DIO's geospatial analysts provide the means of keeping our data about our land fit for purpose. Whilst we rely heavily on our customers and colleagues to give us the necessary information, we play a key role in supporting our Armed Forces as the Geo function underpins everything that DIO does.
It's not just about maps. This asset data can be used tactically, such as producing a simple boundary plan for a sale of property no longer required by the military. It can be used strategically, such as determining how much land we have available for training the Armed Forces.
We manage estate data, provide technical advice, and support all areas of the business. Fairly recently for example, our team provided the mapping supporting the Basing Optimisation Programme, meeting tight timescales for this high profile project that culminated in the ministerial announcement in Parliament.
I started my career as a cartographical draughtsman - I drew maps - but as the company I worked for caught up with current technology I became more involved in the digital aspects of mapping.
After joining the former Defence Estates in 1998, I've been able to broaden my skills in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from there on. I've always enjoyed using maps and I find that the combination of mapping and information technology can be fascinating and rewarding.
The work of the average DIO analyst can vary substantially from day-to-day. For the most part, it revolves around data capture and maintenance. We may be updating data to be shown on Geographic Online Data for Estates (GEODE), which is a mapping browser. We might be scanning and uploading documents to another mapping browser named E-Terrier. On the other hand we might be producing maps to help protect vulnerable species of wildlife on Salisbury Plain or preparing disposal plans for surplus sites. As resource allows, we may even be out on site verifying boundaries.
In this job, attention to detail is essential as well as a broad knowledge of different software and data types. Flexibility is important, as timeframes can be quite challenging, especially if we get Parliamentary Questions or Freedom of Information requests late on a Friday. Enthusiasm is also key. We regularly get customers who have a requirement but are unaware of the possibilities so it's up to us to provide possible solutions for them. It's this innovation element that a good geospatial analyst will strategically and tactically exploit, to best benefit the estate data we hold.
Working with NASA
Between 2003 and 2007, we were given the task of providing GIS support on a project to monitor vehicle movement and disturbance on Salisbury Plain by using aerial photography. As part of the project we received training and support in software and techniques from the Louisiana National Guard and the NASA Regional Applications Centre at the University of Lafayette (both recognised as centres of excellence for GIS). This task was outside of our usual comfort zone and stretched us to the utmost, developing new skills and knowledge for DIO.
In 2005, I got the chance to go to the ESRI (our GIS software provider) International User Conference in San Diego. It was an intense week of eat, think, sleep GIS and we presented an entry for the prodigious Map Library, winning second place in the technical category. It also provided inspiration and ideas which could be applied in our own work environment.