Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

New Spatial Data Resource Centre opens at StFX

March 11th, 2019
Matt Schumacher, environmental science lab instructor and the driving force behind StFX's new Spatial Data Resource Centre

A new centre that supports teaching, research and learning has opened on the StFX campus. 

The Spatial Data Resource Centre is housed on the first floor of the Angus L. Macdonald Library, and offers the campus community a place to learn about and utilize spatial information with a geographic aspect to it—a resource that will help students and faculty on a wide range of projects.

“In this age of spatial information, it will be nice to have a space where researchers can access data and discuss ways to acquire the information they need,” says Matt Schumacher, StFX environmental science lab instructor and the driving force behind the centre, which houses data, both physical (such as maps and aerial photos) and digital (including pictures and satellite imagery) and has the capacity to print maps and posters.

Mr. Schumacher, who teaches a course on GIS (Geographic Information Systems) at StFX and is the informal, and go-to, GIS professional on campus, says he is excited that students, faculty and staff can become more informed and expert users in spatial information. 

He says at least once a week he receives student and faculty requests for GIS-related help. 

Not only will the centre be able to help students, faculty and staff on numerous projects, it will help students learn important skills that are useful in the job market, he says. 

GIS, he says, is simply, mapping software. “But it can do so much more than that.” It takes layers of information and puts them together so that spatial information can be analyzed, stored and visualized. 

Mr. Schumacher says the way spatial information is collected and analyzed has transformed the way relationships and patterns are understood. This information is increasingly utilized by a broad range of users.

As examples, the information can be useful on any project with a spatial element to it. From finding a certain species of plant that grows in specific locations to the public health field and planning for epidemics; from helping to understand the demographics of ridings and their voting trends, to the business field where it can be used to help retail outlets get a sense of their customer base to target those hot spots with ads or in locating a new store. 

Mr. Schumacher says the centre will help educate the campus community about this new resource, the data tools available and how it can help them with their research. He’ll have set hours at a help desk in the centre. 

He says the offices of StFX Associate Vice-President Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Richard Isnor and the former Dean of Science Dr. Petra Hauf have been very supportive of the initiative, including providing some funding to help with the set up.  

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