What is GIS?

Geographic information systems (GIS) is a set of tools and data that can help researchers, policy-makers, and community members visualize, explore, and interpret information across space to understand spatial relationships, patterns, and trends. You can think of GIS in its most simple form as a map with a database behind it of information. Click on a place in the map and text information will appear about that place. The map is constructed in layers – for example, a layer each for parks, transit, demography, schools, community gardens, fast food restaurants, property parcels, buildings, and major employers.

But a GIS integrates layers of geographic information in such a way that much more interesting questions can then be asked. For example, you can estimate how many children live more than a short walk away from a park, or what the median income is of neighborhoods with and without easy access to public transit. GIS is most often combined with other research tools and methods – for example, a research project might study the relationship between student health and the presence and number of fast food restaurants near schools. The GIS-based part of the research would consist of buliding a geographic database of schools and fast food places, and calculating proximity measures, while health researchers would enroll students in the project to for interviews, surveys, and health testing.

The links on this page provide many examples of how GIS and geospatial technology is used in research and professional applications, and how it is being used by Tufts students.

Examples of GIS use

GIS Student Posters from the Tufts GIS Poster Expo

GIS Jobs

  • GIS Jobs at Tufts - we post current openings here for GIS work at Tufts
  • GIS Job Sites - An index of regional, national, and international GIS job sites

Associations and LISTSERVS

A listing of GIS Associations & LISTSERVs