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Jim Myers | Geographic Information Systems

GIS Education Facilitates Hecla’s Quest for Discovery

By Donna Emert

According to Jim Myers, senior exploration geologist with Hecla Mining Company, the center of the earth is just one of the many places Geographic Information Systems (GIS) training can take you. 

And once you’re there, the innovative technology provides opportunity for unprecedented insight.

GIS allows users to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present all types of spatially or geographically referenced data. 

Myers, a graduate of the University of Idaho’s GIS certificate program in Coeur d’Alene, was introduced to the technology while working with an Argentinean geologist and GIS user in 1997. Myers completed the two-year, 15-credit program* in 2004.

“Since then, GIS has become part of Hecla’s daily modus operandi,” said Myers.

“GIS gives users the ability to see things in three dimensions and carry out analyses in three dimensions,” he explained. “Before this technology was available, it was very tedious hand work to draw and interpret cross sections of the earth. With the GIS programs we have now, we can very rapidly cut cross sections in any direction we like, and analyze that data.”

Myers and other Hecla geologists examine cross sections of earth to evaluate the geologic relationships of metal-bearing veins in the subsurface and in soil samples collected from the surface.  The GIS data is ultimately used to locate deposits of silver, lead, zinc and copper.

Because he sees the ability to use GIS technology as such a vital skill set, Myers also teaches those who work with him the useful applications and potential of GIS data.

His own GIS education was “eye opening,” he said. The new and varied perspectives it provides allow users to literally see things in new ways.

“We are all visual learners. I know I am,” said Myers. “When I enrolled in the GIS program at University of Idaho, calculus finally became apparent to me. When you’re integrating data in three dimensions, it becomes visually apparent.”

In North Idaho, GIS technology has found application in community development and planning, marketing, minerals exploration, emergency planning and mapping everything form crime hot spots to disease outbreaks, to name a few of its uses.

“The diversity of application it is mind blowing,” said Myers. “The only limitations are the data sets and your imagination.” 

*For information about the GIS Certificate available through the University of Idaho-Coeur d'Alene click here.