A cartographer is involved with the scientific, technological and artistic aspects of developing and producing maps. Cartographers present complex information as diagrams, charts and spreadsheets, as well as in the form of conventional maps. Geographical information systems (GIS) and digital-mapping techniques now dominate the role.
Maps and detailed geographical information are needed for a range of purposes, from everyday use by individuals to large-scale industrial development.
Cartographers work within a variety of areas, including publishing, government, surveying and conservation. The role varies widely from the development and design of geographical information to more strategic and technical work.
The traditional methods employed in map-making have been superseded by the use of IT, enabling the generation and manipulation of dynamic images on screen. These developments have led to changes in the nature of the profession: within map-making, almost all the data is now collected and transmitted electronically, whereas in cartographic illustration the change has been less marked. In commercial cartographic publishing, the work has more in common with book publishing, requiring innovative design skills.
A cartographer's role can vary widely; from the technical role of the development, maintenance and manipulation of cartographic databases to the promotion of effective and efficient visualisation of geospatial information, to the design of bespoke maps.
A keen eye for detail and a methodical approach are required, as much of the work involves careful research, the collection and manipulation of data – much of which is now done electronically, and checking for accuracy. Another important part of a cartographer's role is liaising with external contacts regarding the supply of information, and with customers about their requirements.
Tasks may include:
Similar roles in this field are that of a photogrammatrist and a remote sensing scientist. Both these occupations involve the use of technology to analyse and interpret information.
A photogrammatrist measures and interprets photographic images in order to get information about a range of three-dimensional objects. This information is used in the production of maps and cartographic information.
Remote sensing scientists use radio and light sensors to collect and analyse data for the purpose of solving regional, national and global problems such as the management of natural resources, urban planning and climate and weather prediction.
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