The Department of Geospatial Informatics is an exiting new academic department and the home of the Surveying and Geomatics Sciences degree program, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) minor and the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) minor. These technology-driven areas of study are the launching point for well-paid careers in many different areas.
Geomatics Sciences involve the collection, analysis and interpretation of data relating to the earth's surface. GIS involves the framework for gathering, managing and analyzing geographic data. And UAS delves into drone technology and the information collected by them.
The new department includes Geomatics faculty members, who had been in the Department
of Mathematics and Geomatics, and Geography faculty from the Department of Social
Sciences. Located on the third floor of Wallace Hall, the Department of Geospatial
Informatics began as a way to accommodate the significant crossover between geomatics,
GIS, geography and drone technology.
"In surveying and geomatics, we use drones a lot — to collect data and to generate maps in a fast and efficient way," said Department Chair Xutong Niu. "This department can help us unite all the expertise. We can better utilize our personnel and expand our efforts into a broader area now."
The department's goal is to prepare students to fill the growing need for jobs in the field. "The initial intent for people who joined the geomatics program was to become licensed surveyors, but the GIS focus is also giving them the additional incentive to be employable in different areas," said Geomatics Program Director Dr. Steve Ramroop.
Niu said he's communicated with engineering companies, law enforcement agencies and energy companies who are interested in hiring students trained in geospatial informatics. "There's a big demand for them," Ramroop said. "Another thing with geospatial informatics is it is technology driven. We are using the best of the best hardware and software, which is one reason why all of our students are employable. You name the field, and there are jobs out there for our students."
One of the department's long-term goals is developing a GIS major. In the meantime, they'll continue promoting the GIS and UAS minors.
"It's a growing need that more and more are recognizing," Niu said. "Recently I talked to a representative from the Alabama Department of Public Health, and he told me they need more GIS data. People use GIS every day, whether they realize it or not." It's a need that is expanding worldwide, from cell phones to map services to governmental agencies.
"We want companies to know that our students are here, they are ready and they are employable," Ramroop said. "And also, we want our students to know that companies are ready to hire them.