GIS Case Study

Part 1: Review a research article using GIS methods
Part II: Find a source for GIS data similar to that used in the study

Part 1: From the list of topics below, find an article in the periodical literature  (think Google Scholar or Scopus) that shows the advantage or benefit of using a GIS . Use a primary, peer-reviewed source, written by the person who completed the study, and taken from a peer-reviewed publication (such as “Science”, “Geology”, “Water Resources Research”, etc). Not a web page, not a “report.” It should contain the intro, methods, results, discussion…etc.  Please do not use a simple web page, conference abstract.

Your article must contain the following

  • data that were used,
  • details of the analysis
  • final “information” produced.

You will prepare a <1/2 page outline of the paper as an ePortfolio (see bottom of this page) with the following  information fitting on one screen during your presentation (or most of it anyway).  Example pictures could be included “below the fold.”

  • Give the citation for the paper in roughly the following format:
    AuthorLastName, FirstName, Author2LastName, Author2FirstName,etc, Year, ArticleTitle, Journal, Vol:pagex-pagey, DOI (doi is ok for Vol/pages, which don’t exist now for online only journals.
    (Include a web link to the article–but not the Scopus, Georef or Google Scholar search link. Use the URL of the journal page or DOI page. Assuming you read it online (just state it if you read the journal in print in the library.)
  • intent
  • spatial data used,
  • analytical methods
  • results
  • and
    brief a statement about how the GIS gave the authors the ability to complete their work, or made it more effective (Here is the list from the course notes of what a GIS can do for us).

Topics (only one person per topic ). To claim your before you start reading and reviewing your topic go to this Google Doc and add your name after the topic of your choosing.

  1. environmental racism
    1. access to open space
    2. proximity to hazardous wastes
  2. a geological subject, such as
    1. sedimentology
    2. structure
    3. volcanology
    4. geomorphology
    5. soils
  3. environmental justice
  4. environmental protection, such as
    1. water quality
    2. groundwater sustainability
    3. hazardous waste
    4. air quality
  5. forest fires
  6. endangered species habitat
  7. archaeology
  8. forest ecology
  9. global warming
  10. sustainability
  11. deforestation/land use modification
  12. coastal erosion/hazard
  13. wetlands protection/evaluation
  14. agriculture/soil erosion & protection
  15. flood hazard
  16. earthquake hazards

You must clear other topics with me.

Notice what’s missing from my list? “Where can I most profitably put my fast food dispensary, with maximum potential sales and minimum lease expense?” This class focuses on using a GIS so that you may one day use it to do science or to help preserve the natural quality of life not yet consumed by our quest for convenience via unbounded consumption of carbon.

If you can’t find what you need with Google Scholar or Scopus, I can recommend some good starting points. Our librarians will also be able to point the way to refereed journals in the library (paper and electronic).

Part 2: now pretend you’re going to do a study similar to the one you reviewed, somewhere in or nearby to Virginia. Find source for and info about one type of data available on the internetIt cannot be simple topographic data (“DEMs”) but it could be any other type of data used in your study. (You do not need to get the data, just locate the source of retrievable data.). Then write up a description in that includes:

  • The name of the dataset and what agency collects / distributes the data, including the electronic address.
  • brief description of the data (resolution, what is it, means of acquisition, etc)
  • how the data are obtained by the user
    • what format are they in (text, ESRI shapefile, ascci, jpg/tiff, etc)
    • how do you grab em? download? pay for em? etc
  • if available, copy a sample data image (a small one, copied in .gif or .jpg format). Do not get the GIS data itself.

The EPAUSGSUS Forest Service or USDA, have tons of data as well as many nifty GIS servers. Check out too.  US data are found on the USGS National Map. Virginia GIS data are available from And there’s always Google. Searching for layers in ArcGIS Online works too, but for this assignment, find something from a different source.

What to do with Parts I and II:

  1. After I’ve introduced you to this tool, log on the Digication platform (electronic portfolios, which may be useful for job/grad school applications).
    1. You MUST use the latest version Firefox or Chrome — do NOT use Safari, Edge, or Internet Explorer!
    2. Log in at with W&L credentials and click on Digication tile
      OR > click on blue “Login” button > click on blue “Washington and Lee University” button with W&L credentials
    3. Helen MacDermott made a video to give you a full introduction. She is also available to help you with this task.
    4. helpful guides here
      1. Editing the Header Section
      2. Adding and Managing Page
      3. Adding and Editing Text
      4. Uploading Files to Your ePortfolio
      5. Deleting a Module or Section
      6. Publishing Options
      7. Edit Mode vs Published View:
    5. use the Geol260 ePortfolio template available to you in our course to make your own new GIS ePortfolio. It should contain a home page (which you can do what you like with), and for now, one tab for the GIS Case Study.  I started my example case study, which should be publicly shared for you to look at.
  2. For the Case Study, include a link to the publication if electronic. Most of the information should fit on one screen for your presentation, with pictures etc below if you use them.  You can look at my demo and not well done case study in my ePortfolio.
  3. For the data source, remember to cite and link to the source of it (but don’t download any data!).
  4. Include a snip of some sample data in your report if possible.
  5. Publish these pages.
  6. In the upper right of the portfolio window, choose settings and share your portfolio with the members of the class group.
  7. Record a 2 minute video of you presenting your study and post it to the GIS Case Study Videos channel in the Yuja tab at the course Canvas page. NOTE: you will be evaluating your peers for the Geology Dept. significant learning objectives (SLO 5 rubric). Please look through these criteria before you prepare your own talk. This evaluation is separate from your assignment grade. However, evaluating others is a good way to improve your own presentation skills if you take it seriously.
  8. Watch your colleague’s videos so you can ask some questions during the following class period (or later). Use the rubric to “score” the presentations of some of your peers. Make some notes on the rubric and hold on to ’em; the last question will have to until after the class presentations.
  9. Enter your evaluations for each of the presenters on the Google form  after the Q&A session. That form will be linked in a Canvas announcement.