(As part of National Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day, MI Environment talks with Kevin McKnight, EGLE’s GIS manager, about his role and the department’s new GIS website.)
You’re relatively new to EGLE. What’s your GIS background and what goals do you have at EGLE?
I started with EGLE in February a few weeks before the pandemic hit. I have bachelor of science and master of arts degrees in geography from MSU.
Before coming to EGLE I worked at Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for 14 years creating maps, analyzing data, and administering the GIS database. My last two years at MDOT I was the GIS unit supervisor. My main goal at EGLE is to help build a centralized team of GIS experts to manage the databases and online environments. I also want to work to help tell our story by creating informative and high-quality content for the public.
How will the new GIS website help EGLE carry out its mission?
The new GIS Hub Site will act as a central location for EGLE staff and the public to get access to GIS content created by the department. The site will be broken up into a few main sections. First, will be the Spotlight section where we can showcase a current topic. The next section will be Maps and Apps. Here users can access information from across all divisions and disciplines. Finally, will be the Open Data section. Here we will provide access to GIS datasets for download and analysis. This will help streamline the duplication of data internally and data requests externally.
Is there anything unique/new about the way EGLE uses GIS?
One of the new ways EGLE is utilizing GIS is through the creation of StoryMaps. StoryMaps are a great way to combine GIS data, pictures, and text to create a concise and informative narrative. The Air Quality Division created a great story map — How Air Monitors Prompted Investigation into Lead Levels — and it will be the first StoryMap Spotlighted on the Hub Site.
How do you work with the EGLE divisions in carrying out your mission?
EGLE has had a GIS committee since before I came on board. Currently, each division is represented on the committee by two members. Through the committee we provide updates for current projects and coordinate the GIS needs of the department.
Where do you see GIS headed in the future?
GIS technology is constantly evolving. The ability to share data quickly and easily has become one of the main aspects of the technology. I think that the future of GIS will be increased access to the analytics of the data. Tools like Esri Dashboards and Insights will allow for data to displayed in ways that can be easily consumed and updated in real time. This is a very powerful method to track the progress of data collection or to monitor ongoing operations.