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Geographical Tools and Skills
Every day the news media report several geographically significant events of near by or faraway places. Such reports include the occurrence of earthquakes, floods, forest fire, landslides etc., which trigger the interests of everyone to recollect their geographic knowledge they had acquired earlier.
The essential tools of geography are maps and globes and now the digital versions of aerial photographs, satellite images, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).These tools have become an integral part of geography and these products help us to visualise the spatial patterns over the surface of the earth.
The GIS technique has enhanced the skills and capabilities to compare and overlay the digital layers to create maps quickly and efficiently. It helps us to study the areas affected by floods or cyclones or forest fire and the damages can be assessed accurately and losses be estimated within a very short span of time. The navigation satellites provide accurate location of these occurrences.
In recent years, geography aims to develop a set of marketable skills to the students rather than preparing the students only for the teaching in educational institutions.
The job market is changing frequently. Therefore, the teaching methodology of the subject is to be adapted to the changing trends of the society and provides a couple of specialisations to the students so that they could be acquainted with the global market and get suitable employment. The maps still remains an important visual medium for geographers although the microchip revolution is expanding exponentially to address a number of societal issues.
Geographers who specialise in this branch make traditional maps, digital maps, atlases, charts, globes and models. Quantification and cartography are considered as two sides of the ‘geography coin’. Owing to quantitative and computer revolutions, handling of spatial data become easier, not only for the preparation of ‘instant maps’ but also for statistical graphs, graphic images and models. Preparation of the computer-aided-maps and updating the existing ones become easier and faster. Creation of three dimensional models, changing the viewing angle of these models and plotting the images are made possible due to the introduction of computer expertise in cartography.
For studies of quickly changing phenomena on the earth surface, such as floods, drought, forest fires, etc, remote sensing data provide accurate information in different scales. The remote sensing organisations employ geographers who have the knowledge to process the frequently changing earth’s surface features. Even before the introduction of satellites in remote sensing, aerial photographs were widely used by geographers for natural resources surveys and urban and regional planning. The satellite data from Landsat, SPOT, IRS and other satellites made it possible to repeatedly view each part of the earth surface at frequent intervals and thereby geographers’ ‘data thirst’ is considerably quenched.
A geospatial analyst designs databases, analyses geographical data, uses appropriate GIS software to a wide range of applications including defence, real estate, pollution and government administrations. The skill helps to identify optimum size and ideal location, establish new or relocate existing facilities like hospitals, police station, banks, shopping centres etc.,
This investigation requires voluminous data related to physical, social, economic and other aspects of the area under study. The data are collected from maps, satellites and field and synthesised to provide meaningful visual results. Such complex thematic visual results allow the decision makers to take appropriate steps to tackle the day to day and long term environmental issues.
A planner who is responsible for planning an urban or a regional unit needs to have an overall view of the area. They should be able to synthesise the issues from multiple perspectives. The problems are increasingly concerned with balancing different, sometimes contradictory, interests into functional and sustainable suggestions and proposals. This specialisation is concerned with planning, housing, and smart city development projects. The regional land use maps are to be prepared to locate facilities and optimise the existing land for various uses.
At present the meteorologists are using ground data and satellite data to forecast the wind direction, rainfall possibilities and cyclone movement. However, with the advancement of satellite sensors, navigation satellites and GIS technology it is possible to nowcast the weather conditions and provide live cyclone movement tracts, otherwise known as weather nowcasting.Geographers are utilising spatial and non–spatial data to analyse weather and climate parameters and conduct research concerning climate and climate changes and forecast the earth’s future climate and weather conditions and their implications.
Surveying with instruments, starting from chain survey to differential GPS (DGPS), are an integral part of geography curriculum. The students survey and prepare sketches of various features in an area. They also survey the campuses with advanced survey instruments and prepare large scale maps. The geographical knowledge and training enable the students to interpret large scale maps of India and other countries of the world. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), one of the emerging field survey instruments, is gaining importance not only in earth sciences discipline but also in archaeology, civil engineering, city planning and other related fields.
The students of geography undergo special trainings in their college level studies and seek employment in the areas of their specialisation. Depending upon their area of specialization; geographers are employed as scientists in national and state planning commissions, water resources organizations, and land use planning units, agricultural or economic institutes or as demographers in government and research organizations.
The geographers are also employed as climatologists, geomorphologists, GIS specialists and hydrologists. Geography background is an asset for careers in travel and tourism, particularly for ‘Travel Journalism’. Besides these, the geography graduates apply for civil services examinations conducted by various States of India and also the UPSC. Recent developments in geography are technological in nature and mostly computer oriented. The average geography graduate is therefore well versed in the use of computers, and as they are trained in understanding patterns and relationships over space.
How does ground penetrating RADAR locate the archaeological site?
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