GIS-RS Final Stratigraphy Project for an Undergraduate Applied GIS Course

Paul Ryberg, Clarion University of PA


Students will construct a working, query-able database, use appropriate imagery, and use it to analyze a problem, understand cause and effect, and show changes with time. A final report must be submitted with all supporting documentation in digital form. Students also give a PP presentation in one of the last class meetings


Type and level of course
This project is used instead of a final exam in an upper level undergraduate course in Applied GIS. A student may propose their own project, or choose one from a list from the instructor. A brief proposal must be approved by the instructor before the project can begin

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
Completed undergraduate courses in physical geology, sedimentary geology and stratigraphy

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
All of our Environmental Geoscience undergraduates are required to take GIS as a required course in the curriculum. Geology majors are not required to take GIS, but most do take it. Many students pursue both degrees, and/or take a GIS minor. Students taking the Applied GIS course must have first successfully completed the basic GIS undergraduate course. They must have the skills to construct and query databases, and work with a variety of spatial data and imagery

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcGIS 9.3.1 (ArcInfo) and Extensions (3D Analyst)
ERDAS Imagine 9.4

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
4-5 weeks


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
They will expand on the basic skills to construct and query databases, and work with a variety of spatial data and imagery

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
Concept Goals

  • Students should be able to define the scope and extent of a specific project
  • Students should be able to construct a working, query-able database appropriate to the project
  • Students should be able to produce a clear, detailed written summary of the project
  • Students should be able to construct clear, detailed cross-sections and maps appropriate to the project
  • Students should be able to present a clear and logical summary of the project to others

Skill Goals

  • Students should be able to work well individually and with groups (carry their share of the load)
  • Students should be able to develop better writing and presentation skills thru this experience

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Students should be able to analyze the relationships of the geospatial data to recognize changes in time and space
  • Students should be able to develop strategies for dealing with stratigraphic uncertainties
  • Students should be able to use geospatial data to make future predictions in time and space

Description of the activity/assignment

This student project analyzes the Devonian Marcellus Shale in northwestern Pennsylvania for the potential for deep natural gas well development based on varying thickness and structural characteristics. The Marcellus has been successfully producing high gas volumes in well in northeastern parts of Pennsylvania, and there is presently a rapid movement to evaluate the potential production in other areas of the Commonwealth. However, there are notable environmental issues regarding the large water volumes necessary to fracture the formation to allow gas production, as well as the possibility of aquifer contamination at shallower levels.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Each of the goals stated above will be evaluated by the instructor at the end of the course for each individual student. Instead of using grades, evaluation will be categorized as: "excellent" "good" "poor" or "not completed"
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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