GIS Analysts

Meet your GIS Analysts

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Do you know what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Christoper Columbus' brother Bartholomew all have in common? They were cartographers. What is a cartographer, you ask? Cartographer is a fancy word for a person who makes maps. And what does map making have to do with Manatee County? Well, did you know that GIS Analysts who work for Manatee County Government make maps? In fact, Manatee County GIS Analysts create many different types of maps.

Historical Map of Manatee
Historical Map of Manatee

While early maps were printed on paper and created by engraving printing plates on either wood or copper, modern day map makers use what is known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create maps. A Geographic Information System is a collection of computer software, geographic data and people who work together to create maps. Modern day maps can, of course, be printed on paper, but they can also be interactive web applications allowing the user to zoom in or click on map features to learn more. A good example of this would be Google Maps or Google Earth.

Map layers
Map layer
Geographic data is simply information about where things are located and this data is organized into layers of like things.

For example, all the roads in Manatee County are stored in a "roads" layer. All the parks in Manatee County are stored in the "parks" layer. All the schools in Manatee County are stored in the -- you guessed it -- the "schools" layer.

Dagwood Sandwich
Dagwood Sandwich

Geographic data includes not only the location of a particular feature, such as a school, but it also has descriptive information like what kind of school or how many students attend that school, and so on.

Map layers are sort of like a Dagwood sandwich, better when stacked!

GIS screen

It is the GIS software which allows us to bring these various map layers together into a computer environment to ask questions of our geographic data. For example, if we wanted to know the best place to build a new school or understand the environmental impact of building a new road, we would use GIS software. GIS is used in many fields of study to locate things, understand their relationships to one another and spot trends in data that would otherwise be difficult to understand. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!