GEOG 487
Environmental Challenges in Spatial Data Science




Consider the questions below as you design your work plan. (You need to demonstrate evidence in your visual work plan that you considered questions in each section for full credit).


  • Imagine a scenario where you can apply GIS to address a specific environmental question. Hint - review the introduction pages from previous lessons that describe several different scenarios.
  • Briefly describe the scenario.
  • What are the specific questions you need to address?
  • Who are the main stakeholders?
  • What's at stake?
  • What is the purpose of using GIS in the project? (e.g., determine the best location, quantify change, compare multiple options, combine various information sources, create new information, etc.)


  • Where does the scenario take place?
  • What defines the boundaries of your site? (e.g., county, city, parcel, region, watershed, national park, etc.)
  • Will you need to digitize your study area in ArcGIS, or can you download it from an internet source?

What Data?

  • Describe the main data sets required for the analysis.
  • What information do they need to contain (e.g., essential attributes or spatial data)?
  • Note - You must use at least one of each of the formats listed below in your workflow:
    • raster
    • vector
    • data table with either x,y coordinates or text description of the location (e.g., FIPS code)
    • ArcGIS base map (why did you choose it?)
  • Where are you likely to find the data you need (e.g., government websites, create in-house)?  (It's OK if you can't find the actual data for this project. The point is to use your imagination to design a realistic project.)
  • Will you need to collect field data? If so, why?
  • Do you need to acquire high-resolution imagery?
  • Does scale/accuracy matter? What about time?

Which GIS Tools?

  • Which GIS tools and operations will you use to standardize and overlay the datasets? (Note - You should include at least five major steps in your workflow).
  • Does order matter (e.g., step 1, step 2, step 3)?
  • What will you use for your environment settings? Why?
  • Briefly describe the conceptual inputs and outputs from each step?
    • Tool/operation name (e.g., Reclassify) and why?
    • Input (e.g., raster of rock types)
    • Output (e.g., raster of DRASTIC ratings corresponding to each rock type)
    • Important parameters (e.g., mask, extent, cell size)
    • Purpose (e.g., create intermediate dataset needed for suitability analysis)
    • Note: You do not need to include nearly as much detail as the Step-by-Step Activities from the course. For example, you do not need to describe how to access the tools, where to click, etc. You will be presenting this information to a board of non-GIS specialists, so it's better to focus on the big picture and purpose of each step.
    • The table below lists the main GIS tools and operations covered in this course. You can use this as a basis for deciding the main steps in your workflow.
    GIS Tools and Operations in Geography 487
    Tables Vectors Rasters Present & Share
    Field Calculator Clip Raster to Polygon ArcGIS Explorer Online
    Summary Statistics Union Reclassify (Unique Values & Ranges) Google Earth
    Join Merge Reclassify NoData to Values Screen Captures/Videos
    Calculate Geometry Dissolve Tabulate Area Prezi
    Recode Missing Data Buffer Environment Settings Animations
    Convert units Feature to Raster Mosaic Multi-Dataframe Maps
    Plot X,Y Coordinates Interpolate to Raster Raster Calculator - Clip Graphs
    Change Projection Raster Calculator - Mathematical Overlay ArcGIS Online Maps
    Export Selection Raster Calculator - Select by Expression ArcGIS Online Web Apps
    Region Group Publish Web Services
    Zonal Geometry
    Zonal Histogram
    Extract by Attributes
    Change Projection

How Do You Know You Are Right?

  • What types of checks will you have your team do to make sure they have the correct answer?
  • How will you advise your team to avoid common issues with projections, coded values, unit changes, etc.?
  • Are there any references/past work that you can compare your results to make sure your outputs are reasonable?

Who is Your Audience?

  • Describe your client and target end-user. Are they the same?
  • What is their level of GIS/technical expertise? Are they executives, managers, GIS analysts, scientists, members of the general public or a particular interest group, etc.?
  • Tip: It may help you create a mental picture if you find and download an actual photo that portrays your target audience.

How Will You Add Value? (a.k.a. Who Cares?)

  • How will they use your analysis results?
  • Will your analysis and end products help your client save money, time, make their processes more efficient, make it easier to share information, reduce redundancies, improve communication, facilitate participation, etc.?

How Will You Communicate?

  • What are the three main messages you want to share about the analysis and results with your target audience?
  • What buzz words do they use? (A good place to find this type of information is on client websites, in their professional newsletters, or within the call for proposals.)
  • Will you provide recommendations for action based on your interpretation of the analysis results?
  • What types of questions or resistance do you expect your audience to have?
  • What end products will you produce for your client (raw data, static maps, interactive maps, custom mapping applications, animations, videos, an executive summary, a technical report, a website with embedded interactive maps with supporting text, etc.)? How will you share your results?
  • What types of visual aids do you need to communicate your message to your target audience best? (e.g., diagrams, videos, graphics, etc.)
  • If you choose to use a story map or other ArcGIS Online template, will you include pop-ups? If so, what will they contain?