Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Learning GIS Through Faculty-Guided Research Projects

Event Name/Location

GSA 125th Anniversary Annual Meeting and Exposition, Denver, Colorado, October 27-30, 2013

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Student participation in faculty-guided research builds geoscience content knowledge and develops professional skills. Faculty benefit from student's familiarity with rapidly changing digital technology, including photography, data sharing, social media, and GIS. Here students report on field studies in the Badlands National Park, SD and the Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador. At Badlands National Park students spent two seasons assisting landslide and landscape development studies. Students provided field support by taking field notes, gathering GPS data, taking photos and creating an ArcGIS basemap. Students learned basic GPS operation by creating points, lines and polygons with handheld Garmin GPS units. Specific examples of polygon mapping include mapping the base of a sod table using the track feature on the Garmin handheld unit. At basecamp, students processed geospatial field data, created ESRI shapefiles using the DNR GPS application, and overlaid vectors features on the basemap.

At Tungurahua in Baños, Ecuador, students mapped lahar hazards, provided field support by taking field notes, collected location data, took digital photos and created a basemap of the project area. Students also helped prepare for the expedition by performing a literature review and utilizing EndNote to share resources. Students learned the unpredictability of fieldwork; in Ecuador, the Tungurahua was erupting and students were not able to get too close. To map lahar hazards, students used heads-up digitizing. They placed additional lines and points on the map using data collected by the volcano observation center, which was collected by the volcanologists from the Instituto Geofísico, Escuela Politocnica Nacional, in Quito Ecuador. Both projects required a basemap, digital data collection, and a data management plan.

Students also learned to work collaboratively with students and faculty outside NSU through creation of work groups in the new application and exchanging documents and data through file sharing applications. In summary, through these guided research projects, students expanded their GIS knowledge, learned techniques for field studies, and implemented best practices for managing data. Collaboration with faculty and students from outside NSU was an added benefit.


© Copyright 2013 The Geological Society of America (GSA), all rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to the author(s) of this abstract to reproduce and distribute it freely, for noncommercial purposes. Permission is hereby granted to any individual scientist to download a single copy of this electronic file and reproduce up to 20 paper copies for noncommercial purposes advancing science and education, including classroom use, providing all reproductions include the complete content shown here, including the author information. All other forms of reproduction and/or transmittal are prohibited without written permission from GSA Copyright Permissions.

Additional Comments

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 45, No. 7, p.587

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