Identify #5: Dr. Elizabeth Baughan

Identify is a monthly series here on the SAL blog, focusing on students, faculty, and alumni of University of Richmond who have used GIS in exciting ways. Come by each month to learn more about the interdisciplinary nature of GIS here at UR.

Imperial fora of Ancient Rome

An example of GIS in archaeology: the imperial fora of Rome. Click the image to access an interactive web map!

In the SAL, we like to emphasize how knowledge of GIS can benefit virtually every academic field. Having skill in GIS isn’t “only” for geography or environmental science; it can be applied to a wide range of other natural, physical, and social sciences too. One great example of this cross-disciplinary application of GIS is our partnership with Associate Professor of Classics and Archaeology Dr. Elizabeth Baughan. GIS, of course, is a perfect way to document the results of archaeological digs, and Dr. Baughan has thus made use of GIS both in class and in the field.

Dr. Baughan frequently brings her Introduction to Archaeology course to the SAL, to familiarize her students with GIS and to show them its power in displaying archaeological data. This class day is “usually a highlight of the semester,” she says, “and it is always interesting to see how many of [the students] have been [to the SAL] for other, very different classes. GIS helps students see unexpected connections across disciplines.” For those students who haven’t yet taken a formal GIS class, many decide to enroll and consequently apply their GIS skills to their own archaeological research. A great example of this process involves this map produced by Samantha Frandsen ’13, a student of Dr. Baughan, showing the locations of the imperial fora of Ancient Rome. You can read more about Frandsen’s work at this link.

Dr. Baughan also uses GIS while performing archaeological surveys. In particular, Dr. Baughan conducts research in Turkey; she and her colleagues meticulously document their finds and add those data to a GIS for future analysis. For archaeology, she says, GIS has “a wide range of uses and benefits, from the correlation of survey find locations with topographic data and subsurface features …, to understanding regional site distribution in the context of environmental conditions.”

But recently, Dr. Baughan ran into an issue: while the data collected for a recent project would show up in our ArcGIS software, its location would not appear correctly relative to other features on the ground—something was wrong with the data. Dr. Baughan came to the SAL and asked for our assistance; after looking at the data, we discovered an amusing, coincidental reason for the error.

As a necessary first step when working with GIS, a map projection had already been assigned to the data. A projection is a way to transform the spherical surface of the Earth into a flat, two-dimensional plane. In particular, the data had correctly been given a UTM projection for zone 35S, the zone describing the western part of Turkey in which lies one of the survey sites. Nonetheless, the data would not show up.

We noticed, however, that ArcGIS uses a slightly different naming structure for its UTM zones. Rather than adopting the Military Grid Reference System format of using the letters C through X to describe latitudes of north and south in a UTM grid, ArcGIS only uses longitudinal bands, splitting the UTM zones latitudinally just once at the equator. This method results in merely a northern and a southern zone, respectively labeled N and S, for each zone number. Thus, west Turkey rests in zone 35N in ArcMap—zone 35S is in the southern hemisphere instead!

Once we fixed this error, the data aligned well. Dr. Baughan will now be able to perform analyses on the data and further develop her academic research. The SAL was glad to help Dr. Baughan “repair” the data—we know that GIS can be confusing, even for people with experience with the tool, and that often the best results come from team efforts. We look forward to seeing how she will use GIS to analyze the data and to helping her work with any geospatial information she collects on future digs!

Bonus! Listen to Dr. Baughan discuss her research as well as her new book, Couched in Death: Klinai and Identity in Anatolia and Beyond, in the most recent Podcast@Boatwright.

Millennium map experience


Celia Landesberg ’14, a University of Richmond senior and double-major in Geography and Environmental Studies, wrote an article for the online journal Digital America discussing what she refers to as the “millennium map experience.” Read her article here, in which she discusses how cartography has suddenly become an activity in which virtually everybody can—and does—partake.

