G 424/524 GIS for the Natural Sciences
D. Percy
e-mail: percyd@pdx.edu

Course Description


This course will provide a practical, hands-on approach to spatial database design and spatial data analysis with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) as applied to the natural sciences. Background material in spatial statistics and GIS design issues will be worked in as we go. The platform used will be ArcMap 10.X by ESRI, and Microsoft Excel, but the techniques developed will be applicable to other software. We will also explore issues in Open Source software, such as Quantum GIS, and Open Data. All lab computers will have all software available, and students are free to do assignments in any software package they desire.

The project-based nature of the course will encourage graduate students to bring in real data that they are working on, and leave the course with significant progress on their project. Undergrads will work in groups of 2 to 4 on predefined projects available from the instructor, or your own interests. Grades will be based upon two quizzes, one midterm, the final project, 4 assignments, and a literature review paper (grad students only!).

This is a fast-paced course, and I leave out a lot of historical material, except to explain some goofy file format, naming convention, etc; or to build a core understanding of the material. I also do not cover Network Analysis, though if a student has a need for this (for stream network, fish migration, etc) we can possibly pursue this via a project. By leaving out these 2 topics we have time to cover more advanced material in analysis, statistics and modeling. By the time you finish this class you will be "GIS-Dangerous"!

There will be two 1 hour lectures scheduled in the GIS lab in the computer lab, an appropriate lab assignment will be handed out during the first part of the week. Labs are 2 hours twice per week, devoted to hands on instruction and working on that week’s assignment. Additional lab access is available beyond the scheduled class times. There are many other labs on campus with the necessary software. If you want to run the ArcMap software at home, you can buy book with a 90 day working copy, or use the code I will provide for a free one year demo on one computer.

Prerequiste: By its nature, GIS is a computer intensive endeavor. You should be comfortable with general operating system concepts like file-types, directory structures and network resources. Those with less background will still be able to succeed, but they will find themselves working harder than their more computer-proficient peers. Over the last 15 years of observing student performance in this course, prior computer experience is more important than prior GIS experience...



Optional - these are a few of the discipline specific books that may be of interest to you

1) Lyon, JG, McCarthy, J. (Eds), 1995. Wetland and Environmental Applications of GIS. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 373 pp.

2) Clarke, KC, Parks, BO, Crane, MP, 2002. Geographic Information Systems and Environmental Modeling. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 306 pp.

3) Aldenderfer, M., Maschner, H., (Eds), 1996. Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems. Oxford University Press, 308 pp.



There are also plenty of introductory GIS texts in the PSU library, they can generally be found in the G70 section (for example Bonham-Carter is G70.2.B66 1994). I would recommend reading a few of the introductory chapters from a few of these books for some extra background.


A neat overview of GIS operations is from the Ordnance Survey of Britain (The "GIS Files"). Another source of information is: The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) Core Curriculum. There are plenty of links there to other sources of info on the web, especially at the end of the Introduction by Goodchild. There lots of ArcMap tutorials out there, here's one ... And then there's this FREE BOOK online: Geospatial Analysis ...and this other one: Nature of Geographic Info

 Online ESRI courses available with our site license:
Available web courses for free that come as part of our site license. Note: the instructor led courses are NOT available for free.


4 assignments @ 15 to 20 points each = 60%

Two quizes = 15%

Midterm = 15%

Review Paper (grad students only) = 10%

Final project = 10%

For graduate students the review paper will be worth 10% of the grade, and the assignments will be scaled back accordingly.

Projects will be graded according to the following criteria:

Organization   20
Writing   10
Completeness (of proposal)   20
Application and Understanding   20
Map production/Aesthetics   10

More about Final Reports

Project results will be presented during the final exam period. This is required.


Comments or Problems? Contact percyd@pdx.edu