GEOG 858
Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management

Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management


Rescue workers in water up to their knees pulling a boat with people behind them.
Guardsmen provide relief during Hurricane Matthew
Credit: Staff Sgt. Jonathan Shaw, United States Air Force

Quick Facts

  • Instructor(s): Matt Beaty

  • Course Structure: Online, 10-12 hours a week for 10 weeks

  • Prerequisite(s): include the link to the WC bulletin


Geospatial perspectives and technologies have a major role to play in planning for and responding to emergencies. And just like all technologies, geospatial tools - from aerial mapping techniques to data acquisition, are changing rapidly. Emergency management is also changing rapidly as the frequency and magnitude of crises and disasters are increasing with more and more people and places being impacted.

GEOG 858 is an advanced elective course that provides students with an understanding of the use of geospatial perspectives and technologies to support all stages of emergency (crisis or disaster) management activities, from small-scale emergency management efforts to large-scale disaster/humanitarian efforts. This includes learning about commonly used and emerging geospatial technologies through hands-on practical exercises using real-world datasets, scenario analysis, and critical assessment of applied and scientific literature. It will also include an exploration of advancements in data collection, processing, and analysis capabilities, such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), geospatial artificial intelligence (geoAI), volunteered geographic information (VGI), social media, and many more.

Learn more about GEOG 858, Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management (1 min, 21 sec)

Click here for a transcript of Dr. Beaty's video.

One of the great things about this class is the timeliness and the significance of the topic. There are crises and disasters happening all the time all around the world and these events have real impacts on people and communities, the broader economy, as well as the built and the natural environments. Geospatial Data and Analysis play a central role in all stages of emergency management and this class focuses equally on key concepts and approaches in the field as well as current and emerging geospatial data and technologies that are really changing the way that emergency problems are addressed. Each week insights that are gained from readings and a series of group discussions are reinforced through

hands-on exercises using real-world data sets and methods. Finally, you can tailor the course to your specific interests through a term project.

This works by having a set of deliverables throughout the course that will help you refine your ideas and analysis approach. You can also expect to get plenty of feedback from the instructor and your classmates on your work. In some cases, these projects have been used for capstone projects, for scholarly papers, and in some cases, as reports back to employers. Thanks and we look forward to seeing you in class.

Credit: M. Beaty © Penn State is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 

Want to join us? Students who register for this Penn State course gain access to assignments and instructor feedback and earn academic credit. For more information, visit Penn State's Online Geospatial Education Program website. Official course descriptions and curricular details can be reviewed in the University Bulletin.

This course is offered as part of the Repository of Open and Affordable Materials at Penn State. You are welcome to use and reuse materials that appear on this site (other than those copyrighted by others) subject to the licensing agreement linked to the bottom of this and every page.