Last month, Kennedy Library participated in International Geography Awareness Week by hosting a variety of events which celebrated and explored the power of maps. These events were organized by both the SLO GIS User Group and Kennedy Library Data Services.
The Importance of Geography Awareness
Established by a presidential proclamation more than 25 years ago, this annual global event held each year on the third week of November, raises awareness about geography and geographic information system (GIS) technology and the important contributions they make in many aspects of society.
“Cal Poly’s Geography Awareness Week gives students the opportunity to see how geographic thinking is used in San Luis Obispo and beyond,” said organizer and Kennedy Library Numeric and Spatial Data Specialist, Russ White.
According to White, National Geographic created Geography Awareness Week to excite people about geography and GIS as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life. National Geographic estimates that more than 100,000 Americans actively participate in Geography Awareness Week every year.
“Through events and workshops and Cal Poly’s access to GIS resources throughout the year, we can encourage people to be more geographically minded global citizens,” White added.
Contributing to the Cause
This year, Kennedy Library hosted its first humanitarian mapathon in an effort to support the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and their goals to map the most vulnerable areas in the world. After a brief training session, the volunteers at this event went to work mapping parts of the developing world using the free and open source Open Street Map (OSM) software.
“I originally heard of the mapathon as an extra credit opportunity for my GIS class. I didn’t know what we would be doing exactly until I got there and I’m glad it ended up being a really fun and interesting event,” said Maddie Smit (ENVM ‘17). “It was nice to be able to see the work others had already done on this Open Street Map project and how I was directly contributing to their efforts.”
Maps at Cal Poly
In addition to the mapathon, during this year’s Geography Awareness Week, Kennedy Library hosted a GIS map gallery, which featured maps from students and faculty who use geography and GIS in a variety of disciplines. These map prints represented various subjects, themes, and styles to demonstrate the different applications of GIS and spatial analysis in areas of Engineering, Biology, Natural Resources, History, Landscape Architecture and others.
“I think geography is important because it is an overarching discipline,” said Matt Dinwiddie (FNR ‘16), who worked on one of the maps featured in the gallery. “Almost every major at Cal Poly uses geography but they probably don’t realize it and the impact it has.”