Applied GIS

Applied GIS focuses on methods and techniques of gaining insight and intelligence from spatio-temporal data in order to manage natural resources, man-made infrastructure, and support a variety of decision making processes. Courses in Applied GIS offered by the department emphasize an analytical approach where the end product is useful not only for day-to-day operations but also for more strategic decisions involving allocation of resources.

Business Intelligence: Contemporary Business Intelligence that recognize location and its spatial context as intrinsic components of business decision making takes a data-centric approach that is focused on locational analytics. Methods of location analytics include spatial analysis with GIS, statistical analysis, and spatial optimization. They are useful in delivering solutions for problems such as site selection, territory design, trade and service area selection, supply-demand location/allocation, and geodemographics-based marketing.

mosaic of gis results

Cyber GIS: CyberGIS is a geospatial cyberinfrastructure framework that enables domain science communities to have better interaction, organization, management, sharing, and allocation of data and computing resources utilizing advanced HPC frameworks and geospatial data portals. Semantic web technology can help CyberGIS better support domain sciences research by enabling appropriate data and computing resources to be retrieved in a smart manner. Moreover, since this technique provides a formal and machine-understandable definition of knowledge in domain sciences, the semantic web can promote the role of domain scientists in geospatial cyberinfrastructure design and evaluation.

Geospatial Intelligence: Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) encompasses diverse missions and functions performed by a multitude of organizations at local, state, federal and international levels. GEOINT offers decision makers the advantage of geographic knowledge to prevent adverse events, evaluate emerging threats and opportunities, develop deterrence, and comprehend any dynamic situation. This enables developing actionable domain knowledge of people over time and space in order to facilitate humanitarian assistance, trade, defense, and other market segments. GEOINT is at the heart of technical partnerships and collaboration among community, academic, public and private-sector partners in domains ranging from critical infrastructure and energy security to information technologies, communications, cybersecurity, bioterrorism defense, net-centric warfare, port and border security, entertainment, sports, and beyond.

Hazards: Using advance GIS tools or techniques, we characterize and envision the spatial or spatiotemporal patterns of various hazards, such as wildfires, diseases, landslides, and earthquake epicenters. The results are instrumental to improved hazard planning (e.g., preparedness, envisioning), management (e.g., response, mitigation), and recovery (trajectory representation, simulation).

Human & Urban Dynamics: Human dynamics is a transdisciplinary research field focusing on the understanding of dynamic patterns, relationships, narratives, changes, and transitions of human activities, behaviors, and communications. Many scientific research projects (in the fields of public health, GIScience, civil engineering, and computer science) are trying to study human dynamics and human behaviors. One main goal of human dynamics is to develop effective intervention methods to modify or change human behaviors and to resolve public health problems (such as obesity, disease outbreaks, and smoking behaviors) or transportation problem (traffic jams and vehicle incidents). Several innovative data collection methods can be applied to study human dynamics. For example, researchers can use computer vision algorithms to analyze Google Street Views and to estimate the built environment index and neighborhood social status. Combined CCTVs in urban areas and street traffic cameras can be used to analyze the usage of bike lanes and biking behaviors in different communities/neighborhoods. The frequency of geotagged social media check-ins can be used to estimate dynamic changes of population density for supporting disaster evacuation decision support systems (cited from Tsou, M-H., 2018. The Future Development of GISystems, GIScience, and GIServices. In: Huang, B. (Ed.), Comprehensive Geographic Information Systems. Vol. 1, pp. 1–4. Oxford: Elsevier.).

Mobile GIS: Mobile GIS are an integrated technological framework for the access of geospatial data and location-based services (LBS)through mobile devices, such as Pocket PCs, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), or smart cellular phones. There are two major application areas of mobile GIS: Field Based GIS and Location Based Services. Field Based GIS focuses on the GIS data collection, validation and update in the field, such as adding a new point data or change the attribute tables on an existing GIS dataset. Location Based Services focuses on business-oriented location management functions, such as navigation, street routing, finding a specific location, tracking a vehicle, etc (Jagoes 2002; OGC 2003b). The major differences between the Field Based GIS and LBS are the data editing capabilities. Most Field Based GIS will need to edit or change the original GIS data or modify their attributes. LBS rarely change original GIS data but simply use them as the background or reference maps for navigation or tracking purposes.

Public Participation GIS, Volunteered Geographic Information: Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) combines participatory mapping and spatial data analysis with a social process allowing users to combine their informal and often qualitative knowledge, impressions, and ideas with formalized knowledge about real world objects, their locations, and properties stored in GIS database. PPGIS involves not one but a number of participatory approaches for deriving and processing spatial data and information, and applying it various problem solving and decision making contexts ranging from indigenous property rights, through management of public commons, to collaborative city planning. PPGIS methods and tools intersect with and are complementary to Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and Citizen Science.

Spatial Decision Support Systems: Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) offer a systematic approach to allocation of resources taking into account: 1) location, 2) spatial relationships, 3) multiple solution alternatives, and 4) choice preferences. SDSS are created and deployed to help answer a fundamental decision question: which course of action to choose? SDSS offer analytical tools to help make choices involving location by combining spatial data with models to compute the consequences of decision alternatives.

