ACM Pedagogic Resources > ACM/FaCE > Projects > Outdoor Classroom > Activities > Gathering field data using a GPS and ArcGIS 9.3 Part 2: streaming data and contouring

Gathering field data using a GPS and ArcGIS 9.3 Part 2: streaming data and contouring

Jeff Clark, Lawrence University


This exercise introduces streaming data collection using ArcGIS and a GPS receiver. Analysis of these data serve as an introduction to the art of contouring and topographic map making. Routines within ArcGIS Spatial Analyst are also used to analyze the data. The technical skills used in this lab will be called upon in a subsequent lab on analyzing spatial trends in urban lead contamination.

Learning Goals

The main content goal is to gain experience with the practice of contouring, both by hand and with the assistance of ArcGIS 9.3 Spatial analyst. Skills in constructing, reading and interpretation of topographic maps are also covered. A secondary goal is to learn how to record and manipulate streaming data.
The art of contouring involves creation of a model of data for the purpose of visualization and analysis of trends in the data. This skill is introduced using topographic data, which helps the students understand how to read and interpret topographic maps, but the skill has broad uses as it can be used to analyze other kinds of environmental data (e.g. wind speed, contaminant concentration, temperature, salinity)
The use of ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension is a new technical skill students will acquire in this lab. Their map preparation, data representation, and general cartographic skills are further honed.
Without mobile technologies the data gathering portion of this lab would be prohibitively time consuming and expensive. GPS units are cheap and easy to use, total stations are not.

Context for Use

Integrates mobile technologies into an introductory level course: Introduction to Environmental Science
Exercise is used as part of a sequence of exercises.

Skills that students should have mastered before beginning this activity:

Students need some knowledge of how to navigate ArcGIS 9.3 and how to interface with a GPS receiver. They should also know how to collect and classify point data.

Description and Teaching Materials

Contouring point data using ArcGIS 9.3 spatial analyst (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 349kB Aug5 10)


There are several check point questions throughout the lab and the maps turned in clearly indicates if they understand how to contour data by hand and how to use ArcGIS Spatial Analyst.

References and Resources

Supporting data

Underlying aerial photographs and topographic surveys were gleaned from the City of Appleton. All other data was created specifically for this activity.