By Livestock, Livelihoods and Health cartographer
and capacity-builder Mike Shand

Mike Shand, mapping nearer to home in Scotland

In my role as GIS analyst/cartographer to the ZELS-funded LLH programme, I’m fortunate to be able to draw on over 40 years of practising and teaching mapping sciences at the University of Glasgow, including over 25 years of mapping experiences in Tanzania. I’ve been involved in a wide range of mapping projects, in particular in the subject areas of human and physical geography and more recently veterinary and life sciences.

My career in GIS cartography has brought me into contact with a wide range of people from many disciplines and cultural backgrounds. Every day I travel a virtual world on my computer, mapping places far and wide. Never a dull day. But my real travels have taken me to many countries to conduct mapping projects or to run courses: Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, the Philippines and many European countries.

I’ve had a few small adventures along the way while undertaking fieldwork. I’ve been chased by buffalo, terrified by a lion roaring outside my tent, attacked by tsetse flies and bitten by 300 bush ticks – all in Tanzania. I’ve been within 50 metres of a lightning strike in the Drakensberg Mountains. I’ve even managed to get lost in the African bush without a map or GPS. Yes, even cartographers can get lost.

Mobile technology

My current work supports the disease mapping aspects of the LLH and One Health programmes and is a follow-on from previous work I undertook supporting Glasgow’s zoonoses and rabies programmes. The two main mapping tools I use to support this work are GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and GPS (Global Positioning System). These have been used for many years by professionals in the mapping sciences, however recent developments in mobile technology has brought them into the domain of non-expert users such as university researchers and students in many disciplines.

One of my most rewarding roles in recent years has been conducting GPS/GIS courses for novice and experienced map users, particularly in Tanzania where such capacity building can bring real benefit to existing mapping practitioners or to new users such as students and researchers. In the past six years I’ve conducted several GPS/QGIS capacity-building courses and workshops in Arusha, Moshi, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Kilwa and Mtwara. These introduce users to the methodology and practical skills required to transfer spatially-located data (e.g. GPS coordinates) collected through fieldwork and questionnaire surveys into GIS software to map and analyse the data in support of their research findings and publications. The most recent course was held in Arusha for eight students and we have one this month for 40 students at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science & Technology, Arusha.  There is a real thirst for this knowledge in Tanzania, especially using QGIS, which is free open-source software.

Since primary school all I have ever wanted to do was to draw maps and travel, so I see myself as being very fortunate to have achieved some of my goals in life. I strongly believe that knowledge. should be shared, so I hope that along this journey the people I met have benefited from some of my mapping knowledge. And that others I have yet to meet will continue to do so.

View a video of Mike Shand talking about mapping for LLH

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