Watershed Science: Watershed science relates to the natural and human controls on watershed processes, including water quality, quantity, erosion, and stream channel morphology. GIS and remote sensing are used extensively in watershed science to map land cover, organize geospatial information, and generate models of watersheds.


multilevel model of meme diffusion chart

Spatiotemporal Modeling of Human Dynamics Across Social Media and Social Networks Leave geography site

This Interdisciplinary Behavioral and Social Science Research (IBSS) project will study human dynamics across social media and social networks and focus on the modeling of information diffusion over both time and space, and the connection between online activities and real world human behaviors. The research team will study diffusion patterns of human messages, activities, and communications by using both computational methods (e.g., social network analysis, geographic information systems, and machine-learning) and traditional social scientific approaches (e.g., qualitative analysis, inferential statistics, and behavior analysis). New communication theories, new knowledge discovery tools, and new computational models will be developed and validated by the interdisciplinary research team. This project will enable the convergence of spatial science, social media, communication, computer science, and social behavioral analysis, and facilitate the transformation of behavioral and social science research to computational applications and modeling (simulation, prediction, and analytics) using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Two scenarios (public response to disaster warnings/alerts, and political and electoral referenda of controversial social topics at state or national level) will be used to validate and improve a new communication theory regarding memes, or reproducible messages.

smart dashboard for flu outbreak

Integrated Stage-based Evacuation with Social Perception Analysis and Dynamic Population Estimation Leave geography site

The research will help emergency response agencies better understand public perceptions and needs during disaster events, and create more effective evacuation plans for local communities. This project will integrate multiple data sources—including social media, census survey, geographic information systems (GIS) data layers, volunteer suggestions, and remote sensing data—to develop an integrated wildfire evacuation decision support system (IWEDSS) for the County of San Diego as a demonstration prototype system. IWEDSS will consist of four core modules: dynamic population estimation, stage-based robust evacuation models, social perception analysis, and a web-based geospatial analytics platform. It will offer scientifically-based and data-driven analytic tools for evacuation planers, resource managers, and decision makers to support efficient and effective decision-making activities that can reduce the evacuation time and potential number of injuries and deaths. The research team will collaborate with staff from the Office of Emergency Services (OES) of San Diego County, the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross, and 2-1-1 San Diego to develop IWEDSS together.

transportation network heat map

An Experimental Study of Public Participation in Planning Decision Making Using Web-based Geographic Information System

Two participatory Geoweb methods: geo-questionnaire and geo-discussion were developed and applied in a number of local planning and decision-making cases in Poland. A geo-questionnaire is a web application comprised of an online questionnaire coupled with an interactive map that enables the collection of public preferences concerning plans and projects in the form of map object descriptions corresponding to real-world geographical features. A geo-discussion is a web application comprised of a structured discussion forum coupled with an interactive map, allowing annotation of the map with geometric objects (point, line, area) linked to discussion contributions. The project findings show that Geoweb applications scale public participation more effectively than traditional public meetings. The ability to attract a relatively large number of diverse participants contributed to the positive evaluation of participation outcomes by planners. The results of online participation have been reflected in the land use plan provisions and improved the transparency and access to planning documents. Participatory Geoweb methods such as geo-questionnaire and geo-discussion can be applied in a number of domains including land use planning, public health, hazard mitigation, and transportation improvement programming.

man marking up a map

Participatory Mapping of Human Coastal, Marine and Watershed Uses in the Pacific

Working with local natural resource managers and communities in Hawaii and American Samoa, we have generated maps of human uses and activities in priority sites for coral reef management. Using Participatory GIS and other methods, this information is intended to better inform local agencies and communities about the range of human interactions with natural resources in these areas, minimize conflict, and facilitate the development of natural resource management strategies that account for both ecological conditions, as well as human use and significance.



Fundamental concepts in geographic information systems, cartography, remote sensing, spatial statistics, and global positioning systems. Use of critical technologies in addressing human and environmental problems.

Procedures for encoding, storage, management, and display of spatial data; theory of computer-assisted map analysis; examination of important geographic information systems.

Theory and techniques in watershed analysis. Use of GIS and statistical programming for analyses of geomorphology, hydrology, and water quality data.

PostgreSQL, PostGIS, and open source databases to store, manage, and query geospatial data.

Current development of Internet mapping and cartographic skills for web-based maps (multimedia, animation, and interactive design). Fundamental theories of distributed GIS to support Internet mapping with focus on distributed component technologies, Internet map servers, and web services.

Spatial analysis methods in GIS, to include terrain, raster, and network analysis. Feature distributions and patterns. GIS data processing techniques to include spatial interpolation, geocoding, and dynamic segmentation. Designing and executing analytical procedures.

Integration of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with discrete and continuous multiple criteria decision making (MCDM) methods. Applications of MCDM in land use planning, site selection, and resource management spatial decision problems.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and location analysis methods to include modeling and spatial analysis. Applications of GIS and location analysis in business site selection, market segmentation, retail marketing, and service area analysis.

Big data science to include analysis, data collection, filtering, GIS, machine learning, processing, text analysis, and visualization. Computational platforms, skills, and tools for conducting big data analytics with real world case studies and examples.

Advanced special topics in geography. May be repeated with new content. See Class Schedule for specific content.

Spatial analytic techniques from image processing, remote sensing, geographic information systems, cartography or quantitative methods. May be repeated with new content. See Class Schedule for specific content.