Navigating ArcGIS was a fun process! Being able to upload a dataset with spatial information and have it plotted is an incredibly powerful tool, and especially useful when uploading multiple datasets.
For my web app, I overlaid the squirrel sightings data with a topography map of Central Park. The combination of these two datasets allows viewers to infer relationships between certain geographical and the type of squirrels sighted. For example, the flatter parts of the park have more gray squirrel sightings, and the hilly areas have more brown squirrel sightings. It’s important to note that these relationship inferences cannot be used as conclusive evidence- to draw a conclusion with confidence, we would need to run statistical tests. But the visual clues are useful in that they give us an idea of where significant trends may lie and can be used to guide statistical testing. In this case, there seems to be a trend in flat areas and gray squirrel sightings so we might want to run a statistical test to determine whether there is a significant relationship between flat areas and gray squirrel sightings.
Last Winter term, I took intro to Data Science. One of the trickiest units in the class was plotting spatial data onto a map. Given the need to plot spatial data to model important data such as squirrel sightings in Central Park, it makes sense that there are many tools like ArcGIS solely devoted to making this modelling as easy and painless as possible.
I Understand that the software may be a little bit unintuitive for many first-time users, but it is loads easier than writing a program in R to make the same visual. Also, even though tools like ArcGIS are a bit tricky to use in the beginning, they have helpful documentation that explains how to to use certain features with step-by-step directions.