Frank Biasi is the director of Conservation and Special Projects at National Geographic Maps.
We all know (or should know!) that geography is the study of the Earth and its lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena. This breadth of fascinating subjects is what led me to become a geographer 25 years ago. The sub-discipline of cartography allowed me to combine my earlier interest in visual art with my newfound passion for geography. I was lucky to come of age early in the growth of computer mapping technologies, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Seeing the potential of GIS to make a difference in the world and to build a career, I quickly jumped on that bandwagon.
I first used GIS to do maps and analysis for geography courses, and to inventory property parcels around my campus as part of an internship. After graduation, I worked for a regional planning agency to help design transportation corridors that maximize business opportunities and minimize environmental impacts. I went on to work for a state environmental agency where I helped to map all of the wetlands in Massachusetts to aid in the permitting of development and construction projects.
I further developed my geographic thinking and skills working for The Nature Conservancy, where I used GIS to help conservation planners and preserve managers map biodiversity and design and execute ways to save it. I realized that conservation, as with many other fields, deals with a wide variety of systems operating across the landscape, including biological, geological, hydrological, climatological, political, transportation, and economic systems. GIS provides a powerful platform to create and combine data layers representing each of these systems in order to make maps and answer questions about the world. Seeing these maps and answering these questions helps organizations across all sectors make informed decisions about what to do and where to do it.