Are you a GIS -Geographic Information System– sufferer?  Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions?

How the world is viewed in a GIS. Source: Geographic Information System Basics v1.0
How the world is viewed in a GIS. Source: Geographic Information System Basics v1.0
  • I have ArcGIS (or any other GIS software, e.g. QGIS, DIVAGIS) installed in my computer and I´ve opened it once (mainly to check the installation worked) or twice (to check it was still operative: I´ve got overwhelmed by so many tools, and buttons, the unfamiliar terminology and closed the program; I took leave for a couple of days after this).
  • I only need to use/extract GIS data or run spatial analysis for a small – but essential- part of my research/work but I don´t know how to start.
  • What on Earth are coordinate systems and how do I know which one should I use?
  • Where can I source GIS data?
  • Someone is going to collect spatial data for me (e.g. locations of sampling sites, observations of a given species) or passing to me spatial layers. Do I have to give her/him particular instructions about what I´d like to get from the survey?
  • How do I make a pretty figure for publication (a figure that integrates a map, a plot and a picture) ?
  • Can I use R to handle my spatial data?

Welcome to the club! Being a self-taught GIS user myself, I have asked these questions a thousand times and spent infinite hours reading books, asking my doubts to colleagues and experts and surfing on internet searching for answers. I have fallen in the same mistakes 10,000 times until I discovered the tool, calculation or working protocol that made the trick!

Now – after a PhD in landscape Ecology and 3 year- postdoc experience in spatial ecology, but yet without being a GIS expert – I feel confident enough to help other people processing their spatial data and solving their GIS problems (or trying to!). I understand how valuable a simple GIS tip can be and how many hours of your time can save, especially if the GIS/spatial analyses are a side part of your main work.

Therefore, I have created this section in my blog (very inactive otherwise…) in which I could share tips to help you in your GIS journey. Some of the tips and exercises you´ll find here are extracted from a GIS course for Ecologists that I´ve taught at Monash University and The University of Melbourne to my colleagues and other people keen to learn GIS skills. I hope you find them useful! Please, check the side bar of my blog  for different GIS resources.

But remember, I am not a geographer, cartographer or a GIS expert so I may not explain things using accurate words or terminology; my intention is to explain the concepts or solve GIS problems in a simple and practical way for ecologists (all users in general…excuse my bias!). So please, forgive me – or correct me!- if I am not accurate enough. I am always eager to keep learning and open for exchanging ideas.