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Applied GIS for Physical Geographers

Module titleApplied GIS for Physical Geographers
Module codeGEO2320
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Damien Mansell (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Mapping has undergone a geospatial revolution in recent years through the development of sophisticated Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and online web mapping tools. In this module you will develop understanding of theoretical and practical skills required to capture, store, manage, manipulate, analyse and present a range of geographically referenced data in a GIS environment. These skills are important across all sectors in business, government, and science. Through a series of research projects, this module provides training in industry-standard software packages for spatial data analysis, thereby enhancing future employability of the student. Underpinning theory and core concepts in cartography and spatial thinking is explained in the lecture theatre and then applied to real physical geography data in the computer lab and field. Learning is facilitated through use of bespoke materials written by the module convenors and continuous feedback on progress is provided.

You must pass this module in order to take GEO2321 Introduction to Remote Sensing. If you have already taken GEO2313 Spatial Skills for Physical Geographers you cannot take this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The overall aims of this module are:

  • to enhance capacity for research;
  • to increase understanding of spatial data collection and analysis;
  • to develop specific skills in the use of sophisticated software (ArcGIS) used both in Geographical research and also widely throughout the public and private sectors.

Learning takes place through a series of research projects. Through these, you will develop a good understanding of the opportunities and constraints on the implementation of these analytical tools. You are encouraged to quantitatively evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these research methods and spatial data within the particular context of selected geographical phenomena. You also develop analytical and report writing skills that are in high demand beyond the university and the discipline. Hence, this module will help you to develop and extend your awareness of the importance of taught and learnt skills in strengthening your employability potential.

The delivery of this module is through supported research-led learning. Guidance is delivered on how to download your own mapping layers, collect field data and perform spatial analysis. The techniques taught include those that are used in research undertaken by module staff such as hydrology mapping (Aalto), retreat and spatial analysis (Mansell) and topographic analysis (Palmer).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Summarise the principles of Geographical Information Systems
  • 2. Use the ESRI ArcGIS Geographical Information System in a technically competent manner
  • 3. Implement, assess and interpret simple geographical models
  • 4. Describe the range of spatial data sources available for characterising geographical systems and analyse any such data

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Identify a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 6. Evaluate a diverse range of specialised techniques and approaches involved in collecting geographical information
  • 7. Describe, apply and evaluate the diversity of specialised techniques and approaches involved in analysing geographical information
  • 8. Discuss the nature of change within physical environments

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Formulate and evaluate questions and identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving
  • 10. Identify, acquire, evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources
  • 11. Use Communication and Information Technology effectively and appropriately to select, analyse and present information
  • 12. Interpret and use numerical statistical information effectively and appropriately
  • 13. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 14. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written means and through oral communication
  • 15. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 16. Develop good practice in data file management

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Introduction to GIS

  • Develop good practice in data file management and keeping records of your data files, techniques, concepts and understanding
  • Scientific report: Assessing historic river channel change with ArcGIS and fieldwork
  • Mapping project: Topographic analysis of geomorphology, canyons and rivers with ArcGIS

Within these projects the following topics will be covered:

  • Investigating environmental change with GIS and field data
  • Data and spatial analysis in geography
  • GPS surveys and analysis of spatial change with vector data
  • Image georeferencing and analysis using ArcGIS
  • DGPS surveys and analysis of spatial change with vector data
  • GIS representation of channel morphology, networks, river basins and change
  • Digital elevation models and analysis
  • GIS in your future: study, research, and employment

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching9Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Scheduled practicals and experiments, supervised
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5.5Field classes
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Group seminars and discussions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Virtual contact through online learning and forum discussions
Guided Independent Study20Priority access session
Guided Independent Study31.5Computer work in support of practicals and project work
Guided Independent Study30Reading and research, online
Guided Independent Study30Reading and research, library


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Journal recording work undertaken during computer practicals and fieldwork.Specified page limits as outlined in the practical hand-outs16Oral
Online ELE quizELE based quiz of multiple choice, multiple answer and short answer questions. All instructions and assessment lengths are embedded within each question.1, 3-7, 10-12, 14Embedded online automatic feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Scientific report (practical output image analysis, maps and accompanying text; specified limits as outlined in the practical hand-outs)501500 wordsAllWritten and oral
Mapping exercise (map outputs from practicals and short accompanying text) 401000 wordsAllWritten and oral
Online ELE-based quiz of multiple choice, multiple answer and short answer questions. All instructions and assessment lengths are embedded within each question.1030 minutes1, 3-7, 10-12, 14Online automated feedback


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Scientific reportScientific reportAllJuly/August ref/def
Mapping exerciseMapping exerciseAllJuly/August ref/def
Online ELE quizOnline ELE quiz1, 3-7, 10-12, 14July/August ref/def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. Where you have been referred in the scientific report or mapping exercise, you will be required to submit a new scientific report and mapping exercise which investigates a new dataset in each case. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Spatial data, GIS, image analysis, practical reports, rivers and environment, remote sensing, geographical information, systems

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date