What is a geographic information system (GIS)?

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system that analyzes and displays geographically referenced information. It uses data that is attached to a unique location.

Most of the information we have about our world contains a location reference: Where are USGS streamgages located? Where was a rock sample collected? Exactly where are all of a city's fire hydrants?

If, for example, a rare plant is observed in three different places, GIS analysis might show that the plants are all on north-facing slopes that are above an elevation of 1,000 feet and that get more than ten inches of rain per year. GIS maps can then display all locations in the area that have similar conditions, so researchers know where to look for more of the rare plants.

By knowing the geographic location of farms using a specific fertilizer, GIS analysis of farm locations, stream locations, elevations, and rainfall will show which streams are likely to carry that fertilizer downstream. These are just a few examples of the many uses of GIS in earth sciences, biology, resource management, and many other fields.

Learn More: The National Map

 

8 Base Layers of The National Map

8 Base Layers of The National Map

(Credit: Sexton, Pamela Ann. Public domain.)

 

 

 

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