Happy World GIS Day

Happy World GIS Day!! Even though our work is hugely varied, from groundwater to space weather, from tiny isotopes to entire continents, there's a spatial element to everything. That is why Geographic Information Systems are so important to us and why maps are one of our primary methods for communicating what we do.

We love maps. In fact our new Map Portal provides access to over 6000 high resolution scans of our most beloved paper maps, from historical prints to the current 1:50,000  scale saleable copies. But whilst our passion for maps will never fade the way we do things is changing, thanks to GIS.

As this brave new digital world has progressed we've endeavoured to keep our thinking, software, methodologies and maps in pace. As such spatial data collection is now carried out using BGS·SIGMA, our custom built GIS digital field data capture system. In the spirit of transparency and sharing we've even made it open source for anyone to use.

GIS is not only a big part of capturing our data now but it has also evolved our map delivery methods. Web-based applications and smartphone apps now provide our maps to users wherever and whenever they need them. If you're in the field you can discover the geology beneath your feet, whether you're an Apple or an Android user, with our iGeology smartphone app. With over 200,000 downloads it's by far our most popular app. If you're at your desktop the Geology of Britain viewer provides access to street-level (1:50,000 scale) geological mapping for the whole of Britain as well as over 1 million boreholes and many more of our datasets.

Using GIS has also allowed us to advance data visualisation and create new ways to creatively interact with our spatial information. iGeology 3D augments reality by painting geology maps on the landscape around you and GeoVisionary provides immersive high-resolution visualisation of spatial data. We’ve also been able to reach out to a brand new audience creating virtual worlds from our data in Minecraft.

GIS doesn't just give us innovative new ways to record, process and display spatial information, it's greatest function is enabling the knowledge and expertise of our scientists to be embedded in value-added spatial information products. For example Geosure advises on locations susceptible to ground movement, SuDS helps plan sustainable draining systems. We use GIS to deliver this site specific advice to both industry and homeowners as a digital dataset or via our bespoke reporting service (GeoReports).

Answers to today’s environmental problems can’t be solved in isolation and GIS allows us to combine our data with other collaborators and colleagues. BGS are executives of the OneGeology project working with 182 geological surveys and other organisations in 119 countries across the globe to create a web-based geological map of the world at 1: 1 million scale. Last Thursday, the AGI Award for Geospatial Excellence with Impact was awarded to the UK Soil Observatory, a spatial resource hub developed by BGS that provides a unified starting point for accessing UK soils data from nine project partners. The land surface, and specifically soil, is where people and businesses interact with the Earth, whether for growing food or for building infrastructure. As society expands and develops, the demands to deliver more from our soils grows. The more we know about soil the better we can manage and exploit it in a responsible way.

All things have a place. Everything happens somewhere. Happy World GIS Day to you!