Introduction to JMARS

Alexandra Davatzes, Temple University
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Initial Publication Date: June 19, 2020 | Reviewed: September 14, 2020


This is an introduction to using JMARS. It is a bit of a "cookbook" for getting students comfortable with the different things you can do in JMARS, such as adding different visual datasets with transparency, making elevation profiles, adding stamps of high resolution images.

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This is done in a senior-level planetary class, but it is the first lab that I run. It is intended as a way to introduce students to the JMARS platform, and does not require prior knowledge of the different planets.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have a working knowledge of general geologic processes such as impact cratering and erosion, and a working knowledge of the EM spectrum and datasets, but this is mostly a cookbook introduction to using the software.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the first lab in my planetary geology class and is intended to get students comfortable with this GIS tool they will use all semester.

Activity Length

About 3 hours.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

How to use JMARS as a GIS tool.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

At the end of the assignment, they are required to integrate the map images, the high resolution images, and the topo profiles to make an inference about the formation of the central mound in Gale Crater.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

Introduction to JMARS (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 18kB Apr27 20)

Technology Needs

Students will need the JMARS tool.

Teaching Notes and Tips

JMARS does change, so some of these instructions may become outdated over the years. I generally have to update slightly each time I teach it. This is updated as of April 2020. However, the JMARS site has a number of incredible tutorials for instructors and students, so if they have trouble, I suggest looking there first.


I check to make sure they are able to access all of the data via the images they provide. As for the final questions, I want to see that they are thinking about reasonable geologic processes. The central mound cannot simply be a crater central peak- there clearly has to be some infill that occurs, and the evidence for this is in the layering. I don't grade for the "right" answer here- simply a geologically reasonable one. Most students land on lacustrine.

References and Resources

There is a tremendous volume of data and resources about Gale Crater now, but I try not to have the students look at that prior to this lab. I want them to try to apply their own working knowledge of geologic processes from Earth to another planet. Afterwards, I will often show videos about Gale Crater. Here is a link to many:

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