The Binghamton University geography department hosted their annual event for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day on Friday.

GIS can be used to create multilayered maps that display geographic features, streets, buildings, vegetation and more.

The event featured student research posters, talks from University professors and an update from BU President Harvey Stenger on the University’s construction project in Johnson City.

Kevin Heard, the associate director of the GIS Campus Core Facility and organizer for the event, wrote in an email that he was especially excited about the event after not holding GIS Day last year.

“Even [though] we have to wear masks, being able to shake someone’s hand, have discussions with more than one person at a time and to not be staring at a computer screen makes a huge difference,” Heard wrote in an email.

Among the students who participated in the student poster session were Eva Greenspan, a sophomore double-majoring in systems science and industrial engineering and mathematics, and Sofia Fasullo, a senior double-majoring in mathematics and geography.

Fasullo and Greenspan placed first in the student poster contest for their research project titled “Ground-coupled Remote Sensing Robotic Snake for Humanitarian Demining in Cambodia.”

The project aims to research and develop technology that can detect land mines without disturbing vegetation. Fasullo, who began working on the project two years ago under Timothy de Smet, the director of the Geophysics and Remote Sensing Laboratory and a research assistant professor, has since partnered with other student researchers under the direction of Garrett Clayton, associate dean for graduate studies and professor at Villanova University.

Fasullo’s research is mainly technical, and she described it as involving “looking at the sensor and seeing how it behaves when you make it do surveys on the ground.”

“I’m really happy the geography department does GIS Day,” Fasullo said. “It can show the more science and project-based side of geography … I’m a [geography] major, so I always want to learn more about what people are doing in GIS.”

After the student poster session and opening remarks, Stenger gave a presentation on the Johnson City Redevelopment/Revitalization Project.

The project involves the University buying abandoned properties adjacent to the BU Health Sciences Campus in order to create clean, green spaces connecting the campus and business district according to project lead John Frazier, a SUNY distinguished service professor of geography.

The project has used story maps and an online GIS tool to document the progress of the redevelopment and make it accessible to the public.

“The evolution of geotechnologies makes it easier to illustrate aspects of a community, with graphics, maps and, further, to illustrate the demolition through both ground and aerial views,” Frazier wrote in an email. “With the story map we have the maps, graphics, videos and more, packaged in one application. For example, drones, which we use, have dropped in cost and allow staff to record and illustrate different types of desired information — demographics, business, vegetation, housing and other structures, from multiple physical viewpoints and altitudes. This aids the common person and students to participate in technologies that were not available a decade ago.”

Kaya Doyle, a senior double-majoring in geography and political science, gave her impression after attending GIS Day.

“I loved the presentation about the redevelopment of Johnson City,” Doyle said. “I thought it was interesting to see how GIS is used in action and to see what plans they have for the city. I think it would be cool to see more development in this area.”

Frazier said he acknowledges the University’s responsibility to the local community when taking on the project.

“President Stenger, other senior staff, myself and my students have talked to and worked directly with community leaders, residents and business owners to keep the lines of communication open about what we are doing in the village and what the impacts have been and may be,” Frazier wrote in an email.

Fasullo spoke about the redevelopment project from a student perspective.

“Most of the geography students I meet are interested in the community and interested in urban planning,” Fasullo said. “They’re interested in the future of Binghamton — they don’t see it as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ place, it’s just a place and we have a big influence in it. There are also people who don’t have anything to do with the University who live there, and they matter too.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:35 p.m. to make a correction. John Frazier was originally cited as a SUNY distinguished service professor of geology instead of geography. Pipe Dream regrets the error.