Hi everyone!

My name is Manpreet Singh Chahal, and I am a first-year master’s student at the University of Waterloo. I am doing a Master of Science in the Geography and Environmental Management program specializing in Geomatics.  I am working with Dr. Robert Feick and currently, my research entails using Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) to develop a web or mobile application that can enhance interactions between citizens and the local government. The goal of my research is to enhance public engagement using GIS technology on a local issue.

I graduated with an Honours BSc. in Biology and Environmental Science and Minor in GIS from McMaster University in Spring 2018. During my undergraduate career at McMaster University, I was involved in the Coastal Wetland Research Group with Dr. Patricia Chow-Fraser. I have had the experience of working as a research assistant in the Chow-Fraser lab in the Department of Biology at McMaster University. In this job, I had been given the tasks of using GIS and remote sensing software to help digitize satellite images as well as conduct change detection analysis involving invasive species known as Phragmites australis in Southern Ontario from 2006 to 2015. Also, I have helped with evaluating the effectiveness of various treatment methods to get rid of this invasive species using GIS and remote sensing techniques. In addition, my undergraduate thesis involved looking at the effect of road density on the areal extent of invasive Phragmites australis in roadsides of urban centres throughout southwestern Ontario. It was determined that population density is the driving factor behind the spread of invasive Phragmites throughout southwestern Ontario, not road density. Higher population means that there are a higher number of roads that are being built. This means that there is a higher areal cover of invasive Phragmites along roadsides throughout southwestern Ontario. Even though my undergraduate research was more ecological-based, using GIS software was a major component of collecting the data and analyzing it for my project.

In addition, working with GIS and remote sensing software played a major role during my research assistantships during my undergrad. The way that I decided to pursue my master’s research in Geography and Geomatics was that during my undergraduate career, I was able to complete a minor in GIS. Through this minor, I was able to take many unique GIS courses where I was able to use web and mobile application development GIS software for different projects. I was also able to participate in the annual ECCE App Challenge. Using this software and my experiences in the GIS minor and participating in the App Challenge has led me to pursue my Masters in this field.

I have chosen the University of Waterloo to pursue my master’s research because I believe that it provides me the best opportunity to get this work done. My supervisor, Dr. Robert Feick, has research interests in the field of public participation, Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), crowdsourcing, big data and smart cities. My study will involve a link to all these areas of research.

The goal of this study is to look at citizens’ use of geographic information in a participatory process and how cities can use that data generated from citizens to plan for future development. Different types of data can be generated by the government from citizens through platforms such as social media and various apps available through the web or mobile devices. The development of web and mobile apps are being used in this study to ease the interactions between citizen opinions and government decisions for governments to plan for future development. I look forward to sharing more as I get further into my thesis and reading more about what other ECCE student associates are working on.