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Geomatics is a fairly new field, but has gained prominence in recent years due to its relevance in modern GPS devices and other scientific endeavors. Essentially, geomatics is the collection, interpretation, and reporting of geographical data as collected by satellites, sensors, and ground instruments. It is essential in the fields of cartography, surveying, global positioning, and remote sensing, and graduates in the field of geomatics can expect to find work in such diverse fields as engineering, navigation, geophysics, and even forestry. While curriculums vary depending on the university and the degree program selected, generally any geomatics degree program will cover certain basic subjects in the field, including remote sensing, digital imaging, digital mapping, geodesy, geographical information systems, photogrammetry, global positioning and navigation, and land management.
Students in the geomatics field will generally be trained in the use of a variety of computer programs designed to analyze and collate geographic data for use in practical applications. Remote sensing, digital imaging, and digital mapping are all interrelated subjects, and all involve the use of computer analysis of geographical information. Remote sensing is the collection of satellite data, including the computer applications that produce the satellite images. Digital imaging is the process of interpreting visual data, such as satellite scans and aerial photographs, and transferring the information derived into a specialized computer system. Digital mapping is the end result, combining the raw data produced by remote sensing and other means with the interpreted results from digital imaging to produce accurate geographical information for practical use.
Geodesy is the scientific discipline devoted to geographical measurement and representation. In contrast to traditional geography, geodesy takes into consideration the gravitational field of the earth and geological data regarding tectonic plate movement, polar shifts, and tidal phenomena. In practice, geodesy allows for accurate measurement of land surface or pinpoint accuracy in locating an exact coordinate, making it invaluable for surveyors and navigators. Geographical information systems classes provide the hands-on computer experience necessary to put those measurements into a usable form.
Photogrammetry is the scientific acquisition of geographical data from photographs and photo images in order to derive accurate measurements of geological and cartographic features. Most geomatics programs divide photogrammetric studies into Aerial Photogrammetry and Close-Range Photogrammetry, based on the camera location. Photogrammetry is especially useful because it gives exact positions of both natural geological formations and man-made structures like roads and buildings. Most of the maps available in print and online are, at least in part, the result of photogrammetric research.
Anyone with a GPS device in their car or phone knows the practical uses of global positioning and navigation. Geomatics students embark on an in-depth study of the NAVSTAR GPS, or Global Positioning System, learning both the history of the satellite navigation system and its uses for commercial applications. Most four-year programs also teach the basics of accessing the GPS network and how to implement the data derived for mapmaking and surveying as well as other uses.
Land management is perhaps the most commonly known use of geomatics studies, encompassing surveying, real estate, and legal issues. Modern land management curricula are designed to teach students the practical aspects to land use, including use studies, exact property surveying, legal aspects to zoning and geological concerns, and every aspect of leasing, selling, and determining proper uses for parcels of land.
Whether the student elects a two-year or four-year program or even an advanced degree, opportunities in the geomatics field are numerous and varied. Demand for qualified graduates has been high, and is expected to remain at that level for the foreseeable future, due to the ever-expanding number of applications for these specialized skills.