Geoprocessing (map overlay) exercise - a rabbit prediction map

Chris Harding, Iowa State University


Walks the student through the creation of a prediction map using a very simple (fictitious) spatial planning and analysis scenario. Although the actual prediction "rules" for this scenario are not from a geoscience background, the GIS techniques practiced here can apply to geoscience prediction/analysis scenarios with more complex rules. The exercise mainly deals with vector geoprocessing ("map overlay") operations, such as buffering, union, dissolve, clip, but combines them with spatial joins and spatial queries. The results are presented as a map.


Type and level of course
I use this exercise as a large take home exercise about 2/3 into my intro class, directly after going over vector geoprocessing (map overlay) operations. This exercise does not require any specific geoscience background, I deliberately use a fictional analysis scenario in a planning/ business setting. It provides sample locations, and two very simple, theoretical rules for predicting these locations. In parts A to D of the exercise the students use geoprocessing operations to create a spatial representation of these rules. In parts E and F they practice using different types of spatial joins for a qualitative and quantitative spatial analysis of the actual locations. For my class, this is a very valuable refresher of the tricky topic of spatial joins. Finally, the students make a map that summarizes and presents the results.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
None in particular, the fictional planning/analysis scenario should become clear in the instructions.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
This is a fairly advanced exercise that assumes basic ArcGIS skills plus:
Geoprocessing (map overlay) operations: buffer, union, erase and dissolve tool from the ArcToolbox
Spatial joins (different types)
Spatial queries
Layout mode: legend, scale bars, north arrow
Data Frame: fixed scale, lat./long grid

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcGIS 9.3 - no extension needed
ArcEditor license (ArcView license works if the student can figure out how to emulate the Erase operation with Union)

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
2 - 4 hours


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
Geoprocessing (map overlay) operations
Spatial joins (spatial analysis)
Spatial query
map creation (layout)

Other content/concepts goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Evaluation: Given a set of (simple)prediction rules, how well do the factual observations (here: locations) match these theoretical predictions?
Spatial optimization: Given four locations and the observations, develop a method to fairly partition the space around these four locations.

Description of the activity/assignment

A new rabbit species has been discovered and rabbit watchers flock to the area. Confirmed rabbit sightings have been geolocated and a local rabbitologist has developed a theory predicting the rabbit's locations in general. Four tour guide companies (at four different locations) have hired a GIS specialist (the student) to a) evaluate this theory and b) develop a spatial plan to share the area for guided tours.

GIS Data (shape files): rabbit sightings (geolocated), area of interest, roads (lines), town polygons, forest polygons.

Part 1: Create a spatial representation of the theoretical predictions using geoprocessing (map overlay) operations
Part 2: Evaluate if the factual locations of the rabbit sightings match the theory
Part 3: Partition the area among the four guide companies.
Part 4: Create a map of the results

Can be given as a independent take-home exercise or as a lab exercise. The instructions include step-by-step descriptions with screenshots to guide students through the exercise.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I expect students to work through the steps and to document their work with detailed text descriptions and screen shots. I hand grade each step (A to G, some have sub-steps) with a number of points and leave comments and suggestions. I don't expect students to perfectly reproduce the instruction's screen shots, I give full points if the students demonstrates that s/he has found a solution, even if it looks differently (or went through different steps than I expected). I tend to subtract points for leaving "gaps" (i.e. simply jumping to the end of a step without showing how), even if the result is correct. I reward detail and additional options (i.e. two ways of solving a problem).
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