Mapping toxic sites in Virginia with the UR Law School

Sachs reportThe University of Richmond comprises five schools serving both undergraduate and graduate students. The School of Arts & Sciences houses a majority of the undergraduate student body, but the School of Law is where most of the University’s full-time graduate students study. While the Spatial Analysis Lab falls under the purview School of Arts & Sciences, we are excited when we get to help some of the University’s other schools; we recently had such an opportunity when we got to assist the School of Law.

Law Professor and Director of the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Center for Environmental Studies Noah Sachs, alongside third-year law student Ryan Murphy, have released a report titled A Strategy to Protect Virginians from Toxic Chemicals, which is freely available at the preceding link. The report, which proclaims itself as “the first comprehensive examination of the sources of toxic releases in Virginia and the potential exposure of Virginians to harmful chemicals,” calls for increased attention regarding toxic chemicals in the environment because of their potential to lead to health problems and recommends how the Commonwealth can start to limit toxic exposures.

While the authors worded the report in common English, the release of toxic chemicals to the environment may not be a topic with which everybody has a lot of familiarity. That’s where the Spatial Analysis Lab stepped in, creating some simple-to-understand maps that showed the extent of sites containing toxic substances throughout Virginia. You can find these maps in the report, but we’ve included them in this post as well.

This first map looks at Superfund sites in Virginia. Superfund is the EPA’s program to clean up toxic waste sites; the NPL, or National Priorities List, is essentially a big list of these sites, so sites that have been removed may have already been sufficiently cleaned up.

The next map shows any facility in Virginia storing over one million pounds of toxic substances in 2011.

And this final map looks at Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action sites in Virginia. RCRA is a law designed to regulate the disposal of toxic wastes. Click here to access the EPA’s interactive map.

The Spatial Analysis Lab is glad to offer assistance to Professor Sachs on this project. We look forward to continuing helping the Law School, and indeed the University of Richmond’s four other academic schools, in upcoming semesters!

Identify #4: Dr. Jory Brinkerhoff

Identify is a monthly series here on the SAL blog, focusing on students, faculty, and alumni of University of Richmond who have used GIS in exciting ways. Come by each month to learn more about the interdisciplinary nature of GIS here at UR.

Lyme disease in dogs in Lynchburg, VA

Dr. Brinkerhoff and his students created this map showing Lyme disease presence in dogs near Lynchburg, Virginia.

Undeniably, one of the University of Richmond’s most popular majors is Biology. Yet the University recently created a new, related major called Healthcare and Society which is quickly rising in popularity. The Healthcare and Society major teaches students how to understand and examine “the business, legal, ethical, interpersonal, and sociopolitical aspects of healthcare delivery, finance and organization,” says the University. As a result, the Spatial Analysis Lab has seen many students taking GIS classes because they want to learn how to tie together spatial analysis with global health.

Biology professor Dr. Jory Brinkerhoff has helped usher in this new interest in health-oriented GIS. He teaches a popular course titled Eco-Epidemiology which serves as an elective class for both the Biology and the Healthcare and Society majors. Dr. Brinkerhoff writes the following about his GIS-informed research:

Researchers have long studied the intersection of geography and disease; as any epidemiology student can affirm, arguably the first epidemiological study was done to identify spatial clusters of cholera in London in the 1850s. The reason for the association between these two disciplines is straightforward: people want to know exactly where they might face exposure to a nasty disease, both now and in the immediate future. Just as the first epidemiologists were fascinated by patterns in time and space, modern epidemiologists spend much of their time thinking about the same phenomena. However, although many questions about disease have remained unchanged for centuries—who? what? where?—our capacity to explore disease pattern and process has developed substantially.

I personally think that investigating and mapping disease risk is one of the most exciting aspects of public health research. As an ecologist, I am trained to look for patterns in time and space. As an epidemiologist, I look specifically for patterns that shed light on factors that affect someone’s chance of being exposed to or contacting disease.

