There’s a GIS for Everything

Posted on Jul 31, 2016

Follow this link and you’ll be taken to a worldwide catalog of all edible urban plants!

Taking Environmental Studies and Public Health classes over the past two years has lead me to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) more than a few times. It’s been fascinating to be involved with different organizations and fields of interest, and notice that the use of GIS as a tool carries across various projects. At the beginning of the last Spring semester, I did a community service project with Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC) (a neighbor of DC’s), and proposed that they map all of their data using GIS. This data included locations of food pantries, nutrition assistance offices, emergency food assistance, etc.  I decided to make this proposal only after discovering the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) Maryland Food Systems Map. Through this initiative, the FEC and I were able to do some exploring (including a conference call to CLF), and learned that Prince George’s County Office of Information Technology could partner with the FEC and incorporate their data into the already existing PGAtlas.

I value GIS because it is a technology that I can only imagine becoming more useful and universal towards meeting sustainability goals.

This past week, while doing research for the GW Sustainability Collaborative, I came across a resource called Falling Fruit. You can plug in your address, and watch as the map zooms in to show you all of the edible plant life in your surrounding area. It is incredible to view Falling Fruit’s “Activity” tab, and see that people are contributing frequently and from all over the world. Ever stroll down a sidewalk stained with fallen mulberries? We have an abundance of local and wild mulberries near American University, and this is something that I only noticed earlier this Summer – wishing I would have known where and when to harvest them.

GIS is an important tool in an effort to alleviate food insecurity on the local, state and national level and can be used for so much more. Falling Fruit is just one example of how GIS mapping can also be used to create advanced field guides. Living in an urban area shouldn’t have to mean compromising a relationship with the ecosystem that we are all members of, nor our inherent ability to forage and preserve biodiversity.


(PC: M.V. Jantzen on