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University of Rhode Island — Marine Affairs
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MAF 465 - GIS Applications in Coastal and Marine Management
Course Information

Professor: Dr. Robert Thompson
Semester: Spring & Fall
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: N/A

Catalog Description: Lecture

Course Goals & Outcomes

The two primary goals of this course are to teach students to both be capable ArcGIS users careful and thoughtful mapmakers.

Course Syllabus

GIS (geographic information systems) are computer-based tools that are used to manage, manipulate, analyze, and visualize databases. All of the social or environmental data that are stored in the database have coordinates associated with them so that each record can be given a position on a specific model of the planet earth. (At least in this course, we'll stick with the planet earth). Thus, one can relatively quickly combine and analyze multiple social and environmental factors that are significant to a particular place.

Class Topics:

  • Adding and Navigating Datasets in ArcMap
  • Working with the TOC, Symbolizing, and Selecting by Attributes and Location
  • Working with the Map Display: Symbols, Labels, and Scales
  • Working with Map Projections
  • Coastal Population Growth and Water Quality
  • Introduction to Layout and Demographic Data: Performing table calculations, understanding different legend classifications, using the layout window, and using multiple data frames
  • The Analysis and Thematic Display of Demographic Data
  • Using Templates and More on Symbolizing and Layout
  • Using Coastal Change Analysis Program Data to Model Imperviousness in a Watershed
  • Creating New Datasets for Bird Nesting Sites and Protected Areas on a Barrier Island
  • Using LIDAR Data and Creating Buffers: An Introduction to the Third Dimension
  • Using GIS Analysis and Model Builder to Explore Possible Sites for Marine Protected Areas
  • An Introduction to Georeferencing Digitized Images Using Historic Maps of a Coastal Community
  • A Comparison of Spatial Modeling Using Vector and Raster Data: Studying Walking Distances on Block Island
  • Using GIS to Access Social Vulnerability to Coastal Hazards
  • Modeling Storm Surge and Flooding Using SLOSH
  • Working with Digital Elevation Models
  • Using Spatial and 3D Analyst for Raster Calculations and 3D visualizations
About The Professor

Dr. Thompson is Chair of the Department of Marine Affairs and teaches many courses on subjects ranging from planning, law, geographic information systems (GIS) for coastal management, land development, environmental planning, and human responses to coastal hazards and disasters.

He received a Master of Community Planning and a Ph.D. in Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to receive his Juris Doctorate from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley.

Reasons To Take This Course

Over the years, geographic information systems (GIS) have come to play a large role in coastal and marine management. For example, GIS is being used to study the vulnerability of communities to coastal hazards, to plan eelgrass restorations, to understand non-point source pollution, to help manage marine protected areas, and to track potential conflicts between sea mammals and human maritime activities. Recently, a great deal of support has developed for using marine and coastal spatial planning (MCSP) to manage our oceans and coastal regions. Although comprehensive spatial planning has long existed for the land, its application in the marine environment is new and evolving. What is clear, however, is that GIS is the central tool utilized in MCSP. Consequently, to really understand MCSP, you need to understand GIS.

In GIS, the data stored in a database can be dynamically linked to an onscreen map, which displays graphics representing attributes of societies or of the biophysical world. When the data in the database changes, the map can be easily updated to reflect the changes. However, the real power of GIS is its ability to analyze spatial relationships and model social and environmental systems. GIS allows coastal managers, policy analysts, natural scientists, designers, social scientists, and planners to better understand problems and identify opportunities. Finally, GIS allows us to relatively easily make maps that convey a particular way of interpreting the world.

This course teaches GIS by doing GIS. Thus, this course is heavier on GIS experience and analysis and relatively lighter on GIS theory and GIS database development. Students who want more GIS theory can take NRS 409, Concepts in GIS, and NRS 410, Fundamentals of GIS. There are also more advanced GIS courses at the graduate level in NRS.

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