GEOG 858
Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management

Term Project Description


Term Project Overview

This course is built around a term project that will integrate your understanding of geospatial perspectives and technologies with what you have learned about how they can be applied to emergency management. You will select a project topic from one of the options described below and write a report that includes spatial data analysis and visualization approaches. In some cases, this might take the form of a case study, in others, a proposed geospatial system design or a demonstration (e.g., dashboard or app) that illustrates either current trends in applying geospatial thinking to emergency management or what might be possible in the near future.

To a large degree, you will have the freedom to shape the specifics of your term project around the geospatial and/or emergency management contexts in which you are most interested. I hope that this allows you to either focus on a topic related to your day-to-day work or to choose an area that sparks your curiosity. That said, it should be clear who you are writing for and the role you are playing in preparing this report.

Your analysis will be informed by relevant datasets that you find, analyse, and visualize. A key task early on is identifying a suitable dataset and developing some ideas about what you’d like to do with it. I can help with this process and when you develop the abstract for the project, we will meet to discuss your ideas and make sure they are achievable in the time you have. I will also circulate a list of websites where you can search for suitable data. There are many options, so don’t be too concerned about being able to find suitable data.

You can choose from a wide range of tools to conduct your analysis and visualize the results, including Esri products like ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS Online/Portal. You have access to a wide range of Esri tools through your Penn State Accounts. But don’t forget about other possibilities such as web mapping tools like MapBox or open-source tools like QGIS and R. In this course, we use a range of data and technologies and you can do the same with your projects. Just keep in mind you’ll need to balance the time you have to do the analysis and write your report with the time you have to learn new software.

Each week, you will notice that at least one page of the lesson is dedicated to a goal or assignment associated with your term project. In about half of those Lessons, you need to complete a graded deliverable related to your final project. I've developed a project schedule that is designed to make sure you make steady progress on the term project and that also ensures that we have one full round of draft editing to refine your work. I don't like classes that end with submitting a final project with no chance to do any revisions. That seems silly to me.

My hope is that you end the semester with a product that has utility beyond just meeting the course requirements. It could end up being a use case or a proposal that you share with others in your organization. This has been the case for some students in past offerings of GEOG 858.

Term Project Options

Here are some options for your term project. You can choose one of these options, or if you'd like to riff on one of these and take it in a different direction, by all means, do so! These are really just suggestions: I want you to be innovative and surprise me with your good ideas for projects. But I also know that many of you want to know what a good example project might look like, which is why I've listed these options here.

  • OPTION 1: Develop a case study on the use of specific geospatial data and technologies from a recent crisis or disaster. Using geospatial data and analyses, demonstrate at least one way that geospatial approaches were used effectively and at least one way their use could have been improved. This option should be built on your original analysis and not just a review of what others have done.
  • OPTION 2: Develop a vulnerability, hazard assessment, and mitigation case study for a place that has not recently been impacted by a disaster. Develop a concept for a geospatial system to support these activities and build a prototype to illustrate your main points.
  • OPTION 3: Address the question, Why is recovery so difficult? For this project, conduct a comparative analysis of recovery after recent disasters (ones that occurred within the last ten years) in two to three case study areas. Use geospatial data and analysis to help illustrate and communicate the comparisons and main points you make.
  • OPTION 4: Focus on an emerging technology that is changing how geospatial analysis is applied in emergency management. You may consider a technology we cover in this course, or focus on a different technology (but provide an argument for your choice). Provide context for the technology, but focus on some specific aspects of its use that you can demonstrate using spatial data and analyses.

Deliverables (for Future Lessons)

The term project includes the following deliverables that will be assigned to you in future lessons:

  • Project Abstract indicating which project option you have chosen and describing in general terms what you will cover - assigned in Lesson 2 (Worth 5% of total grade)
  • Project Outline and Short Video Presentations (headings and several bullets under each heading for the main topics you'll cover). Produce a short 3-5 minute video introducing your topic to the class - assigned in Lesson 4 (worth 8% of total grade)
  • Full Draft of your Term Project Report, no longer than 5000 words, not including an appendix where you can outline your methodology in greater detail - assigned in Lesson 6 (worth 12% of total grade)
  • Revised Term Project Report, no longer than 5000 words, not including an appendix where you can outline your methodology in greater detail - assigned in Lesson 10 (worth 16% of total grade)
  • 5-7 Minute Video Presentation of your Term Project - assigned in Lesson 10 (worth 4% of total grade)

Look for details on each deliverable (including specific due dates and grading criteria) in future lessons.

NOTE: I have provided examples of each term project deliverable on the following page in CANVAS.