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GIS In Ecology

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS for short, are rapidly becoming an essential tool in many areas of ecological research. However, getting to grips with how to correctly use GIS in ecological research is not necessarily straight-forward.


The would-be ecological GIS user is faced with a whole new set of unfamiliar and confusing jargon, making it difficult to know where to start. This difficulty is further amplified by the fact that most training, instruction and advice currently available has been developed to teach the GIS skills required by geographers rather than ecologists. Many ecologists are put off by these difficulties and abandon their attempts to use GIS in their research.

However, GIS is a powerful tool for ecologists and, in our experience, with the correct introduction, anyone can get to grips with it quickly and easily, to the great benefit of their research.

The key is to not try to learn how to use GIS as an abstract set of concepts and tasks, and certainly not to learn how geographers use it (why, for example, would an ecologist ever need to know how to work out what the best site is for a new superstore?). Rather, the key is to specifically learn how to apply it to the type of tasks which are needed to use GIS in ecological research.

GIS in Ecology was set up by Dr. Colin MacLeod in 2011 with the aim of making GIS as accessible as possible by providing training courses, books, advice and consultancy for ecologists by ecologists.


We aim to do this using the type of language that ecologists can understand, and by showing them specifically how to use GIS to do the everyday tasks ecologists need to know in order to quickly start using GIS in their research.


This is done using a teaching framework called the TOL Approach which we have developed to help teach practical skills to life scientists.

We also provide an online forum where ecologists can ask questions and discuss issues specifically related to the use of GIS in ecology.


Through this, we hope to greatly expand the use of GIS in ecological research, to the benefit of all.




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Last modified: 02/12/16