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Advancing the University’s Geospatial Capabilities

A new group of faculty and staff have joined forces to form the Geospatial Working Group (GWG) to coordinate and elevate geospatial research, training, and support at Washington University. The GWG features representation from every school at WashU and the Central Fiscal Unit, including members from the Data Services team at the University Libraries.

The GWG’s goals are to create an intellectual hub for synergizing geospatial activities, to enhance geospatial research infrastructure, to advance teaching and workforce development in the geospatial arena, and to deepen partnerships with geospatial institutions in Saint Louis and the national geospatial industry, including the government.

Geospatial resources and support services for the university were established in 2008, and managed and facilitated by a GIS Coordinator under the Provost’s office. That single position was ultimately expanded into the University Libraries’ Data Services team, where staffing has grown to the current level of four and continues to provide access to geospatial tools, training, consultation, and technical assistance.

The GWG has grown out of the recognition that there are more opportunities for collaboration, within and beyond the university community, and shared needs for additional infrastructure. This group will work together to identify the needs of currently “siloed” research and to promote interdisciplinary efforts and entrepreneurship.

The GWG’s emphasis on interdisciplinary research questions and regional geospatial industry engagement is a key differentiator for the university. The focus on applied geospatial science and a collaborative model will provide several key benefits. Existing geospatial infrastructure is disarticulated and constrained by bureaucracy, which limits research potential. GWG aims to illuminate and augment this infrastructure so that researchers across the university can find the resources needed to further strengthen WashU’s academic distinction and research excellence.

The GWG aims to produce graduates with geospatial acumen and a strong foundation in geospatial data science. The university already has several departments offering classes with geospatial focus and the University College offers a GIS Certificate. The GWG is working to expand teaching opportunities through an external partnership with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and exploring the creation of centralized programs to offer cross-school instruction.

We have compiled a list of 58 current faculty PIs engaged in geospatial work touching on a variety of research themes, including:

Geospatial research themes at WashU include: Saint Louis, Built Environment, Remote Sensing & Computation, Human Geography, Planetary landscapes, Living Earth, Climate/Environment, Food/Health/Medicine, Justice, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
Credit: Alex Bradley

In addition, there are 28 adjunct faculty and staff participating in the group who apply geospatial technology in research, teaching, and administrative functions.

To learn more about participating in GWG activities, please contact Alex Bradley ( More information, including faculty profiles, is included in the group’s October report to the Provost.