Tree Foundation of Kern

GIS Professional

To use Geographic Information Systems technology (GIS) in resource management and land use planning.

Those working in forestry have a new tool to help them gauge the effects of environmental changes. GIS technology can place a forest inside a computer where complex data can be sorted and analyzed to provide different views into the future.

Scientists using GIS technology can create accurate, three-dimensional visual images or maps of forests and test various scenarios before they occur.

"GIS can ask and answer a series of 'what if' questions," said Eric Oldar, coordinator for Urban and Community Forestry with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "What if we have more or less trees? What if we have storm water run-off? GIS allows you to correlate changes over time." "Using the power of GIS allows us to analyze how trees are affecting a community," Oldar said. "GIS gives you a bird's eye view."

GIS has been used in forestry and fire prevention to help residents in forested communities see the effects of wildfire and how tree removal can help save their property and community.

Opportunities in the field of GIS technology abound and, as the technology becomes more widespread, those working in GIS will likely find themselves in high demand. Educational standards for GIS certification are being developed, but at this time networking and hands-on experience are key.

GIS technology is being used in many diverse areas including sociology and demographics, medicine, real estate, aerospace and marketing in addition to its applications in forestry. "It's a good career for people who like technology but don't want to sit in the back room programming," said Colleen Mesel, assistant professor of computer studies at Bakersfield College. "GIS brings you into contact with people and the earth."

For those interested in getting started Mesel suggested an internship, but warned "You won't find GIS jobs advertised in the paper. It's all word of mouth and by referral. You need to pay your dues and work your way up the network."

"You've got to know computers, data base management systems, GIS, programming languages and certain electives like real estate, forestry and land use," said Colleen Mesel, assistant professor of computer studies at Bakersfield College. "You have to know your data to make good decisions."

"The level of technology required of a GIS professional takes years," Mesel added. "It's not one specialty. You need to be pretty broad based."