Teach the Earth > GIS and Remote Sensing > Workshop 2010 > Overview

Workshop Overview

Note: This workshop has already taken place.

This view of the Richat Structure in Mauritania was generated from a Landsat satellite image draped over an SRTM elevation model with 6X vertical exaggeration. The mesa ridge in the back center of the view is about 285 m tall. Colors of the scene were enhanced using a combination of visible and infrared bands to differentiate bedrock (browns), sand (yellow, some white), minor vegetation in drainage channels (green), and salty sediments (bluish whites). More information. Image credit: NASA/JPL/NIMA.
The goals of this workshop include 1) exploring effective ways of teaching GIS and remote sensing to geoscience students and enhancing the teaching of geoscience across the curriculum by using GIS and remotely sensed data, 2) developing strategies for meeting the needs of geoscience students now and in the future, 3) aggregating existing resources and planning for development of future resources, and 4) developing a community of scholars to continue the work beyond the workshop. We are looking for participants who can share exemplary laboratory, classroom, project, and field activities in GIS and remote sensing and who are interested in improving the experiences of undergraduate geoscience students in GIS and remote sensing.

Workshop format

This workshop will be patterned after the very successful "Teaching X" workshops run by Cutting Edge since 2003, the most recent of which was Teaching Paleontology in the 21st Century (On the Cutting Edge, 2009).

Plenary sessions: Participants will discuss general issues such as
  • Meeting the needs of undergraduate geoscience students, including what students should be able to do using GIS and remote sensing by the time they graduate.
  • Maintaining currency as processes, techniques, software and employer expectations change and how faculty can effectively incorporate these changes into assignments and courses and prepare students to handle ongoing changes in the future.
    On the left, a portion of the first image cube measured by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper on board the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft on Nov. 19, 2008 shows the crater Harpalus north of Mare Imbrium. The rainbow-colored panels to the top and right of each image represent the different spectral signatures that underlie every point in the image. The image cube on the right was measured on Feb. 5, 2009 and includes the Apollo 15 landing site adjacent to the feature Hadley Rille. More information. Image credit:ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ.
  • Developing activities that involve analysis, not just techniques, including having students find data online or acquire and process their own data and giving students experience with layering diverse data sets to solve problems.
  • Doing a better job for geoscience students, including integrating GIS/remote sensing across the curriculum, especially in geoscience departments where GIS is not taught as a stand-alone course, and adding activities/projects to a general purpose GIS/remote sensing course to enhance the experience of geoscience students in the course.
  • Getting around the stumbling blocks to moving away from farming out GIS training to other departments (e.g., geography or social science departments) and incorporating GIS/remote sensing into a geoscience curriculum.
  • Considering the advantages and disadvantages of using software other than the standard commercial software packages, and finding ways of effectively introducing students to data, techniques, and studies that require prohibitively expensive software.
  • Preparing for what the future holds, e.g., 4D GIS.

Assignment/activities presentations and posters: All participants will submit at least two activities or assignments that teach geoscience using GIS and/or remote sensing, a syllabus for a GIS or remote sensing course or a geoscience course that incorporates GIS or remote sensing, and a case study vignette. Activities will be shared with other participants either as posters or short oral presentations during the workshop. Workshop attendees will participate in a session on effective activity and assignment design and will review and make suggestions for improving submitted materials.

This shaded relief with color-as-height image was generated using topographic data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) 3-arcsecond (90-meter, 300 feet) data and from the GTOPO30 data (30 arcseconds, 900 meters, 3000 feet spacing). Elevations vary from about 200 meters (600 feet) in purple shades above sea level in the plains of India to over 7700 meters (25,000 feet) in the Himalayas (white) within this image. More information. Image credit: NASA/JPL.

Optional field day: The optional day (Thursday, August 12) will be a hands-on day to explore teaching in the field using GeoPads. The field day will take place in Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone. Participants will rotate among several different field sites to experience using GIS in the field for a number of different types of field/mapping problems (volcanic, hydrologic, surficial, etc.).

Development of a collection of digital resources for teaching GIS and remote sensing: All activities/assignments, syllabi, and case study vignettes submitted by participants will be added to the online collection of resources for teaching geoscience using GIS and remote sensing. This collection will be similar to those developed for other "Teaching X" workshops, e.g., Resources for Teaching Geomorphology. In addition, participants will be asked to contribute to an online collection of resources for teaching GIS and remote sensing, including links to tutorials, data sources, etc.

Email Listserv: An email list for workshop participants will promote discussion before and after the workshop.


The first workshop event will take place at 7 pm on Sunday, August 8, and the last at dinner on Wednesday, August 11. Participants must attend all sessions. An optional day on teaching in the field using GIS will take place on Thursday, August 12.

Eligibility and application instructions

Applicants for this workshop must hold a faculty position at a two- or four-year college or university and have responsibility for teaching either GIS/remote sensing courses taken by geoscience students or geoscience courses at any level (including intro geo) that have a significant GIS/remote sensing component. We welcome applications from all academic ranks. The workshop is limited to 60 participants, and the final list of participants will be established with the goal of assembling a group representing a wide range of experiences, educational environments, and specialties. The overlap day is limited to 60 total participants from the GIS/RS workshop and the Field workshop, with preference given to those who are accepted for both workshops. Application must be made on line by March 20, 2010, and successful applicants will be notified by April 1, 2010.


Our National Science Foundation grant provides funding for the some of the operational costs of this workshop. To be supported by these funds, a participant must be either a US citizen, a permanent resident, or in the employ of a US institution. If you don't meet these requirements and are interested in participating in this workshop at your own expense, please contact the workshop conveners.

Workshop registration fee: The registration fee is $150 and will include most meals but not lodging. The optional day on teaching in the field using GIS will cost $50, which will cover transportation and meals. If you are accepted for both the GIS/RS workshop and the Teaching in the Field workshop, the total registration fee (including the overlap day) will be $300.

LiDAR image of a portion of the San Andreas Fault in northern California. More information. Image credit: USGS.

Location and facilities: The workshop will be held at Montana State University located in Bozeman, Montana. The optional day on teaching in the field using GIS will take place in Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone.

Travel, lodging. Participants or their home institutions must cover lodging plus travel to and from the workshop. We will offer a low-cost option to stay in the dorms at MSU. Alternatively, participants may make their own lodging arrangements at a local motel, where we will hold a block of rooms.

Participants must arrive in Bozeman in time for the first workshop event at 7 pm on Sunday, August 8. The workshop will be over on Wednesday evening, August 11, and participants will return home on Thursday, August 12. Those who are accepted to also participate in the optional day on August 12 on teaching in the field using GIS can either return home on Friday, August 13 or attend the separate workshop on Teaching Geoscience in the Field, which begins on August 13. You must apply separately for the workshop on teaching in the field but not for the overlap day.

We will be able to offer small travel stipends to participants from institutions unable to cover travel costs. The deadline for applying for one of these stipends is April 10, 2010

Further information

Contact Barbara Tewksbury (btewksbu@hamilton.edu)

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