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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Steven Walters
ESS 590
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Class description

This course provides a survey of applied uses of GIS in the geologic sciences. It builds upon skills and topics covered in ESS 420 ("Introduction to Geological Geographic Information Systems"). Though basic GIS skills and topics will be briefly reviewed, it is assumed that students are familiar with data types, essential GIS analytic techniques, and the suite of ArcGIS software packages. The course will explore a wide range of earth science topics, including the following: geologic mapping; topographic, hyposographic and general terrain analysis; hydrologic flow pattern modeling; floodplain mapping and analysis; measuring and understanding implications of rainfall patterns; landslide and erosion forecasting and analysis; and analysis of other geomorphologic phenomena such as isostasy. Geospatial statistics, including interpolation methods and detection of scale dependence in geospatial phenomena, will also be covered.

The practical nature of GIS usage means that this course will be very hands-on in structure, with in- and outside-class computer lab activities comprising the bulk of the instruction. However, lectures and in-class discussions, partly facilitated by the students themselves, will also cover significant aspects of the course content. Course activities will consist of lab exercises related to each week's topics, a final exam, and an independent project to be presented at the end of the quarter. Collectively these activities will help students to become familiar with and engage in some of the more advanced geospatial analyses used in a wide range of earth science problems and questions.

Student learning goals

Have a moderately advanced understanding of some key sources for obtaining and/or producing geologic data sets

Be familiar with some of the more advanced uses of GIS in the earth sciences

Understand the basics of geospatial statistical analysis

Know the essentials of creating effective geologic maps and graphics

Have the ability to adapt the knowledge, tools and techniques acquired in the course for their own research questions

General method of instruction

The first session of each week consists of a combination of lecture presentations by the instructor and/or guest lectures, along with discussion sessions, partly facilitated by students, on assigned readings. The remaining two sessions are devoted to working on lab exercises illustrating applications relevant to the week's topic.

Recommended preparation

ESS 420 ("Introduction to Geological GIS") or an equivalent course is required. Basic courses in general earth sciences (e.g., ESS 211) and geomorphology (e.g., ESS 326) are also necessary. Students may be enrolled in the course in the absence of such pre-requisites, but only with the instructor's approval. Hence, students from other departments in the Colleges of the Environment, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences are also welcome.

Class assignments and grading

Labs consist of hands-on GIS exercises, and are a significant portion of the grade. The largest component however is a class project of the student's choosing, consisting of an applied use of GIS in the earth sciences.

- 25% lab exercises - 35% class project - 20% final exam - 20% in-class participation (in discussion sessions, etc.)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Steven Walters
Date: 01/10/2013