Meeting industry demand

A new Masters programme in Geographic Information Science

A new Master’s programme at Victoria will help meet a trans-Tasman shortage of geographic information science specialists.

A Master in Geographic Information Science course has been launched at Victoria University this year, following a successful pilot programme in 2011. A joint collaboration with the University of Canterbury, the course is attracting interest from undergraduate geography students, as well as from people already working in industries where geographic information systems are becoming an important business tool.

Lecturer Dr Mairead de Roiste, from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, says geographic information science (GIS) uses software information systems that work with geospatial data such as aerial photos and road maps.

“New Zealand Post, for instance, uses software to find the quickest way to deliver mail. Important urban issues such as green spaces, water quality, crime and even people’s commuting decisions can be analysed and better understood using these systems. GIS can even be harnessed for understanding hazards such as determining where landslides are likely and for monitoring changes to natural resources, like forests.”

The two-year programme, which contains both research and course work elements, is designed to provide a variety of topical, relevant areas of study, and address a current shortage of skilled workers.

“This is a jobs growth area—shortages are reported in a number of countries, including the USA and Australia, and GIS skills are also in demand here in New Zealand,” says Mairead.

Students kick-start their studies with an intensive one-week field trip in Kaikoura where they develop skills such as data collection, modelling and cartography through hands-on experience, traditional lectures and group work. This year the course included a marae visit and using University-developed software to navigate indoors—a particular problem for current navigation systems.