Virginia Tech's Geospatial Information Technology Center (CGIT), in concert with the College of Natural Resources, the College of Engineering, and other university partners, is using its expertise to assist the Commonwealth of Virginia with its hazard mitigation plan, the nation's capital with its Critical Infrastructure Program, and communities with smart growth.

CGIT was founded last year in Blacksburg and Alexandria. Its goal is to focus on research, education, and applying developing technologies to projects that benefit from Geographic Information Systems (GIS is a computer-based information system that enables users to superimpose different map layers on top of each other) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS is a constellation of 27 satellites that orbit the earth; a GPS receiver acquires radio signals from these satellites and is able to precisely pinpoint a coordinate address on the surface of the earth with such accuracy that can even locate man hole covers).

"Faculty in various departments at Virginia Tech share their expertise to integrate spatial awareness in intelligent data collection methods, in-field analysis, modeling and simulation, visualization, and a host of other techniques in a wide variety of uses," said Randy Dymond, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and founding director of the center. Faculty from six colleges contribute expertise for agriculture, infrastructure and transportation, wireless communications, environmental management, public health, homeland security, and smart growth.

The geospatial center has been working with federal, state, and local governments, as well as with industry, education, and non-profit organizations. Using layers of location-based information, the center helps government assess risks due to floods, winds, fires, earthquake, and human-caused disasters.

"CGIT has a number of ongoing projects," Dymond said. "Besides working on the state's hazard mitigation plan and the Critical Infrastructure in the National Capital Region, we have coordinated the GIS for utilities on the Blacksburg campus and completed a low impact development design manual for improved storm water retention."

In addition to these projects, the geospatial center has provided GIS training for professionals and for high school instructors across the Commonwealth on GIS basics so they can integrate that teaching into their curricula.

"Our goal is to use our collective expertise to help solve problems using geospatial technologies in ways that haven't been possible until now," said Dymond.

As a new dual-campus center, CGIT has advanced computing facilities in both Blacksburg and Alexandria. Bill Carstensen, CGIT associate director and geography professor, said, "We are performing some fascinating research that has widespread uses that will be affecting every American in one way or another." Even recreation enthusiasts will be benefiting, because waterways can be digitalized so kayakers, for instance, can know how long a run really is.

For its efforts in forming a state program that allows Virginia's public universities and community colleges access to a common site license to GIS software produced by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), the center along with its partners, Virginia Tech's Information Technology Acquisition Department, the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program, and the university's Central Contract Office, recently garnered one of the top international Special Achievement in GIS Award from ESRI. Virginia Tech was the only university so honored.

The integrated efforts of these departments save the Commonwealth of Virginia more than a million dollars annually in GIS software fees. If Virginia Tech had not devised the share system, few community or other colleges would have been able to afford to offer their students the GIS training.

For more information contact: Randy Dymond, director of Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT), (540) 231-9023, dymond@vt.edu; Judy Hood, CGIT communications manager, jhood@vt.edu, (540) 231-8651, 231-4421.