GIS for Environmental Studies

Kelly Debure

Eckerd College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


The study of the environment is inherently spatial and global in nature. One way to view and analyze data in a geographic context is through using a geographic information system (GIS). GIS is typically a combination of hardware (computers, digitizers, global positioning units) and software that allows you to enter, map, and analyze spatial data. Today, GIS is being used to map and analyze wildlife preserves, marine mammal movements, locations of industry, human demographics, and a myriad of other spatial data. In this class students will learn the theory behind GIS, how to use one GIS software package (ArcGIS) and will participate in mapping the campus or a nearby wilderness area.

Course URL:
Resource Type: Course Information
Special Interest: GIS
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is a junior level "tools" course for the Environmental Studies major. The prerequisite is an introductory environmental studies or an introductory marine science course. Typically 25-50% of the students are marine science (often marine geology) majors. The course has a laboratory component.

Course Goals:

- Students will become familiar with the theory behind cartographic mapping and modeling
- Students will master one GIS software program (ArcGIS)
- Students will complete a hands-on mapping project

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

- Readings from the text and homework assignments help students to become familiar with theory. We assess this through rubric based evaluation of mapping projects and written exams.
- Homework assignments and projects address the mastery of the software. Mastery is assessed through two lab practicals.
- Students gather GPS data over four class periods and map the data in a final project. The project is evaluated using a grading rubric.

Skills Goals

- student writing and critically reading the relevant literature
- oral communication
- working in groups

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

- a research paper addresses student writing as well as reading and synthesis of relevant literature.
- a brief oral presentation of research paper topic. Presentation rubric used.
- students work in groups of three to gather GPS data on a subject of their choosing. Group participation is not adequately assessed at this time.



Syllabus for ES341N (Microsoft Word 101kB May27 10)

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