Creating Topic-Specific Maps for Geoscience Classes

Initial Publication Date: November 21, 2005


We can help students understand spatial relationships through the inclusion of specific maps that relate to the lecture, discussion, lab or exercise topics (see for example, Gutierrez et al. (2002)). While the use of state- or national-level geologic or topographic maps in geoscience coursework is quite common, available GIS tools and data provide opportunities to develop site- or topic-specific maps to enhance the experience. Map development tools are available in numerous desktop GIS packages (e.g. ArcView or [link 'GRASS'] or web-based GIS servers (e.g. or (more info) ).

Once created, these maps become resources for future course/lab work. They are also an effective way for the instructor to train in GIS techniques.

Map Development with Online GIS & Map Resources

Map Development with Desktop GIS

  • Online GIS data sources - Download data sets that are relevant to the course to create maps for lecture, lab, or exercises. These is a list of a few sites that provide data at a variety of scales.
  • Using GPS in geoscience classes - Don't forget that you and your class can generate your own data for maps by using GPS!

Creating Maps for a Course - Examples

These are a few examples of maps that can be created from online sources for use in the classroom.

Examples of Map Resources Used in Labs and Exercises