Geographic Information Systems

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, analysing, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface; a common example being route finding using Google maps. GIS technology facilitates comparison of the locations of different things in order to discover how they relate to each other. GIS uses information about location, such as data about population, income, or education level; information about landscape, such as the position of streams, and vegetation and soil types; and, information about structures (factories, farms, schools) and infrastructure (storm drains, roads, fibre optic cables).

Study GIS

A component of the teaching and research activities of staff in the Geography Programme, GIS has an applied focus that provides students with opportunities to link GIS to many disciplines. These disciplines encompass topics from traditional social science applications, such as population migration patterns, to science-oriented uses, such as horticultural assessment using drones. GIS at the University of Waikato incorporates remote sensing, which focuses on information captured at a distance (aircraft, satellite, space station); for example, using night lights to monitor economic activity in developing countries. GIS in the Geography Programme caters for students that are new to computing, as well as people with advanced information technology skills. A GIS minor is available for all undergraduate degrees.

As a stream within the Geography Programme, GIS teaching and research overlaps with work undertaken by colleagues in the Environmental Planning Programme, staff from Te Ngira: Institute for Population Research, and physical geographers in the Earth Sciences Programme. GIS also enjoys accommodation by the New Zealand Geographical Society.


Career opportunities

GIS is being used in various industries and organisations, and the skills needed to be a successful professional have evolved over the years. The versatility of GIS tools is why various industries increasingly rely on their GIS teams for decision-making. Thus, many jobs require the use of GIS but do not include ‘GIS’ in the job title. These industries and organisations include land-use consultants, forestry companies, regional and local councils, district health boards, police, and central government (such as the Department of Conservation). Fields of employment include, but are not limited to:

  • Geospatial Technologist
  • Geospatial Analyst
  • GIS Developer
  • Logistics Analyst
  • Transportation Planner
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Law Enforcement
  • Climate Scientist
  • Health Planner
  • Epidemiologist
  • Emergency Management
  • Forester

Buck Trafford

Buck Trafford

Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours

“Studying at Waikato has enabled me to create a network of lifelong friends, who are scattered around the world, enjoying an array of experiences and employment.”

Buck Trafford came to the University of Waikato from Gisborne Boys' High School with the intention of completing a bachelors degree followed by a teaching qualification, but instead decided to specialise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

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