My current research focuses on Lyme disease and how its spatial distribution in Virginia is changing. My students and I approach this problem from lots of different angles: we use field sampling, analysis of human case data, molecular genetics, and immunological assays to figure out where risk to this disease is highest. In a recent project, two of my senior class students collected and mapped canine blood-test data to determine if there were any elevational patterns that might explain Lyme disease risk in dogs (yes, dogs can get Lyme disease, too!) These students used GIS to digitize and georeference a binder’s worth of positive and negative test result data for Lyme disease as collected from a veterinary clinic in Lynchburg, Virginia.

We then used a geo-statistical test to see if variation in elevation is associated with exposure to this tick-transmitted disease. In the map [see above], positive test results are indicated by red circles and negative test results are indicated by open (hollow) circles. Our preliminary results suggest that dogs—and probably humans—that live at higher elevations are at increased risk of exposure to Lyme disease. This finding is especially important for the Lynchburg area, as that major city lies near the base of the Appalachian Mountains. Interestingly, our analysis of field data for human cases suggests the same result—keep this in mind the next time you head up to the mountains for a hike!

The Spatial Analysis Lab thanks Dr. Brinkerhoff for writing about his research for our blog. We look forward to helping Biology and Healthcare and Society students as they continue their epidemiological research!

Identify #3: Taylor Holden ’15 and Austen Kelso ’15

Identify is a monthly series here on the SAL blog, focusing on students, faculty, and alumni of University of Richmond who have used GIS in exciting ways. Come by each month to learn more about the interdisciplinary nature of GIS here at UR.

Sample map from Holden and Kelso's research

One of the final maps produced by Holden and Kelso. Flow paths colored in red contribute more to the runoff in the Chesapeake Bay than do flow paths colored in green.

The Spatial Analysis Lab is an active place throughout the academic year—especially as we approach the end of the semester with students working diligently to finish their projects! But the SAL doesn’t remain dormant during the summer, and in fact stays equally active, thanks to the students who pursue geography- and environmental studies-related summer research.

Taylor Holden ’15 and Austen Kelso ’15 were among the students conducting research this previous summer. Working with their advisors, UR Geography professor Dr. Todd Lookingbill and Jeffrey Allenby of the Chesapeake Conservancy, these two students carried out a novel research project to determine locations of concentrated flow paths and their relative importance to water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.Under the Clean Water Act, localities whose water runoff feeds into the Chesapeake Bay have to meet daily requirements for the maximum amount of nutrients and pollutants allowable in runoff, known as the “total maximum daily load”. Attaining these goals can be challenging, since localities not only have to identify major sources of water pollution but also must find ways to curb that pollution. Allenby recently wrote a procedure to achieve this end, and it was this procedure that Holden and Kelso carried out.

Using high-resolution aerial photography from the National Agriculture Imagery Program, Holden and Kelso first analyzed some small watersheds in Central Virginia. They then used an advanced remote sensing program called ENVI to classify these aerial images by various land cover types. This produced a raster image, similar to the National Land Cover Database rasters but with much more detail, that they could bring into ArcMap. Separately, they used precise digital elevation models and a specialty ArcGIS toolbar called TauDEM to find locations of concentrated flow paths, the exact places where runoff flows over land. Often these were permanently-existing streams, but the tool could also find ephemeral flow paths that lasted only during a rain storm, for instance.

Holden and Kelso then overlaid the flow paths with the land cover data in ArcMap. Presuming that certain land cover types (such as tilled agricultural land or impervious surfaces) contribute to nutrient runoff loads more than other land cover types (dense forest, for instance), they weighted the land cover types accordingly and intersected those weights with the flow path locations. Their resulting map of flow paths showed exactly where large amounts of pollutants were entering the watershed, and thus which exact parcels of land could be the best targets for pollutant remediation. Rather than trying to remedy runoff problems along all the many miles of flow paths in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, this method allows agencies to focus their efforts on specific, high-benefit areas.

