Geographic information technology is evolving and diverging rapidly. Geospatial professionals need a deep knowledge of the industry-standard tools they will find in the workplace, as well as the agility to incorporate the open-source technologies that are increasingly being demanded. To this end, the Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) supports and utilizes a variety of geospatial software, proprietary as well as open-source, to promote and support spatial thinking, analysis, modeling and visualization throughout the university.
In our Graduate Programs in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST), our software foundation is through Esri’s ArcGIS platform, by which our students explore the fundamental theories and technologies of Geographic Information Science (GIS). All students acquire competency with a broad range of functionality and tools currently provided in Esri’s platform, and learn how to stay current on geographic information technology innovations as that platform continues to evolve. As the administrator of Esri’s educational site license for the University of Southern California, SSI makes available Esri software for teaching, research, and administrative purposes. Under the terms of the educational site license, any commercial use is prohibited.
The Idrisi Imaging Processing toolset included in Clark Labs’ TerrSet geographic monitoring and modeling system and Trimble’s e-Cognition software are used to support our remote sensing needs, and a Trimble community GPS base station on Catalina Island along with Trimble’s Pathfinder Office and TerraSync software are used to support our spatial data field acquisition activities.
In addition, our students learn the key role that open-source tools offer in expanding the utility of today’s geographic information ecosystem. In several of our GIST courses, students learn to extend the ArcGIS platform by integrating open-source technologies such as Python, R, QGIS, GeoServe, OpenLayers, GRASS and MapServer along with the PostGIS, PostgreSQL, CartoDB, SpatiaLite and the MySQL database systems and the Android operating system. Knowing how to use open-source tools requires an agility and willingness to explore and experiment: key skills for today’s geospatial scholars and professionals.
The geographic information ecosystems also include a diversity of data sources that GIS professionals must know how to discover. Many of these are freely available, including authoritative government sources such as the National Map and data.gov, privately curated collections such as ArcGIS Online and davidrumsey.org, and crowd-sourced geodata from organizations such as OpenStreetMap and ebird.org. We also provide our students access to some of the key proprietary geographic information databases such as the business location, consumer spending, demographic, socioeconomic, traffic and crime data distributed as part of Esri’s Business Analyst for Desktop.