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The Role of Spatial Database in GIS

October 28, 2011

Students who are pursuing or have graduated from geographic information systems (GIS) master’s degree programs are likely well aware of how complex the technologies involved can be. With that in mind, it may be helpful for them to concentrate on one particular aspect of the field in their academic or professional efforts.

Spatial databases are one of the core foundations of any GIS program. In basic terms, they are the storage systems containing all of the data that is necessary for a finalized and fully functional GIS map to display all of the data layers that were included in its design. GIS degree program students and graduates who take particularly well to this aspect of the technology may want to consider it as a career, and aim to make their knowledge of it as comprehensive as possible.

Research papers detailing the workings of spatial databases

When searching for jobs in their field of choice, even those who have obtained master’s degrees in GIS from respected academic institutions will need to prove their worth to employers in terms of their knowledge and experience. As a result, these individuals may benefit from refreshing their understanding of spatial databases.

Spatial Databases – Accomplishments and Research Needs: Prepared by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), this research paper begins with a general introduction to spatial databases. It continues as an explanation of current research applications and potential future uses for these systems.

Building a Spatial Data Infrastructure: This paper focuses on the various free, open-source GIS software programs that are available for use in the creation of a spatial data infrastructure, and provides a general overview of the history and applications of GIS and spatial databases.

Research on Spatial Data Mining: Although this IEEE paper is only available for free in abstract form, the introduction alone covers an important aspect of spatial data mining – that it is largely contingent upon the unpredictable nature of data. This makes it a complex and fascinating process.

City of Indianapolis: This white paper explains how a GIS spatial database was implemented into the operations of the Indianapolis, Indiana city government, and details the ways in which it is used today. Students may want to research similar programs that have been implemented in their areas.

Open Geospatial Council: This page of the OGC’s website explains how the major GIS organization provides standards for the construction, implementation and operation of spatial data infrastructures (SDIs).

Books providing in-depth coverage of spatial databases and related topics

The links provided below give explanations of two textbooks that directly address spatial databases and data management. Students enrolled in GIS degree programs can view the sample chapters and descriptions provided to obtain a fair amount of information without having to purchase the books.

Spatial Databases – A Tour: On this webpage, PDF links to sample chapters of this textbook are available, all of which provide a fair amount of general and specific information on the nature of spatial databases.

Data Mining – Concepts and Techniques: Data mining is an important element in the construction of a well-functioning spatial database for a series of GIS maps. This textbook delves into the algorithmic and mathematical processes involved in the use of data mining technologies.

Examples of GIS spatial databases

Those looking to find a job in the field of GIS will have to rely on a combination of knowledge and experience. With that in mind, it may be beneficial for GIS degree program students and graduates to examine examples of specific GIS programs and spatial databases.

Hall County, Georgia: Many city, county, state and federal governments and their agencies make use of GIS services and spatial databases. With this example, students enrolled in GIS degree programs can examine a typical government GIS program, and they may be able to find similar maps for their own city, county or state.

The Global River Discharge Database: This GIS spatial database provides river discharge information for river systems around the world, culled from data provided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It serves as an example of a typical application for a spatial database – in this instance, consolidating a large amount of environmental data into one system.

Database of Global Administration Areas (GADM): The location of the world’s administrative areas and boundaries for use in conjunction with GIS software is provided by this comprehensive spatial database.

Job titles of GIS professionals involved in the creation of spatial databases

To enhance their understanding of how their education in the use of spatial databases can be practically applied, GIS degree program graduates can view the information provided below regarding professions in this aspect of the GIS industry.

Information Technology Department of Manatee County, Florida: The staff of this Florida county’s GIS services group is made up of several professionals involved in crucial data management tasks, particularly Jeff Pace, the GIS spatial database administrator.