For Allenby and the Chesapeake Conservancy, this analysis was a proof of concept: not only that the method could successfully identify areas with disproportionately high quantities of pollution runoff, but also that college students could carry out this high-level analysis. Since then, the Chesapeake Conservancy has started to work with other universities throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed in carrying out similar analyses.

For the two students, this project was rewarding, even though it was often challenging. Kelso, for instance, said learning how to use new software and new techniques were among the hardest aspects; “not only did we have to learn how to use these new softwares, but we had to learn them thoroughly enough to use them effectively and accurately to complete the project.”

But the rewards came from realizing that this project had real community value. “A lot of [academic] classes focus on large scale concepts,” said Holden. “But with this project we could look within a neighborhood.… This made the project feel so applicable because it was on a scale [where] we could potentially have a measurable impact.” Kelso agreed, adding, “I found this project to be very exciting because … our results would be used in real life decision-making processes in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.… It was a good reminder that what I am learning has useful real world applications.”

The Spatial Analysis Lab looks forward to continue working with the Chesapeake Conservancy, both to further this project for other local watersheds and to assist in future research projects. Such work demonstrates that while the SAL may be a great University of Richmond resource, its benefits extend far beyond our campus boundaries.

GIS Day 2013 Preview

GIS Day 2013The Spatial Analysis Lab is excited to host our seventh-annual GIS Day, this Wednesday, November 13, in the SAL from 10:00am to 5:00pm. We have detailed information about the event on our GIS Day page. In addition, you can find more information by following us on Twitter and attending the Facebook event.

For now, however, we want to give you a preview of all the exciting events that will take place this Wednesday, as well as some of the activities that will be happening all day long for our open house.

For a full schedule of events, see the GIS Day page.

  • Guest speakers: Highlights include talks from four UR alumni, current professors, and current students.
  • Our annual geography-themed cake contest! Submit a cake (or any other similar baked goods) to the Spatial Analysis lab by noon on Wednesday. The cakes will be judged based on originality and connection to geography and/or GIS. Prizes are available for the winners!
  • Geography fun and games: Join us for lunch. Rumor is there will be a t-shirt giveaway, a Twitter quiz, and perhaps some other exciting games…

Other Activities
These will go throughout the day, so feel free to stop by the SAL from 10:00am through 5:00pm, sit down at one of our computers, and have fun!

  • “Ask a GIS Expert”: If you have any GIS-related question, our team of professors, staff, and interns will be on hand to help. There’s no question too big or too small that they won’t answer. This is also a perfect way to learn about the GIS capabilities at UR, the data sets we already have, and how you can use GIS in your classes, work, or research.
  • Hands-on GIS for Desktop: Esri, the company that creates the ArcGIS products and sponsors the international GIS Day, has generously supplied some pre-made lessons that guide you through a real-life GIS analysis! This is a great way to learn about GIS, and no prior experience is required. All you have to do is follow easy, step-by-step instructions. The lessons include determining appropriate lynx habitat sites and mapping major features on the surface of Mars.
  • Hands-on GIS Online: Esri has also prepared some fun geo treasure hunts. Use your geographic knowledge to answer a series of questions about major world cities or about mountain ranges, and collect a prize at the end! These interactive treasure hunts showcase web maps from ArcGIS Online.
  • Make Your Own Map: It’s really easy to use ArcGIS Online to create a simple, interactive web map. Follow our easy, step-by-step instructions to create your own map!
  • Mapman Comic Book: GIS Day is fun for all ages! We’ll print you a copy of the Mapman comic book, the only superhero to use geospatial knowledge to save the world! Or at least, to help children sell more lemonade. Have fun learning about GIS while coloring in pictures from this exciting adventure!
  • Certificate of Participation: We know that GIS Day is a big deal, so there’s no better way to commemorate it than with a personalized Certificate of Participation! Just write your name and contact information down on the list, and we will send you the certificate with your name.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday for GIS Day!

