The Geospatial Alliance, formerly known as the Spatial Information and Analysis Consortium (SIAC), is a group of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison involved in the field of Geographic Information Science (GIS) and its related disciplines. The “GeoAlliance” serves as the campus forum for communication, collaboration, and information in its role of encouraging research, instruction and outreach in this multi-disciplinary area.

Degree programs involving GIS, along with research and outreach, are mainstays of several departments and colleges, supported by a series of centers. Beyond these traditional fields, additional interest areas exist in disciplines as diverse as library science, land tenure, statistics, forestry, business, regional planning, art history, demography, and epidemiology.

Roots and Expertise

UW-Madison has a long and rich history in this field, going back to early and internationally recognized programs in cartography, surveying, and photogrammetry. In more recent years additional strengths have developed in multi-purpose land information systems, remote sensing, geographic information systems, soil landscape modeling, citizen involvement in land use planning, geospatial metadata, and transportation infrastructure modeling. Many leaders of professional associations in these fields have UW-Madison roots.

Outside Connections

GeoAlliance members and their departments/centers enjoy productive partnerships with numerous off-campus cooperators in academia, government, professional association, and business. Members also serve in a variety of public and professional roles. These relationships provide connection with practical application needs that enhance the rich base of academic expertise resident on the campus. The GeoAlliance is the UW-Madison representative to the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science.

The History and Purpose of the GeoAlliance

UW-Madison has been a major participant in and contributor to the emerging discipline of Geographic Information Science. This history begins with the development of instructional and research programs in cartography and surveying during the early years of the university, and includes one of the first courses in photogrammetry offered in the United States during the 1930s as well as leadership in the earliest attempts to define the nature of cadastral and land information systems (LIS) issues in the 1960s.

In the early 1970s, UW-Madison introduced instruction in computerized LIS and transfer of these technologies to state and federal agencies and private utilities. People on the campus did seminal research on the design of multi-purpose land information systems and the application of remote sensing to a host of environmental problems during the 1970s, and demonstrated the application of LIS/GIS technology to modernizing local land records management since the late 1970s.

Many new developments in photogrammetry and image processing were developed or refined at UW-Madison in the 1980s and 1990s. UW-Madison has been a national leader in remote sensing for environmental applications.

The faculty consortia that predated formation of “SIAC” in 1991 were pivotal in the development of the Wisconsin Land Information Program (WLIP) in 1989. UW-Madison faculty played key roles on the Wisconsin Land Records Committee (1985-87) and various interdisciplinary research projects such as CONSOIL and LOCALIS that ultimately led to the WLIP. Subsequently, the WLIP has become a model throughout the nation for local and state collaboration in the development of land information systems.

Madison campus faculty have also been heavily involved in professional societies in the GI Science realm, including numerous terms as presidents of national organizations. Alumni of campus programs have served with similar distinction. Faculty and staff have also served on a long list of state boards, task forces, councils, and committees.

SIAC, the predecessor to the GeoAlliance, originally arose from UW-Madison’s response to the National Science Foundation call for the establishment of a National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) in 1988. Since its formation by UW-Madison faculty in 1991, SIAC’s was to provide coordination of those programs and activities that address the collection, management, analysis, and application of spatially-referenced information about our natural, social, and cultural environments.

A New Beginning

To reflect the evolving nature of geospatial research, teaching, and service on campus, SIAC was renamed the “Geospatial Alliance” during the fall of 2010. The GeoAlliance will continue to build upon UW-Madison’s long legacy in the Geospatial Information Science