A desire to find a sustainable solution
My interest in geography stems from a curiosity for exploration and learning. I’m fascinated by geomorphic processes, landscapes of cities, and global economic development. I believe geography provides you with the knowledge to understand the current state of the earth and the skills to shape its future. It also instils a strong sense of diverse global issues, the challenges we face, and a desire to be a part of a sustainable solution.
Using technology to digitise landscapes
I first learned how to apply geographical analysis to real-world data while studying for my degree. After graduating, I decided to specialise in Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a digital tool that captures, stores, analyses, and displays geographical data, such as topography, land use and land ownership. GIS combines the details of a traditional map with the power of a database to understand relationships, patterns, trends and changes in our landscapes.
Maximising efficiency while minimising impact
We are currently using GIS on Future Luton, a project that aims to increase the capacity of Luton Airport to 32 million passengers per year. At the start of the development, we created a database of land ownership parcels around the airport to highlight who owned the land and what it looked like. We then used automated GIS processes to ensure local people had their interests represented in the planning process.
The database is regularly maintained and has a wide scope of functionality including query tools, so decision-makers can send questionnaires and set filters depending on the information they need. We recently sent a survey to 7,000 people in the area, a figure that wouldn’t be possible within the time frame without the use of GIS or the automated processes that WSP has developed. If a project is looking likely to impact a group of people, the client can then adapt it to mitigate risks and concerns, or optimise social, environmental or economic value.
Supporting renewable energy projects
We can also use GIS to support environmental impact assessments for renewable energy projects. For example, we can create a zone of theoretical visibility (ZTV) map, which shows the area from which an object, such as a wind turbine, can theoretically be seen. The ZTV can be calculated to different heights using a digital terrain model, to gain understanding of where different parts of potential wind turbines will be visible. The map can be used as supporting evidence as part of a visual impact assessment (VIA) and to help inform the design process.
Putting vulnerable people and places on the map
Some of the most vulnerable places in the world are low income and rural areas. Missing Maps is a project led by a collective of purpose-driven groups to make accessible map data where humanitarian organisations are in operation. We were involved in mapping areas of the Philippines after the earthquakes in October 2019. Having better maps helps emergency responders, aid groups and the communities themselves.
Most business problems include a significant spatial component. Data has become enriched due to the variety, breadth and velocity of information available to us today. By using this digital technology, decision makers can leverage their resources more effectively, reveal patterns, connections, opportunities, and risks that would be almost impossible to decipher without the use of GIS and spatial analysis.