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GEOG2270 Geographic Information Systems

Apply ArcGIS Skills

The objective of this assignment is to apply ArcGIS skills you have learned throughout the semester to create an original map and supporting discussion using publicly available GIS data. “Original” implies you are not just plotting the data as given, but creating new, useful information through combining and analyzing the data creatively. Your maps must look professional, include all necessary elements, and help answer a clearly defined question in which you seek to find out something about spatial relationships/patterns between at least two different types of features (see “Analysis” below). You will also need to include any contextual features (boundaries, landscape features, labels, etc.) necessary for your map.

For most of you, deciding on a topic and which data to use will be the most complicated stage in this project. While the geographical area and topic of your map will ultimately be up to your own expertise and interests, I suggest beginning by deciding on your scale of analysis (e.g. a specific country, province/state, region, or city) and exploring available data before coming up with a question.

This may seem counterintuitive but given time constraints and the limitations of relying on secondary data sources, it’s important that you quickly identify data that you can work with. Students often come up with amazing research questions only to find that there aren’t any (freely) available applicable data sources. As such, you may not be able to explore every aspect of the issue that you are interested in. This is fine – it gives you something to discuss and reflect on in your written discussion.

Data Sources

There is a huge amount of free GIS data available online, but you will need to do some exploring to decide on what to use. I have included some websites that link to large international data clearinghouses as well as links to sources for more local GIS data. Feel free to look for additional sources. Lists of data clearinghouses

• 10 Free GIS Data Sources: Best Global Raster and Vector Datasets.

• Local (city, province, Canada) GIS data.


Take some time to review some of the skills you have learned this semester, such as creating custom symbology, creating reports and graphs, labeling, creating, editing, joining and dissolving features, selecting features by location and attribute, querying data, geocoding, buffering, etc.

Keep in mind that in creating your final map will need to use at least one of the following analysis techniques:

-Geocode, Buffer, Clip, Intersect, Union, Merge, Dissolve Next, explore the data available and decide on a question you could answer using the kinds of analyses you have learned. Think back to the beginning of the semester when we discussed the kinds of questions GIS can help address.

-For example, you might ask question about where a specific set of conditions apply: where is the best place in Vancouver to open a particular business based on variables like population density and growth rates, access to transit, etc.?

-Of where is the best place to add a new bike or transit route or locate a homeless shelter based on specific criteria?

-You might ask questions about proximity and location such as where are hazardous waste facilities in BC located in relation to major watersheds and communities?

-Or which parts of Burnaby are not located within a specified distance of a bus stop? 

It includes a series of case studies that explain the questions being asked, the steps in thinking about how to answer those questions, and workflows that explain how to go about answering the questions in different platforms like ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Desktop (i.e. ArcMap) and ArcGIS Pro. Some even let you download the workflow and/or the data used in the project. I suggest looking through some of these to get some ideas. Keep in mind that some require products that you don't have access to (e.g. ArcGIS Insights). Others require extensions to ArcMap (e.g. Network Analyst, Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst) that you do have a license for but that you won't be covering in the textbook.

You're welcome to try using one of the extensions. If you need help figuring out how to license it on your computer, please talk with Sasha or me. When you have looked at the range of data available and formed an initial question, download any spatial data files (vector or possibly raster, depending on your project) you need. I suggest searching for shape files or geodatabases, though you should also feel free to utilize other formats (.xls, .csv, etc.). You may also need to add attribute tables of non-spatial information. If you need help converting or formatting data so that you can add it to your project, please talk with Sasha or me. Once downloaded, you may need to extract the zipped files.

Remember to set folder connections to your data in ArcCatalog, and then use the “Add Data” button to load the files in ArcGIS. And most importantly, make sure to organize your data and name your files clearly. I also suggest keeping a “clean” copy of any data you download in a separate folder from a copy that you actually work with.

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