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December 2017: Senior to graduate with college's first geographic information science certificate


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Growing up, graduating senior Chris Brown was fascinated by the snow. 

“I would sit and watch the weather forecast all day whenever there was mention of snow,” said Brown. “It was just so interesting to me.”

Brown wanted to find out the science behind why it snowed. After graduating from Morgan County High, he knew he wanted to study meteorology. But his plans shifted after taking a geography class. The course introduced him to the world of geographic information science, which uses data that identifies features and boundaries of a particular area.

“It was so interesting to see how it can truly help people and be useful to something as large as a city or county,” said Brown. 

Brown’s interest in geospatial data and how it benefits others led him to an internship with the Baldwin County Courthouse. He started off looking into hydrology data, analyzing stream and creek flow rate—useful knowledge for county officials to know when considering how much the flow could handle. 

“After my initial project with the courthouse, I started working on a project with 911 data,” said Brown. “Basically, some of the addresses were logged in the wrong spot, so those needed to be updated. I also expanded some fields by adding story height, whether the building was residential and the over use of the space.”

Brown also recently attended the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers conference. He presented a poster on the Muir Glacier retreat in Alaska.

“That’s the thing about geospatial data,” said Brown, who used data to measure the area of ice and snow of the glacier from 1985 and compared it to 2016. “I can be somewhere as far away as Georgia and be able to use satellite data to analyze a glacier in Alaska.”

Brown will be the first student to graduate with the newly added Geographic Information Science Certificate this weekend. For the certificate, Brown took various upper level courses and participated in a GIS internship. After graduation, Brown said he knows he wants to continue working in the geospatial information realm. A relatively young field, Brown said there’s a lot of work to be done in the industry.

“It’s exciting and the diversity of the field is what make’s it so fun,” said Brown. “I could definitely see myself working in economic development for a county, but ultimately, I want to work anywhere where I feel my work is making a difference in other people’s lives.”

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