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New Salmon Arm diploma option maps ties between information and geography
Okanagan College Media Release

A new two-year Environmental Studies diploma option at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus is focused on a growing area of research and study that integrates information and computer-based mapping.Andrew Perkins March 2016

Beginning this fall, students can take the Geographic Information Science option in the Earth and Environmental Studies Diploma program. It is a field of expertise that is in increasing demand by everyone from police forces to forest companies, First Nations to smartphone app developers.

“Paper maps are outdated as soon as they are printed. Digital maps overlain with interactive information are like living objects, leading you to decisions on where things happen, how frequently they happen, when they will or might happen, and who or what is making them happen,” explains Dr. Andrew Perkins, a Salmon Arm professor key to the program’s development and delivery. “Now, that map is an enhanced tool for data storage, data analysis and, ultimately, better decision making.”

An information session focused on the program is being held May 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Salmon Arm campus.

“We’re building on an area of expertise this campus already has,” explains Professor Stephanie Bunclark, the chair of the College’s Geography, and Earth and Environmental Science Department. “Salmon Arm has been offering a certificate course in Geographic Information Systems for several years and we’re building on that with university courses in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, in addition to other courses in the Social Sciences and Sciences.”

This diploma program will lead students to understand the research, analysis and human resources, as well as the hardware and software integral to Geographic Information Science.

“It blends theory and technology to provide graduates with a diploma that will open career doors for them in a number of fields, including urban planning, local government, mining, forestry, resource management, or surveying,” explains Bunclark.

The program will be one option that students can choose within the College’s Environmental Studies Diploma program. The full two years of the GIScience option are housed on the Salmon Arm campus and will provide hands-on opportunities to work with tools of the trade like GPS (global positioning system) and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles).

“Geographic Information Systems were initially developed in Canada to help us better manage our farmlands. Since that time the technology has exploded globally where it helps individuals, organizations and government make better decisions about every aspect of the issues they face,” explains Perkins, whose research interests include Augmented Reality and Geographic Information, UAV-based data collection and glacial geomorphology.

“To accomplish this, GIS users capture spatial data surrounding an issue, display and analyze the data to provide new insights on issues, and generate new, creative outputs that aid in critical understanding of the issue.”

For more information visit