Identify #2: Dr. Carrie Wu and Megan Sebasky ’10

Identify is a monthly series here on the SAL blog, focusing on students, faculty, and alumni of University of Richmond who have used GIS in exciting ways. Come by each month to learn more about the interdisciplinary nature of GIS here at UR.

Wu and Sebasky at the Evolution 2010 Meeting

Megan Sebasky ’10 (l) and Dr. Carrie Wu (r) at the Evolution 2010 meeting presenting their ecological niche modeling research.

The University of Richmond prides itself on offering plenty of opportunities for undergraduate students to perform rigorous research alongside one of the University’s excellent faculty members, many of whom are experts in their fields. Often, these undergraduate research experiences help students determine their future endeavors and offer them a chance to have their name on published material soon after college. Megan Sebasky ’10 not only took advantage of undergraduate research by working with Dr. Carrie Wu, Assistant Professor of Biology, but also used her GIS expertise to further the value of her research.

Sebasky majored in biology and environmental studies; while a rising senior, she joined the lab of Wu, who had recently been hired at the University of Richmond after working at Duke University. At the time, Wu was working on research focusing on the plant species Mimulus tilingii, commonly referred to as the mountain monkey-flower. Sebasky mentioned she had GIS experience, thanks to the classes she took here in the Spatial Analysis Lab, which immediately attracted Wu’s attention: Wu’s research about the mountain monkey-flower contained a strong geographic component, one which would immensely benefit from GIS.

In particular, prior research had indicated that there may be two separate sub-species of Mimulus tilingii, one located primarily in Oregon and Washington, and another found further south in California. One approach Wu had identified to test whether there were actually two species involved ecological niche modeling, or using spatial information about environmental variables to determine the exact ecological conditions a species needs to thrive. If Wu and Sebasky were able to determine that the two presumed sub-species required different environmental conditions, they would have strong evidence to conclude that these sub-species were indeed taxonomically different.

MaxEnt output for mountain monkey-flower

An output map from MaxEnt, showing the predicted occurrences for the mountain monkey-flower as a whole.

Sebasky conducted her side of the research by using ArcGIS as well as software called MaxEnt, which is among the most popular pieces of software for ecological niche modeling. Using the heat maps produced by MaxEnt, Sebasky and Wu determined that not only was the mountain monkey-flower ecologically divergent from its nearest relative, but that there were two distinct groups whose ranges split near the California / Oregon border. In addition, they found that cold temperatures were especially important for delimiting the ranges of the two sub-species. Armed with this new knowledge, they traveled in 2010 to the Society for the Study of Evolution’s annual meeting, which was held that year in Portland, Oregon, to present their findings. A full write-up of the research is forthcoming.

This success would not have been possible without Sebasky’s experience in GIS. While Wu was familiar with GIS, she admits to learning a lot more from Sebasky; since then, Wu has encouraged other students to pursue research projects with GIS components and to take the GIS classes offered at the University of Richmond. “Even when I go to professional meetings [for biology],” Wu says, “[GIS] is coming up more and more. … It’s not just one little corner anymore.” And like any good academic, Wu hopes to continue to learn more about GIS as she continues throughout her research career.

As for Sebasky, the great experience she had with her undergraduate research led to her present educational endeavors. Currently a Master’s student at the University of Virginia, Sebasky is continuing to work on GIS-informed ecological niche modeling, looking at an invasive species from Europe now found in the United States. Says Sebasky, “In grad school, I have found that ecological niche modeling has become extremely popular in the literature and being able to do it is an extremely helpful skill set to have. I have been doing a lot of networking at conferences … and people are really interested in what I’m doing.”

Here at the SAL, we are glad to see our alumni achieve these great accomplishments and know that the strong GIS foundations they received as undergraduate students help them to reach these outcomes. And we will continue to support our phenomenal faculty in Biology, and indeed all the academic departments, as they find ways to enhance their research with GIS!

Identify #1: Justin Madron

Identify is a new, monthly series here on the SAL blog, focusing on students, faculty, and alumni of University of Richmond who have used GIS in exciting ways. Come by each month to learn more about the interdisciplinary nature of GIS here at UR.

