We will no longer be supporting IE7 and below as a web browser effective June 1st 2020. Click here for more information.

Sign In

Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

Skip Navigation LinksGIS
Skip Navigation LinksLake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority > Geographic Information Systems

​​​​​A close-up of a computer keyboard. The "enter" key has been replaced with the words GIS and an image of a globe.

Lake Simcoe Science

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Helping us understand the big picture 

Our last i​ssue introduced the topic of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or connecting data and geography to help understand our world. This issue explores the role of GIS specifically at LSRCA. 

In order to protect and restore the Lake Simcoe wate​rshed, we need to understand it. GIS makes it possible for us to see the bigger picture – to be able to calculate the sum total of all the natural features (forests, rivers, wetlands, groundwater, etc.) that comprise what is known as our “natural heritage”. This basic understanding of our watershed is critical to everything we do.​

Nature’s necessity 

It’s widely understood that our emotional and physical well-being is positively correlated with our ability to access nature. Using GIS, we can identify and protect existing natural areas. With that as a basis, we can then identify additional areas to protect to make sure that communities are not cut off from nature, but have access to the natural experiences that support healthy communities. 

​Natural hazard identification – protecting people and property A road flooded with water with a map inset. GIS provides hazard analysis and mapping to avoid flooding events.

Our primary mandate to protect people and property from flooding and other hazards would not be possible without the insights provided by GIS. Areas are identified where we should or should not develop the land, such as in flood plains, or along steep slopes or riverbanks.​

Supporting the protection of our drinking water sources 

GIS played an instrumental role in collecting and translating all the background research that supported the development of source water protection plans in the province of Ontario. Thanks to the efforts of experts in GIS, we now have an accurate picture of our ground and surface water supplies, and their relationship to the activities on the landscape that could threaten those supplies.​

Two children looking away from the camera at a compass, facing greenspace.Teaching our youth

GIS supports our education programs through the creation of resources such as maps, and in the field to accurately mark waypoints on our Scanlon property for orienteering and GPS programs. Most recently, GIS provided indispensable support to launch our first full-day “Map, Compass and GPS” certification course for secondary students enrolled in Outdoor Education courses, as well as the Specialist High Skills Major program. 

Spatial skills are valuable to learn and develop as they are one of the primary ways humans get around. Spatial reasoning is also a great predictor of talent in science, technology, engineering and math. ​

Tracking trends 

Our science and research team collect tons of data related to the health of the watershed (water quality, temperature, species distribution, etc.). When the data is housed in tables, it’s not always that simple to interpret to determine if there are any trends or patterns. When that same data is transferred into a spatial (map) format, the stories start telling themselves. GIS played a key role in helping our researchers identify the shift in Lake Simcoe from mostly zebra mussels to mostly quagga mussels.​

Taming the data devilA GIS staff member facing two computer screens. One screen shows a table of information and the second screen shows a map.

It’s one thing to have mounds and mounds of data, but we need the staff with the right skills and training in order to manage it. Our GIS staff have unique skills and specialized knowledge and training to keep our data organized and therefore useful. Without this critical information management component, the data could easily become overwhelming and difficult to control. 

Collaborating to save 

Because GIS is firmly entrenched in many organizations, LSRCA collaborates with partners who are interested in the data that we have for a variety of different uses. As a publicly funded agency, we save money and resources by sharing our information with our partners, and, in turn, relying on them to share information with us. 

Bringing it all together 

GIS may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the work of the conservation authority. But the reality is that GIS has changed the way we view the world, our understanding of our place in it, and how we need to proceed in order to protect it.​