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Bridging Silos and More with GIS and Experiential Learning

Image by Mohamed Hassan / Pixabay

Before graduating, each student in the Center for Geospatial Analytics’ professional master’s program in Geospatial Information Science and Technology (MGIST) applies their knowledge and skills to a client-supplied problem in a service-learning capstone project.

Industry, academic, government and nonprofit partners work closely with our students to find a customized solution using GIS applications and geospatial analysis. Keep scrolling to learn more about the work of this semester’s fourteen talented capstone students!

Image by Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management, CC BY 2.0

Easing the Burden of Project Management

When projects have a lot of moving parts, involving multiple organizations, budgets and timelines, supervisors may struggle to manage both project details and the big picture. This semester, three MGIST students developed web-based dashboards that can help organizations track project progress and facilitate coordination where it’s needed most.

Rachel Miller worked with the Bureau of Land Management Montana/Dakotas State Office to create a flexible, shareable dashboard that will track the next decade of progress on Environmental Restoration Projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

Kurt Baker partnered with the Town of Cary, NC to modernize management of the vehicle fleet that handles removal of the city’s yard waste, post-storm debris and snow. The web applications he developed permit assigning streets to vehicles and then tracking those vehicles’ progress in real time.

Justin Erlick created a tool for the City of Charlotte, NC to identity infrastructure improvement projects that overlap in space and time and enhance coordination between the city departments working on them, saving city resources.

Image by NCDOT Communications, CC BY 2.0

Managing More than Roads

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) may be best known to state residents for its management of public roads, but it is responsible for much more, including providing public GIS data. MGIST student Reid Wilson partnered with NCDOT to help develop the department’s most highly requested dataset––land dedicated for use by a city along city-maintained roads, or “rights-of-way”; his pilot project automated delineation of rights-of-way in two NC counties, a task that would be impossible to do manually.

Beyond roads, NCDOT also oversees over 5,200 miles of rail lines, which, like roads, are vulnerable to flooding. Shannon McAvoy worked with engineering consulting firm WSP to assess where railways coincide with floodplains of varying severity, to help the department plan for increased flooding risk.

Image by Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

Building on Past Success

Our MGIST program often builds long-term collaborations with capstone partners, who work with multiple students to grow projects over time. This semester, five students collaborated with organizations who returned for another partnership from earlier this academic year.

Taylor Richardson worked with the Recreation Resources Service to create a statewide inventory of public parks and their facilities, so that elected officials can quickly understand resource needs across North Carolina and members of the public can easily find amenities of interest.

Isabella Hile helped the City of Glenwood Springs, Colorado to determine walking times to nearest parks and determine which areas of the city lack access to walkable greenspaces.

Macy Watt partnered with the nonprofit Pitstop for the Birds to identify electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Durham County, NC that may be suitable for native plant restoration that can support migratory bird habitat; her storymap details the project findings.

David Vorbach collaborated with the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund to help assess how the passage of laws to create vegetated areas near rivers and streams (i.e., riparian buffers) affects water quality across Minnesota.

Kate Ivins created a dashboard for NC State University Facilities to help them easily query information about the over 1,000 university-affiliated buildings in the state.

Image by Marc Hall / NC State

And More!

Since Fall 2020, MGIST students have been helping the US Geological Survey (USGS) with their launch of a new high-resolution hydrography dataset, which will support numerous mapping and modeling efforts concerned with the nation’s streams and other waterbodies. This semester, Andrea Sato created web mapping applications to help USGS spread the word about the recent retirement of the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and the release of its replacement, the 3D Hydrography Program Dataset (3DHP), detailing how the two differ. Sato is the winner of this semester’s MGIST poster competition.

Jacob Makens collaborated with NC State senior research scholar Okan Pala to create tools that can help analyze massive amounts of data from the National Renewable Energies Lab’s Regional Energy Deployment System.

Chrysanthi Violaris worked with the City of Henderson, NC to help streamline spatial recordkeeping for the city’s historic cemetery.

Margaret Vanderford partnered with NC State’s JC Raulston Arboretum to streamline managing their collection of 10,000 living plants and share their collection via a public web app.

Thank you to all of our capstone partners, and congratulations to all of our graduating MGIST students on their success!