The DSL's Paullin Atlas

An early glimpse at the DSL’s Paullin Atlas project.

Over the last few years, the University of Richmond has greatly increased its GIS presence on campus. Not only has the Spatial Analysis Lab become an even more active place, but various University departments have hired full-time GIS staff. Among these new hires is Justin Madron, the GIS Analyst for the Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL). Madron, who got his Master’s degree this previous spring from Virginia Commonwealth University after receiving his Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, has been learning about GIS since his junior year at WVU.

While at VCU, Madron got an internship to work with the University of Richmond and professor Dr. Todd Lookingbill on a project to create a Natural Resource Condition Assessment for Petersburg National Battlefield. During the internship, he continued to hone his GIS skills and simultaneously became familiar with the UR environment and the geospatial resources available here. When he graduated in May, he knew he wanted to continue in GIS; after all, he says, “that’s why I went to graduate school.” Thanks to his connections here at UR, he heard about a new position in the DSL and applied for the job.

Madron began in July and since then has been hard at work with a few mapping initiatives. First has been a project to digitize Charles O. Paullin’s Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. This comprehensive atlas, first published in 1932, contains nearly 700 detailed maps of the early United States, looking at both physical and human geographies. The DSL’s project, which they aim to finish by the end of this autumn, digitizes these maps to view via an online interface, animates them to show changes over time, and makes them interactive, so that users can click on states or counties to see specific data for that area. The Spatial Analysis Lab has already been offering some assistance to Madron and the DSL with this project, beginning to form a knowledge- and data-sharing relationship between these two departments.

But the Paullin Atlas project is a sort of “warm-up” for the DSL’s bigger project. In January, the DSL was awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a comprehensive digital atlas of American history. With Madron’s help, the DSL will create two volumes of the atlas out of an eventual planned ten; the first volume will focus on migration, communication, and transportation, while the second will focus on the environment. The Spatial Analysis Lab will be contributing to this project as well, hopefully hosting the DSL’s data on our data servers, in an effort to have even better data sharing across various departments.

Madron is excited to work on these projects and is evidence that experience in GIS can land people unique and cutting-edge jobs. “GIS has opened a lot of doors for sure,” says Madron, “and it is fun.” Look for more updates from the DSL’s mapping projects on their website or here on the SAL blog!

Summer in the SAL 2013

It’s hard to believe, but in exactly two weeks the new students—the Class of 2017—will arrive on campus to begin their University of Richmond experience. But even though the summer is almost over here at UR, the Spatial Analysis Lab has been a busy place for the past few months! Here are some brief highlights of our Summer 2013.

The SAL team for the Gottwald Games

The SAL team also placed fifth this summer in the annual Gottwald Games—it was our first appearance!

  • The Department of Geography and the Environment welcomed a new staff member in July—and, yes, it’s me, serving as the GIS Technician for the department. This post-baccalaureate position will give me lots of behind-the-scenes experience with running a GIS architecture, will put me in contact with many faculty and staff at the University, and will help ensure that the SAL and its students are achieving as much success as possible.
  • At least three student research projects were based out of the SAL this summer. Two students worked with the Chesapeake Conservancy and used remote sensing software to identify specific areas of land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that contribute most notably to pollution in the Bay. Two other students continue to work on a Natural Resource Conservation Assessment report for the nearby Shenandoah National Park. And another student made good use of our GPS technology to document lead levels in trees near the Richmond International Airport. These students will present their work and their findings over the next year; stay tuned to the blog for updates!
  • We’ve continued to explore storymaps—interactive, online web maps that are specifically tailored to communicate some information. In the past, we’ve uploaded data to be stored on a cloud computer, but this summer we’ve learned how to store our data locally and serve that data live. So now, when you access a map such as this one showing farmers markets around Richmond or this one looking at the imperial fora of Ancient Rome, you’re seeing a live look at our data. Expect many more customized, interactive storymaps over the next few months.
  • We’ve formed new partnerships with various departments and offices around the University, all of whom are excited to make use of our geospatial resources. For instance, over the next year the SAL will be helping students and staff in the Music Department, the Center for Civic Engagement at UR Downtown, the University Museums, the Digital Scholarship Lab, and even the Office of Emergency Management. We’re also exploring the possibility of incorporating some of our spatial data into the official University of Richmond campus map.
  • Finally, we’ve been preparing for and undergoing a massive hardware and software update. Just today, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology updated the SAL computers and soon we will be receiving a new large-format printer for printing maps. On the software side, all the University computers will now run ArcGIS 10.1 as will our database server and our web server, giving us greater ability to publish maps online. These updates will make sure that UR students are on the cutting-edge of GIS technology.

