UB marks 30 years as national hub for GIScience

Chris Renschler leads a group of students in a post-disaster building damage.

For 10 years, NCGIA hosted a prestigious, multimillion-dollar NSF IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education Research and Traineeship) program in GIS. Here, Professor Chris Renschler leads a group of students in a post-disaster building damage assessment following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Photo: Douglas Levere

By Charlotte Hsu


In 1988, the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) opened at UB, putting Buffalo on the map as a hotspot for GIS.

Short for Geographic Information Science, this field involves the use of spatial data to understand problems ranging from disease outbreaks to the impact of natural disasters. Crime mapping, epidemiological modeling and Google Earth are all GIS applications, to name a few.

Today — in a world where GIS technologies have become a part of everyday life — UB and NCGIA remain at the forefront of the discipline.

On May 11, university leaders and researchers will celebrate NCGIA’s 30th anniversary at a reception in Capen Hall. UB’s NCGIA site is one of only three funded by the National Science Foundation. The other two are at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Maine.

Ling Bian, director of NCGIA at UB, was a PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when the center was founded in 1988. She recalls that it immediately brought UB international visibility.

“I was a graduate student at the time, and I wished that someday I could work with these guys,” she says. “I had no idea I would be the director one day. Being hired here? A career highlight.”

UB’s NCGIA site is housed in the Department of Geography in the College of Arts and Sciences. But for three decades, the center has been cultivating collaborations — and friendships — between researchers across the university. Staff have supported work in fields as diverse as engineering, public health and the humanities.


Published May 11, 2018

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