Smith College Spatial Analysis Lab

Summer at the SAL by Hannah Davis

It’s almost the middle of summer and things are heating up at the Smith Spatial Analysis Lab. This summer has seen the continuation of many exciting projects, and the start of a number more. 

As the Spatial Analysis Lab intern, I had the privilege of working with a wide variety of people across campus. I got to know a few of the botanical garden interns as we worked through creating maps for apps and discussed suitability models for GIS. Faculty and staff also passed through the lab to troubleshoot some GPS units and other idiosyncratic gadgets (laser rangefinders, GoPro cameras, data collection apps, you name it!). The SAL also began a collaboration with the Year on Climate Change programming with the hope of highlighting the narrative and geographic sides of climate change—this lead to the development of a combination community poll and story map that allows users to describe the environmental impact they see in a community that holds importance for them.

In addition to working with members of the greater Smith community, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Emma Harnisch, the post-baccalaureate spatial analysis fellow for the SAL. Together we brainstormed ideas for many new workshops, and got a few of our favorite ideas underway for the fall (stay tuned for cognitive mapping, community sourced maps, and counter mapping!). Emma was also invaluable in helping me understand maps and geography as a means of social mobilization and change in a way I hadn’t thought about very deeply before, and inspired me to start thinking more critically about the social impact of geography and GIS. I can’t wait to delve more into that in the fall!

When I wasn’t working on other projects, I got the chance to work more with some of the equipment the SAL has to offer. I synced Arrow GPS receivers with ArcCollector, collected data with precision down to the centimeter and wrote how-to documentation; discovered the height and geographic locations of a great many trees around campus with laser rangefinders (also synced to ArcCollector); and familiarized myself with ESRI’s online GIS tutorials. My favorite equipment and software that I got to work with though, by far, were the drones and drone simulation software. I was thrilled to learn about the operation and uses of drones from Jon and Tracy, and even more excited to get the opportunity to participate as an assistant in the NERCOMP Aerial Imagery and Cinematography conference. After participating in the conference, I was inspired to begin studying for the FAA part 107 UAV pilot exam; my hope is to be certified before classes begin in the fall. 

This position with the SAL opened my eyes to a number of exciting possibilities that I hadn’t previously considered—I cannot wait to pursue these ideas and opportunities throughout the rest of the summer and my time at Smith.