Making the World a Better Place

Maps are key to all of these, and geographic information systems (GIS) help people do all of this better, faster and cheaper!

Most jobs that people do with maps and GIS don't include the words geography, mapmaker or GIS in the title. Did you know the best firefighters are also geographers? They race to an alarm, pull up the local map with their on-board computer, see and rank the best access points and anticipate the instructions to provide if, upon arrival, they find a second structure already on fire. Similarly, a climate scientist models regional population data, patterns of industrial growth, farming operations and international unrest. Climate scientists are geographers who use GIS to understand the world and explore what happens if we look out into many different possible futures. Whether you're looking at billions of bank transactions in search of bank fraud, planning the flow of buses through a community or figuring out exactly how many vehicles of what size can park in a lot-- many jobs require thinking geographically and using GIS helps!

What can students do? Students can use maps at any time. If you have a computer or even a smartphone, try going to this website: You can see things at different scales, from the planet to the block where you live! Things are different between places around the world, so it's important to ask questions like, "What's where? Why is it there? So what?" When you are out in the world, look for the patterns.