We’re looking forward to another exciting year in the SAL. Expect much more frequent updates here on the blog, be sure to follow our account on Twitter @UR_SAL, and be on the lookout for exciting online storymaps! And above all, enjoy the final few weeks of your summer.

Student Blogger: Chase Eager

Geography and Health Care

Geography and health care are becoming increasingly related, and in a way that can save lives and promote healthy communities. The relationship between geography and medicine dates back to the 1850s, when Dr. John Snow used cartography to map the outbreak of cholera in London and track the source, a water pump. Today, health care professionals have teamed up with spatial analysts in order to tackle a variety of problems in health care, and in much more advanced fashion than Dr. Snow’s work.

GIS is used in health care on many scales.

GIS can be used in a hospital, such as Loma Linda University Medical Center, where ArcGIS is used to monitor patients’ locations and information throughout their stay. The system tracks patients and their information when they check in, any time they are moved, and when they are discharged. This allows physicians and nurses to stay updated in real time on their patient’s status, which reduces administration costs and makes the process more efficient and accurate.

Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services uses ArcGIS in order to aid employers in helping their injured employees through locating specialized rehabilitation locations close to work. ArcGIS is used to map locations of patients’ homes and workplaces and locate the nearest rehabilitation location, which informs patients of the closest clinic to work. Using GIS, they found that many were not attending the closest because they were unaware that there was a more convenient location.

GIS can also be used to find where there is a need for new clinics. This is done by mapping the location of existing clinics in addition to mapping health statistics and demographics for a county, such as the percentage of the population that is in poverty, the percentage of high school graduates, the percentage of adults with high blood pressure, and the percentage of uninsured adults. This reveals where there is a need for new clinics.

Another phenomenon that has become popular due to Atul Gawande’s New Yorker article is known as hot spotting. This idea was started by Dr. Jeffery Brenner in Camden, New Jersey. He got access to three hospitals’ billing records and created maps of where crime victims lived and where ambulances picked up patients. He discovered that one apartment building had more patients sent to the ER than any other, which was a low-income housing unit. He took this information he learned from mapping high incidents of ER visits in order to start The Camden Coalition, which focuses on giving extra care to the most expensive patients in order to ensure that they stay out of the ER.

Finally, the Dartmouth Atlas has made discoveries that have become popular in health care reform. This project maps variations in health resources and statistics across the United States. They have revealed that there are places that vastly overspend on patients when it is unnecessary, and this greater utilization of care doesn’t yield greater results.

These are just a few examples of how geography is becoming increasingly important in the field of health care. ArcGIS provides advanced technology that helps health providers and policy makers examine health care from a new dimension, giving them greater insight into providing better care.

As a political science major and geography minor, I have combined my interests in geography and health policy through the creation of an independent study called “Mapping Medicine,” where I wrote a research paper on the spatial variation of health care spending across the United States, specifically focusing on Virginia (see sample maps above and below). I am currently doing an independent study in Geography where I am mapping health statistics in the Middle East. I am a member of Pi Beta Phi and a Spatial Analysis Lab Intern. I will be graduating in May and will move to Washington D.C. this summer to begin working.