Principles of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing - DI849

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
(version 2)
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7 15 (7.5) DR I Tzanopoulos







The overall aim of this module is to provide an applied introduction to the use of GIS and remote sensing in biodiversity conservation and management and more broadly in environmental sciences. This module will provide an introduction to the theory and practice of GIS and remote sensing as well as an introduction to a range of methods for collection, management and interpretation of spatial data. Particular attention is paid to the development of students' analysis skills of to deal with spatial data using GIS.
GIS are increasingly being used in biodiversity conservation and environmental sciences in general to help solve a wide range of "real world" environmental and associated social problems. As the current trend in ecological and environmental studies moves towards the acquisition manipulation and analysis of large datasets with explicit geographic reference, employers often report shortages of relevant GIS skills to handle spatial data. Thus, this module will introduce the use of GIS as a means of solving spatial problems and the potential of GIS and remote sensing techniques for biodiversity and environmental studies providing the student with marketable skills relevant to research and commercial needs.
Indicative topics:
  • Principles of cartography, coordinate systems and projections
  • Introduction to the fundamental principles of GIS;
  • Introduction to remote sensing
  • Data sources and methods of data acquisition
  • Types of spatial data, working with raster and vector data
  • Mapping (how to create and transform maps),
  • Elementary database management
  • ArcGIS -overview of ArcGIS, ArcMap, ArcCatalog; ArcToolbox, Spatial Analyst.
  • GIS operations (Calculating area, Intersection of polygons etc)
  • manipulation, spatial data query and analysis of a wide range of environmental and socio-economic information relevant to biodiversity
  • conservation and environmental sciences
  • Spatial analysis in GIS
  • Introduction to the application of GIS in systematic conservation planning.
  • These topics will be taught using a combination of lectures and practicals. The practical classes will provide hands-on experience using ArcGIS which is the most widely used GIS system. Students will be able to use knowledge and skills acquired in this module in practical project work.


    This module appears in:

    Contact hours



    Autumn Term

    Method of assessment

    Student learning will be assessed by means of
    • A group project based on solving a particular problem – Group Powerpoint presentation and discussion of the results during the seminar
    • An assessment exercise - individual report around 1500 words in length- on solving a particular problem related to biodiversity
    conservation or environmental sciences more broadly (80%). Students will be asked to acquire, map, manipulate and analyse data and
    provide and interpretation of the results.

    Indicative reading

    Bernhardsen, T. (2002) Geographic Information Systems: an Introduction, 3rd ed. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
    Berry, J. K. (1995) Spatial Reasoning for Effective GIS. GIS World Books, Fort Collins, Colorado.
    Burrough, P. A. and McDonnell, R. A. (1998) Principles of Geographical Information Systems, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
    Campbell, J. B. (2002) Introduction to Remote Sensing, 3rd edition. Taylor & Francis, London.
    Chang, K.T. (2007) Introduction to Geographic Information Systems. New York: McGraw-Hill, 4th edition
    Goodchild, M. F., Steyaert, L. T., Parks, B. O., Johnston, C. O., Crane, M. P. and Glendinning, S. (eds) (1996) GIS and Environmental Modeling: Progress and Research Issues. GIS World Books, Fort Collins.
    ESRI (2004) ArcGIS 9: Getting started with ArcGIS. Redlands, California: ESRI Press
    ESRI (2004) ArcGIS 9: Using ArcMap. Redlands, California: ESRI Press
    Heywood, I., Cornelius, S., and Carver, S. (2006). An introduction to Geographical Information Systems. 3rd edition. Pearson, Harlow.
    Jones, C. B. (1997) Geographical Information Systems and Computer Cartography. Longman, Harlow.
    Johnston, C.A. (1998) Geographical Information Systems in Ecology. Oxford, Blackwell Science.
    Lillesand, T. M. , Kiefer R. W. and Chipman J. W. (2007) Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation, 6th edn. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
    Wadsworth, R. and Treweek, J. (1999) GIS for Ecology: an Introduction. Longman, Harlow.

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

    Learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the module students should:
    Have a systematic understanding of knowledge of the principles of GIS and a clear understanding of the application of GIS for biodiversity conservation and environmental studies using real world examples
    Be able to acquire, combine and manipulate data from multiple sources in a GIS in order to deal and solve practical problems in biodiversity conservation and environmental science
    Have a comprehensive understanding of the principals underlying the analysis of spatial data and remote sensing data and be able to produce appropriate maps of environmental data
    Have acquired practical technical skills on GIS analytical techniques
    Be able to generate and critically evaluate GIS and remote sensing outcomes and write reports on GIS mapping and analysis

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