Conservation GIS

Michelle Kinzel

Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation


This course is designed to prepare conservation workers and scientists how to acquire, organize and manipulate geographic information using GIS technology. Course material includes concepts and skill mastery useful in the integration of GIS in conservation research and management planning.

Course URL:
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is a professional development course intended for conservation professionals with a background in science, ecology or wildlife biology. The course consists of field and lab exercises, lectures and extensive hands-on computer activities.

Course Goals:

  1. Participants should be able to demonstrate competency in basic GIS technological skills; acquiring, organizing, querying, analyzing, manipulating and displaying georeferenced data.
  2. Participants should be able to use cartographic skills to display a georeferenced data set and convey relevant and pertinent messages in a concise, visual format.
  3. Participants should be able to assess conservation issues related to the ecology, biology, geography, and socio-economic influences of a specified area, region or project. Participants should be able to develop proposals for conservation plans related to these issues.
  4. Participants should be able to create geodatabases and map products that convey conservation goals or messages in a variety of formats to a diverse collection of audiences. Participants should be proficient in developing maps suitable for powerpoint presentations, posters, websites, scientific journals and general documents for public viewing.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The course activities involve practicing the geospatial and GIS skills directly related to the discipline-related goals of conservation. The participants will work with real world data sets and perform hands-on structured activity that parallels work done by colleagues from similar or related disciplines. Participants will gain experience and competence in working with data sets and map layouts, and culminate the experience by working with their own data sets. Additionally, participants will gain experience in producing conservation maps and products intended to communicate messages and goals related to their projects. Assessment will be largely peer review, guided by instructor feedback, in alignment with the professional development nature of the course.

Skills Goals

  1. Data acquisition (GPS technology), data organization (geodatabase design), data querying and analysis.
  2. Cartography, creating maps for communication.
  3. Using GIS as a tool in conservation planning and management.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The course has been designed to provide adequate time for practice and review of skills. Participants will be assessed for skill mastery at key points in the course before proceeding to next exercise by evaluating map layouts, assessing accuracy of spreadsheets and plotting of latitude/longitude data. The exercises have been designed to have a producible project, such as a map layout, that indicate mastery of several skill sets simultaneously.

Attitudinal Goals

  1. Building participants confidence in collecting and manipulating georeferenced data in a variety of technological mediums.
  2. Building participants awareness of the value of integrating geospatial concepts in conservation research.
  3. Increasing student's enthusiasm for using GIS as a tool in conservation field work.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Participants will gain confidence in their geospatial skills by performing activities and collaborating on ideas and concepts that integrate conservation and GIS. By completing increasing complex activities that involve higher order geospatial thinking, participants will become confident and proficient in using GIS as a tool in conservation.


Assessment for this course is largely peer review, including discussions and group feedback as well as self evaluation of mastery of course skills and comprehension of concepts and the resultant usefulness in meeting professional goals and addressing project agendas.

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