Seminar in Geographic Information Systems and Cartography

GEOG 0420

Every two years during the spring semester, the Geography Department offers a Senior Seminar in GIS and Cartography. It is an opportunity for senior geography majors, as well as students from other disciplines, to address topics in GIS and Cartography that are not normally taught during the introductory courses. In addition, students work on furthering their technical skills in both disciplines with a series of labs. Their final project is one of their own choosing that seeks, in some way, to integrate what they have learned both philosophically and technically during the course.

Spring 2008

Professor: Jonathan Schroeder

U.S. census data have long been a vital resource for geographical studies of American population and society. It is only recently, however, that most historical census data have become available in digital form through the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS), greatly facilitating the mapping and analysis of the data.

The Geography 0420 Seminar in Spring 2008 surveyed advanced methods of spatial data analysis and visualization, examining how such methods can be used to explore long-term trends and patterns in U.S. census data. Each student in the seminar prepared a dataset of historical census data, designed analyses, produced visualizations, and presented findings through a series of web pages.

The student projects reveal many interesting features of historical U.S. population geography. They also provide a glimpse of the range of new possibilities for geographic research enabled by the NHGIS.

View the student projects here.

Spring 2006

Professor: Peter Dana

Mollie Reed

After studying maps that international agencies and the media have made of the avian flu outbreak during 2003 to 2006 for my final project in cartography I decided to make this journalistic-style map. I wanted to show how the virus' extent has spread through the world, but not use the tactics that I had seen in many of the media-constructed maps, which seemed to hype how quickly the disease was spreading and how it could make its way to the Americas. I focused on constructing my map in a manner that would be informative and convey the information that I wanted, but in an instructive manner as opposed to taking a fear-inducing approach.  In doing so, I chose a color scheme of browns, oranges and yellows, which contrast with the surrounding blue ocean but do not provoke a sense of danger as a palette focused more towards red might. I also avoided the use of arrows which give directionality and predictive quality to the movement of the disease.  Finally, I wanted to avoid one of the pitfalls of choropleth maps so I looked at the distribution of the disease by point location. Although the data were too complex to display as a dot map, I decided to not color the entirety of Russia, but only the administrative regions where the disease has actually been found as the cases there were very localized. This prevents the map from appearing overly alarmist and creating a level of areal distortion through.

Phil Aroneanu