While looking at maps may belong to an old-fashioned approach to geography, digital mapping, the collection of all kinds of data from space or the ground, has changed the game. Geo-technologist Joseph Berry works on the cutting edge of those changes.
“What’s different now is that geography is part of the decision-making and thinking about the world around us,” he says. “It’s what I call ‘spatial reasoning.’ ” With the advent of digital technology that collects data on most of the Earth, Berry says that we’ve arrived at a place brimming with applications for that data and requiring jobs that were not invented 10 years ago.
Using GPS (global positioning system) technology, one of Berry’s companies analyzes retail sales in the Los Angeles area to predict where certain kinds of sales are going to take place. “Say I’m an electronics retailer and have 12 stores around LA,” Berry posits. “Based on the population around me, how do I figure out which products to carry in one store and not in another? That’s using geo-technology.”
Likewise, Berry adds, GPS mapping aids in the emerging field of “precision agriculture,” which can help determine the grain yield for each 10-foot-square section of farmland and then calculate the precise amount of fertilizer needed to increase the yield of that particular plot.
A good education in geography also will be necessary for more traditional fields, notes Liliana Monk, who teaches AP human geography in the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools. “Whether students choose to go into economics, urban planning or anthropology, human geography is a basic foundation,” she insists.