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PSU student selected for elite workshop

PSU doctorate student Meg Merrick has been selected by the National Science Foundation to attend a five-day workshop on Geographic Information Systems(GIS). Merrick and 14 other American scholars will join 15 European scholars in Spoleto, Italy,to identify GIS-related questions for future scholars to explore.

More businesses are depending on GIS every year. GIS allows people to geographically map statistics for the purpose of analyzing and comparing different locations.

“This technology helps you to ask questions,” Merrick said. “In the Hawthorne district, for instance, why is there such a high level of education and such a low level of income? The reason is that teachers and social education workers live there, and both are low-paid professions.”

GIS technology is used in numerous fields, from politics to business. Supermarkets, for instance, use the technology to find areas with few surrounding supermarkets, ensuring a high demand for its products.

But Merrick is interested in more than just GIS technology itself. Through GIS, she also wants to educate people in the community, many of whom are underprivileged.

At Open Meadows, an alternative high school for high school dropouts, Merrick has supervised a project that students have done themselves. Students created a map showing the safety level of parks in the area based on information collected on drugs and violence. They also made a map showing the best places to buy french fries in the area.

Merrick will also be supervising a project in which students from Sherwood High School will create a database for Sherwood police. Students will create a series of maps showing where crimes will be occurring in the town.

Merrick believes more and more high school students will use GIS technology in the future.

“GIS will be taught in high schools and middle schools within the next five years,” she said. “Some volunteer teachers are already instructing students how to use it.”

Merrick and others at PSU are personally involved in teaching high school teachers about GIS technology.

The Community Geography Project, which Merrick coordinates, sponsors professors to involve the community in GIS. The project received a $259,000 grant on Jan.1, 2001, from the Ford Foundation.

Students who volunteer will collect information for mapping and use software to do analysis. Other opportunities will be available upon training.

Students who are interested about volunteering and training in GIS should contact Merrick at 503-725-8291.