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Desert Diary


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The use of GIS is increasingly important in our complex world. GIS stands for Geographical Information System and takes full advantage of computers. Simply put, it places all sorts of information into a geographical context. Any GIS file can be visualized as a pile of layers, with any layer being able to be superimposed upon another. A fire department GIS, for example, might show streets, locations of fire hydrants, and also highlight buildings with known hazards; or show the best routes to a fire, taking into account current street repairs and blockages.

In studies of the natural world in the Southwest, relationships between such things as vegetation and geological makeup can be overlain with distributions of selected animals, or water sources such as springs and cattle tanks, or plumes of pollution. Always, of course, assuming that the data are available and entered into GIS. The importance of GIS compared to textual materials is the placing in one setting of diverse data sets. The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is nowhere truer than here.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.