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What is GIS?

"A Geographic Information System is a computerized data base management system for capture, storage, retrieval, and display of  spatial data." - National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis , (as reported in Huxhold's An Introduction to Urban Geographic Information Systems, Oxford University Press)

GIS can be viewed as a set of tools for researching, analyzing, and displaying spatial data. Components of a GIS include automated mapping, database management, topology, and spatial analysis.   GIS has the power to integrate multiple databases integral to research. In essence, GIS is a tool that can be used to help identify and create solutions to problems that impact all of us; traffic patterns, road construction, land use, environmental issues, all of these issues rely on data that is spatially oriented.

Although not a new field, recent innovations in GIS software technology have created emerging opportunities for the collection, storage, and management of spatially oriented data. GIS is not just mapping - it is the ability to store data, perform queries and  analyze data within a database format, and to relate data across disciplines. GIS has created an environment that has stimulated research across many different fields: urban planning, geography, computer and information sciences, biology, environmental and geosciences, business, engineering, just to name a few.