EWU student Mary Tracey, a graduate student studying urban and regional planning, has been using the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) lab to analyze and utilize data to better aid Spokane and King County residents in understanding flood zone risks.
“Understanding what parts of Spokane County and King County are at risk of flooding and in particular how many housing units would be affected,” said Tracey. “That’s the kind of information the city or the county can understand in a disaster planning situation for things like discovering how many temporary shelters they would need in an emergency like that.”
Tracey is using her thesis to understand flood loss ratios by utilizing population, parcel and community facility data. She plans on sharing her findings with local professionals who have been providing guidance, assistance and data for her project.
The GIS lab Tracey has been utilizing provides EWU students with software, allowing them to explain and dissect geographic data that may be difficult to understand.
“Recently my cohort – my entire class – worked on developing a draft design for a regional greenway that centered around a river. So, there are constant projects that are going on throughout the Planning Department that affect the community,” said Tracey. “It’s really fun, I’m gonna be honest.”
Tracey’s particular area of study for her thesis allows her to mainly use satellite images to analyze her data. However, for certain projects, students will go out in the area and do a site analysis or collect inventory.
“In the past we worked on a pedestrian connectivity plan for neighborhoods that would be impacted by the north Spokane corridor that’s going in, and we actually did a sidewalk survey of the neighborhoods we were trying to serve because we couldn’t get up-to-date data on those sidewalks,” said Tracey. “We actually ended up with better data than the county could provide because of that work.”
Tracey acknowledges the accessibility to the ArcGIS software in the GIS lab as a tool that sets up planning graduates to be more employable beyond their college careers.
“When we did the pedestrian connectivity plan, some representatives from the neighborhood were there, and they were blown away with the amount of data we were able to get our hands on as planning students,” said Tracey. “It’s clear that neighborhoods in Spokane are hungry for that kind of attention from planning students, but also so that they can understand their neighborhoods better to make Spokane a better place to live.”