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UB wins designation for excellence in geospatial sciences

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published October 3, 2017

“We’re now living in a digital world where every sector of society has a need for graduates with the latest knowledge in geospatial sciences.”
Sean Bennett, professir abd chair
Department of Geography

UB has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences by two federal agencies with an interest in building the United States’ expertise in the field.

The recognition comes from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). As a Center of Academic Excellence, the university will work with the NGIA and USGS to build, strengthen and cultivate the current and future geospatial sciences workforce in support of America’s geospatial intelligence needs and challenges.

“We’re now going to be more attuned to the needs of these federal agencies with regard to geospatial science, which is a huge opportunity for our students,” says Sean Bennett, professor and chair of the Department of Geography. “By aligning ourselves with these two very large agencies, we’re hopefully going to create a pipeline for our students who want to work in government, and also in the private sector. We’re now living in a digital world where every sector of society has a need for graduates with the latest knowledge in geospatial sciences.”

Geospatial science involves the use of technology to understand data that has a spatial component. This could mean modeling the spread of infectious disease using data from smartphone surveys, as Professor Ling Bian is doing, or mapping damage from natural disasters, as Professor Chris Renschler did following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

UB joins an elite network of institutions nationwide to be designated Centers of Academic Excellence in geospatial sciences education and research. UB qualified for having specialty strengths in geospatial analysis, mapping and design, and remote sensing/imagery analysis.

The Department of Geography and the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis at UB, which Bian directs, were instrumental in putting together UB’s application. These two units also will play a lead role in partnering with the federal agencies on new initiatives.

“As I understand it, the NGIA and USGS now will be reaching out to this network of centers to tap their expertise for new research projects, technology development, for training and workshops, and also to solve immediate problems related to the collection processing and analysis of geospatial data,” Bennett says.