U GEOSPATIAL SCIENCES GET FEDERAL RECOGNITION

By Lee J. Siegel

Branches of the Defense and Interior departments have designated the U’s Department of Geography as a Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences, which involves mapping, measuring and simulating geographic locations.

The recognition is prestigious, and might attract more students, create research collaborations and possibly provide internship and job opportunities for students within the two agencies that made the designation: the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Richard Medina (left), U assistant professor of geography, accepting the Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences certificate from Richard Cardillo (right), director of the Pentagon's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Richard Medina (left), U assistant professor of geography, accepting the Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences certificate from Richard Cardillo (right), director of the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

So says Richard Medina, an assistant professor of geography and associate director of his department’s Geospatial Intelligence Certificate Program. Geography Professor George Hepner is the director.

Examples of geospatial sciences in action include Google Earth, Geographic Information System or GIS, Global Positioning System or GPS navigation, satellite imagery analysis and geographical modeling or simulation to solve human and environmental monitoring problems. U geospatial sciences graduates enter such fields as mapping, intelligence, the military, engineering and data processing and analysis.

The U’s Department of Geography was among programs at 17 universities to receive the federal Center of Academic Excellence designation. Hepner notes the U is among about a dozen universities that offer both undergraduate and graduate certificates in geospatial intelligence.

Medina says geospatial intelligence involves using and analyzing imagery and other geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and human activities on Earth’s geography.

The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency says the designated Centers of Academic Excellence can help it and the Geological Survey attract more geospatial intelligence expertise, research and development, and “talent sources for current and emerging critical mission challenges.”

Medina says those challenges include things such as tracking terrorists and disease outbreaks, following mass migrations, managing emergencies and disaster response, assessing land use, providing early warning of famine and other disasters, and monitoring and assessing global environmental problems.