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New Smithsonian GIS Course

GIS for Policy- and Decision-makers in Conservation

2011 Course Offering: Dates to be announced

Researchers at the National Zoo have developed a new training course tailored to the needs of senior staff working in leading positions in local, state, and national government or in environmental organizations. CEOs, policymakers and decision-makers often rely on maps and spatial data created with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for their analysis and decision making. While leaders don't have to be GIS specialists, they do need a good understanding of the strengths and limitations of the technology and what it can do for their respective agencies or organizations.

Our world is changing rapidly. Many changes occur across areas and time periods beyond everyday human perception and often they go undetected for long periods of time, with catastrophic consequences. Satellite imagery and computer based modeling and mapping systems such as GIS have radically transformed our ability to detect, map, and model such changes. These geospatial technologies allow us regularly and systematically to monitor natural resources for management purposes. However, decision-makers, faced with data and output from GIS and other geospatial tools, often lack enough background information on how to read and correctly interpret these results. Decision-makers need a basic understanding of these technologies, including both their limitations and their strengths. They also need to understand what kinds of questions about natural resources can be addressed using these technologies. In two days, our basic training teaches policymakers and decision-makers how to harness these technologies effectively.

Our course allows policy- and decision-makers to:

  • gain a comprehensive overview of the current state of GIS, satellite and aerial monitoring technology;
  • learn how these basic but powerful tools allow us to address resource issues across different scales ranging from local to global;
  • understand basic mapping and GIS concepts required to read GIS data correctly;
  • learn how to ask the "right" questions with GIS to get the most out of these tools;
  • find out how maps can lie, and how to avoid being fooled by "lying" maps;
  • learn about the strengths and limitations of these technologies to assess, monitor, and model resource distribution and use.

Course Schedule