Geoscience was my first love. I spent my academic career in the geoscience roles doing fun research and travelling the world.
But I found a new love, Geographic Information Systems. In a stroke of luck (or pure genius) I discovered an amazing combination of science disciplines.
Geoscience and GIS are a perfect match and I didn’t even know it!
I spent 99.99% of my time in front of a computer writing code and never appreciated just where all the data I played with came from.
Turns out that geoscience is not just “sit-in-front-of-your-computer-all-day” career. You can go out into the field and harness GIS to do amazing geoscience research and acquisition.
Yes, geologists do GIS, but the ones I have known knew didn’t have in-depth training. They were taught about rocks, but not how to create a map for field surveys.
Having excellent geographic training and solid GIS software foundations will make you twice as hireable. Having GIS will also give you skills outside of geoscience.
Why do the geoscience and geographic information system fit so well together?
The first is straightforward, we live and operate on the surface of the earth. GIS gives us a powerful tool to plan, execute, and analyze complex geographical operations. With complex GIS techniques and technologies, we can visualize the earth’s surface and subsurface.
With detailed spatial analysis, we can understand rock formations, dip and strike of geology, plan better surveys, model water flow (both surface and subsurface), and detect geo-hazards like unstable slopes and flood areas.
The value of GIS extends into other earth sciences that combine even more disciplines like biology, ecology, and social science. The parallels are striking.
Here are some steps below that you can take to better combine GIS and Geoscience.
Get GIS training NOW.
GIS is a great add-on to many disciplines and should not be seen as a single career goal. Taking a 1-year college degree, or two-year master’s in GIS will prepare you for an amazing future.
Online courses are good too but I am a huge advocate for in-person in-class training. Something powerful happens when humans come together to pass on information.
Take what works best for you and get started on your GIS training now.
Start your work at the GIS level.
For years I made the mistake of jumping right into the geophysical data I had on my computer without knowing where it came from. Noise in the data was XY Hz, missing sections were just gone, and data wasn’t acquired in perfectly straight lines because of reason.
If you start at the GIS level, you will see that the noise came from roads, the missed sections were flooded areas, and lines were not perfectly straight because of dense forest.
Starting with your geoscience data at the GIS level will get you out of your head and into the real world.
Get involved in field operations with GIS.
GIS as a planning tool is essential and not just for field operations. Your valuable geoscience knowledge can be integrated for a deeper understanding once you start seeing how data is acquired.
You will get to see how remote sensing can help you understand geology better. Canopy cover and bare earth will show you how field operations will progress. You may discover something new, like how flood plains are good locations for acquisition, but bad if rain comes.
Once again, GIS will get you out of your head and into the real world.
GIS is part of your final results and improvements.
Analyzing your field data by itself is just not enough for a complete understanding of geoscience. Understanding the limitations you had during the planning process and during field acquisition will make you aware of what is going on with your data.
Your final results including GIS will have a more nuanced understanding of how future data will need to be acquired. “Can we get better data next time” will turn into “We need multispectral remote sensing data to plan where our geophones are going to be placed”.
Improve your GIS mindsets.
I have learned over the years that “how-to” knowledge is common. The software you need to learn for GIS has great manuals, plenty of free “click-here-do-that” resources and instructional videos everywhere.
What is hard to teach, and hard to learn, are mindsets needed for success.
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