GEOG 487
Environmental Challenges in Spatial Data Science

Lesson 4 Overview and Checklist


Lesson 4 Overview


In Lesson 3, we created several custom datasets for our study area wetlands within the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. These data contain information about plant species, vegetation groups, and invasive species for five snapshots in time between 1939 and 2005. In Lesson 4, we will use these datasets to understand how vegetation changes in response to water level fluctuations. In particular, we are interested in how emergent vegetation changes, since this group of plants provides the highest quality habitat in the wetland. We are also interested in how invasive species spread over time. Comparing multiple datasets over many time periods can get a bit complicated. In this lesson, we will explore several tools to make it easier to identify trends over time between multiple datasets.


Lesson 4 is a continuation of the scenario from Lesson 3 - "You are part of a research team tasked with creating a restoration plan for a degraded wetland complex. You need to understand how the vegetation within the wetland has historically responded to changes in water levels. This information will enable you to predict the health of the wetland in future scenarios, including anticipated hydrological changes due to climate change. You begin by searching for publicly available sources of data for your analysis. You find that there is not a dataset that has sufficient detail about vegetation for your study area. Furthermore, you are unable to find a dataset that shows wetland vegetation at multiple points in time. Your team hires a remote sensing specialist to acquire and interpret historical imagery and digitize polygons representing vegetation over time. Your job is to figure out how to use the vegetation data and GIS software to understand the relationship between fluctuating water levels and changes in vegetation."


At the successful completion of Lesson 4, you will have:

  • explored and interpreted results from GIS operations;
  • used ArcGIS tools to visually compare multiple datasets (e.g., time-series data);
  • used ArcGIS tools to statistically compare multiple datasets.
UN Sustainable Development Goals Logo
06 Clean Water 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities 13 Sustainable Climate Action 14 Life Below Water 15 Life on Land


If you have questions now or at any point during this lesson, please post them to the Lesson 4 Discussion.


This lesson is worth 100 points and is one week in length. Please refer to the Course Calendar for specific time frames and due dates. To finish this lesson, you must complete the activities listed below. You may find it useful to print this page out first so that you can follow along with the directions. Simply click the arrow to navigate through the lesson and complete the activities in the order that they are displayed.

  1. Read all of the pages in Lesson 4.
    Read the information on the "Background Information," "Required Readings," "Lesson Data," "Step-by-Step Activity," "Advanced Activities," and "Summary and Deliverables" pages.
  2. Download and read the required readings.    
    See the "Required Readings" page for links to the PDFs.
  3. Download Lesson 4 datasets.    
    See the "Lesson Data" page.
  4. Download and complete the Lesson 4 Step-by-Step Activity.    
    See the "Step-by-Step Activity" page for a link to a printable PDF of steps to follow.
  5. Complete the Lesson 4 Advanced Activity.    
    See the "Advanced Activity" page.
  6. Complete the Lesson 4 Quiz.    
    See the "Summary and Deliverables" page.
  7. Create and submit Lesson 4 Discussion Post.    
    Specific instructions are included on the "Summary and Deliverables" page.
    Optional - Check out additional resources.    
    See the "Additional Resources" page. This section includes links to several types of resources if you are interested in learning more about the GIS techniques or environmental topics covered in this lesson.

SDG image retrieved from the United Nations