GEOG 506: Advanced Geographic Information Science

Digital geo-spatial information (GI) and its associated geographic information technologies (GIT, which includes Geographic Information Systems {GIS}, remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems and Location based Services {LBS}) increasingly provide an innovative edge in research and industry. Altogether they represent a major industry in Canada, with more than $2bCN in annual revenues. GI was originally conceived as a more efficient way to produce maps digitally. Now, using GI we can improve, for example, the provision of social services to new immigrants, analyze the geographic relation between ill health and water quality, and enable communities to develop sustainable future scenarios. Combining GI and technology also has allowed for new economic services, such as location-based services/mobile commerce and digital gazetteers (e.g., route finders such as MapQuest and spatial annotators such as Google Maps).

Whether the application concerns social work or hydrology, managing, analyzing and delivering geographic information through GITs requires a deeper understanding of both the information and the technology. What, for example, is the impact of combining data of different geographic scales in computer modeling? Which statistical techniques are appropriate for a particular application? How does one visualize both time and space? Are there algorithms that can calculate error in spatial data? How do academic disciplines influence the collection of data? Are GITs neutral tools or are they, by their very nature, instruments of capitalist control? These are a few of the far ranging questions that underlay the science of GI.

Course Goals

This course merges the theoretical study of GITs with original student research. In this course students are introduced to the conceptual questions that drive GIT research, geographic information science (GIScience). They learn to critically analyze the major themes in the GIScience literature and draw out the practical ramifications for GITs. Students will be to contrast GIS as a tool with GIS as a science. They will conduct GI research and apply GIScience concepts to that research. On a practical note, students will gain experience in synthesizing and lecturing on complex scientific material, functioning as discussants and writing scientific papers.

Course Format

This graduate course is run in a seminar format in which the major concepts in GIScience are considered. Each class is divided into two parts. The first part is a seminar, many of which will be given by students. Each student will choose and then present a major theme in GIScience and, presumably, of pertinence to his/her own research. Two students will be selected as discussants to formally comment on the substance of each seminar and will lead the rest of the class in broader discussion.

In the second part of each class, students will work on their own research projects, guided by the instructor. Students also will be expected to assist each other in their projects. At the end of the course, students will present their projects in a half day-long session (date will be chosen by class). Final projects (GIT application and GIScience paper) will be due during the exam period.

Student Final Projects for 2006 course

Temporal and Spatial Analysis of Impacts of New Transit Development: The Villa Maria Metro Station

South American Freshwater Fish Biodiversity: Effects of Environmental Variables, Invasive Species, and Spatial Uncertainty

Scale Effects of Digital Elevation Model (DEM) size on Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) Watershed Delineation and Runoff Volume

Geovisualization techniques for the threat of sport-hunting to Cree culture in Northern Quebec

Spatial sampling design on McGill experimental earthworms study

Development of an Augmented Reality and GIS based Application for Guidance in an Urban Environment

Using Agent Analyst to Model Tourist Destination Choices

Appropriateness of spatial data models to the Cree communities’ usage of GIS

Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFIDs) and Geo-privacy: Results of a Facebook Survey

Cognitive Mapping of Pedestrian Travel Patterns at McGill University