By Sonia Walker-Russell / Bahama Buy & Sell

Senior GIS Technician at Grand Bahama Port Authority, Elise White, conveyed the positive contributions of Geographic Information Science/Systems (GIS) in The Bahamas and the world during the Rotary Club of Freeport's meeting recently.

Having obtained her undergraduate degree at York University, Toronto, Canada, White majored in geography with specialization in Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing.

GIS, she noted, helps answer questions and solve problems by looking at collected data, by mapping where things are in the world, quantities and densities, finding what's inside and what's nearby.  By integrating hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information, one can easily understand, question, interpret, visualize and share data to reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports and tables. 

"For example," said Miss White, "during one of the hurricanes, there was a disabled mother and son in East End hooked up to machines who authorities could not get to because of flooding. It is a good idea to have statistical information along with GIScience to gather the type of demographic information to determine where such people are located who are disabled, sick or in need beforehand; map all the shelters and routes to get to them as quickly as possible and combine that with flood information collected in order to take preventative measures. We can be better prepared when this type of information is entered into the system to be easily accessed during such disasters."

She said that GIS features andanalyses can be used to map out land toestablish a terrain model for accurateelevations and areas prone to flooding, to monitor road erosion, behaviour of tidesto protect shorelines and structures suchas bridges, identify areas where soil is good for vegetation, where coral reefs and endangered animal or plant specieslive for preservation, have easilyretrieved statistic information concerningoutbreaks, diseases, illnesses, deaths and much more.

"In our land use maps we plan by zoning the areas which helps in pricing the property and knowing which types of buildings can be located there. When we are doing urban analyses - for instance if a developer comes here to find a specific residential site - we are able to enter their request into the system where data and photos accumulated are uploaded through Cartography, Statistics, Photogrammetry, Surveying and Remote Sensing. The system then gives us a read out of land fitting the potential developers request.

"Farmers are helped with GIS by satellite imagery which is able to reflect healthy vegetation in areas where the farmer cannot properly reach. In the health industry they use GIS analyses to see where a disease, outbreak or illness is coming from, is most occurring, how far it is spreading, to detect what is causing it and which areas need help first. With tables and layers of information on particular areas, buildings, etc. in the system, you will be able to determine proper hurricane shelters, and even identify environmentally healthy areas."

Remotely sensed data plays an important role in data collection and consists of sensors including cameras, digital scanners and LIDAR, attached to a platform (usually aircraft or satellites) to obtain data without touching the object.

The top Five Benefits of GIS listed are:

●Cost Savings and Increased Efficiency
●Better Decision Making
●Improved Communication
●Better Geographic Information Record Keeping
●Managing Geographically

Though there is a national GIS center known as BNGIS based in Nassau under the umbrella of the Ministry of the Environment, White said she chose to join the GBPA team because they were more in need of personnel. She is currently taking Penn State's Post-baccalaureate certification in GIS, online, and has plans to pursue her Master's immediately after.

Photo: (L-R) Constance McDonald, Rotary Club of Freeport Secretary; Elise White, and President of the Rotary Club of Freeport Louis Alleyne.