Careers in Natural Resources: Part 2
This second post in our series on careers in natural resources. Last time we featured careers in human dimensions of natural resources. This time, we’re talking about spatial analysis and its role in natural resource management.
Spatial analysts work with any kind of data that can be represented spatially: roads, lakes, land use/landcover, weather systems, landmarks, demographics, and many many more. They use tools like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize data and create maps to show relationships among variables.
In natural resource fields, we can use GIS to, among many other things, map suitable habitat for different species, plot animal movements using GPS collar data, and create species distribution maps. Using spatial analyses we can answer questions like: “Are black bears attracted to areas with higher or lower human population density?” “Are sandhill cranes more commonly found near wetlands or near corn fields?” “Where do the habitat ranges of red fox and gray fox overlap?” “Is the range of fishers expanding southward?”
For Snaphshot Wisconsin, we’ve used GIS to make preliminary maps of animal presence in certain localized areas. A possible next step is to test correlations between animal presence and environmental variables to find out more about why animals go where they go. We hope that once the project is rolled out statewide we will be able to ask these types of questions for the whole state!