2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


MOORE, Angela M., Deparment of Geology, Guilford College, 5800 W. Friendly Ave, Greensboro, NC 27410, amoore@guilford.edu

The Environmental Studies program at Guilford College is an interdisciplinary second major that incorporates humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. It is critical that students in the environmental field have an understanding of spatial concepts, and the introduction of geographic information systems is extremely important. With this goal in mind, intensive student GIS based projects were implemented in the recent upper division Environmental Planning course in order to expose students to the software and to give them hands on experience with collection, manipulation, analysis, and presentation of spatial environmental data. The goal of the course was not to produce GIS experts, but rather to introduce students to the power of this tool and to produce meaningful environmental data for the benefit of the students and the campus. Students in this course had an extremely wide range of diversity in terms of their scientific background; for example, the class included students with primary majors in history, anthropology, english, political science, religious studies, and psychology as well as majors in the physical sciences. The main challenge faced during the course was the learning curve posed by the ArcGIS software; tutorial material freely available from the U.S. National Park service was modified for use in the course, and allowed students to learn the basic material at their own pace. As the final project, posters were created in a format similar to those used in scientific conferences and were displayed. The student course evaluations were extremely positive, despite the very large amount of effort required for the GIS based projects, primarily because the students were able to select projects that will significantly contribute to the base of environmental data being collected for the campus. Overall, the student projects were highly successful, and several students presented their research at a regional scientific conference the following semester. Implementation of GIS based research projects in an undergraduate, interdisciplinary liberal arts program was challenging but the successful learning outcomes and the high level of student enthusiasm clearly support the effort.