Earth systems phenomena generally do not occur in uniform patterns, but are instead heterogeneously distributed across space. Hence, the ability to examine and analyze these spatial patterns is an incredibly useful tool for earth scientists – and one such analytic tool at our disposal is the use of geographic information systems (GIS). This course provides an introduction to the use of GIS in the geologic and other earth sciences. We begin by covering the basics of GIS, including the way spatial data are represented and stored, the software tools available, and some of the fundamental methods of analysis. This introduction will also include some of the theoretical aspects of GIS. The bulk of the course will then explore various earth science applications of GIS. Topics include discussion of imported data for GIS analysis, introductions to analyses of topography and hydrologic flow, mapping and general cartography, and a brief overview of other geomorphic phenomena for which GIS analyses can serve as a useful if not essential tool.
The practical nature of GIS usage means that this course will be very hands-on in structure, with in- and outside-class computer lab activities comprising the bulk of the instruction. Lectures and in-class discussions will also cover significant aspects of the course content. Course activities will consist of a number of lab exercises related to each week’s topics, a midterm and final exam, and an independent class project. Collectively these activities will help students to become comfortable in the skills necessary to perform spatial analyses for a wide range of earth science problems and questions.
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