost any land trust. In the pages that follow, you can learn about GIS data, how GIS software works, and what choices you have in using it.
NEXT – GIS Data Basics >>>