Advanced Environmental Geomatics


Instructors: Rick Lathrop & David Tulloch




Given an open-ended problem, it is the course’s goal that students will be expected to:

This class will be taught in a practicum format with an emphasis on student-driven learning through practical hands-on individual and group projects. The class will rely on experiences and knowledge from a variety of backgrounds, sophisticated spatial technologies, and exploration of new ideas as means to advance students' understanding of applications and roles for geomatics. There will be some reading, some writing, some discussion, some thinking, some mapping and plenty of doing. The class will use GIS as a focus for technical and intellectual explorations of New Jersey's rapidly changing environment:

The overall topic is to examine issues related to human and natural response to projected changes in sea level rise along the New Jersey coast.  More concrete objectives are to:

              -Map past changes to New Jersey’s shorelines;

              -Assess recent trends in human land use change;

              -Map potential areas of future inundation;

              -Assess high hazard zones to both humans and natural habitats;

              -Develop place-based policy recommendations.

To meet these objectives, students, individually and in groups, will identify the issues to be studied, break into teams by issue, and produce inventory and analysis of each issue. The class will use various forms of information technology (e.g., geomatics and web technology) along with field studies and data collection to develop and communicate the resulting study. The class will culminate in a web-based product and a public presentation of the results to a larger audience of students, faculty and staff.

Class Structure

The class grades will be based on the following breakdown:
20% -- Advanced Arc 9 exercises – Viewshed Analysis, 3d landscapes, routing analysis, MAP Algebra, Model Builder
20% -- Individual papers/projects
20% -- Small Group projects
40% -- Application of Advanced skills and theory -- Projects

Over the course of the semester we anticipate a series of assignments, including:

Advanced exercises in ArcGIS 9. These labs will require individual work in advanced topics like modelbuilding, 3d analysis, and self-directed learning new skills.

Communication GIS Skills. As future GI Science leaders, you will soon be in a position where you are sharing your knowledge of new GIS techniques with others. Each student will explore one technique or skill and develop a tutorial project explaing the skill for novices.

Communicating Geographic Information. There will be multiple opportunites to produce map products for which the design and communication will be a significant crietion. One will be a major educational map product . Some will be part of other assignments. The quality should be sufficient that several can be considered for entry into the April NJ DEP's Annual State Mapping Contest.

Individual Papers. Each student will be required to produce a research paper or project that addresses a topic in Advanced Geomatics. These will be topics chosen in consultation with Dr. Lathrop and will be shared with the entire class.

Small Group Projects: Each project will be summed up with a short research paper that can be posted on the web (see previous year's individual papers which are currently online).

Group Project. The group project will evaluate different aspects of the North Avenue Corridor in Elizabeth, NJ. Using techniques taught in class, students will develop a conceptual and technical model describing this area and apply it to this very special landscape. An additional element may come in the communication of these results.

Class Expectations

I expect that the class will undertake a rigorous investigation of the issues surrounding the issues of sea level rise and its impact on humans and habitats of the New Jersey coast. As a tangible outcome of the course, I expect the class to produce a professional quality web-based report and public presentation. It is my hope that the class’s effort will have a real and tangible impact on land use planning and coastal zone management here in New Jersey.

I also expect that the students in the class will contribute not only to the course work, but also to the course itself. Specifically, students should participate actively in class discussions and decisions and provide guidance throughout the semester for the selection of speakers and topics.

I work under the HONOR System - the work should be your own.

You should be flexible so we can make the most of this unusual opportunity. You should come prepared to try new things, with an interest in the class, and a willingness to share your existing skills with the class. The expectations for advanced geomatics students is that they actually remember the geomatics skills that they have already been taught. And when the don't quite remember them, that they exhibit some personal initiative in relearning those old skills so we can focus in class on adding new skills.

Looking Back:

2009       Instructor: Rick Lathrop

The objective of the Spring 2009 class was to conduct a case study of the implications of sea level rise on Cape May, New Jersey. The students used advanced image analysis software to process recently collected LiDAR imagery of the Cape May region to extract detailed informaiton on coastal terrain elevations. The potential flooding under several different sea level rise (SLR) and storm surge scenarios were mapped. An analysis of human infrastructure and natural habitats affected by various SLR scenarios were undertaken. The projects ranged from impacts to salt marsh habitat, horseshoe crabs, migratory shorebirds, diamondback terrapin turtles, piping plovers, property value and tax revenue, human social vulnerability, critical facilties, and evacuation routes. This project was designed to demonstrate the application of various geospatial analytical approaches to aid placed based decision making. Results and reports can be viewed on the course website.

Special thanks go out to The American Society of Landscape Architects, New Jersey Chapter for providing the initial impetus for this project, as well as supplemental funding. The class also wants to gratefully acknowledge the GIS data and assistance provided by the Cape May County Planning Department and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

2008       Instructor: Rick Lathrop

The 2008 Advanced Geomatics class studied and quantified various aspects of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve, using many different GIS techniques. We developed a possible management plan for the Preserve, and presented our findings to Dean Goodman and the Rutgers Planning office. Our findings, maps, reports and GIS data are available on the course website.

Many different maps and forms of data output were created by the class throughout this project, as we studied many different aspects of the RUEP. This includes Forest Inventory data, Hydrology & Streams, Invasive Species, Bird Inventory, Historic Landcover, Forest Structure, Amphibian Life, Geology and Human Use. In addition to the many maps and reports, the class also created a pamphlet guide to the RUEP, full of interesting locations and information in the preserve.

2007   Instructor: David Tulloch

One of the highlights of the semester this year was the development of a new geospatial dataset of over 700 significant places in New Jersey's Revolutionary War history. The map they developed to display those data won three awards at the 20th Annual NJ DEP Map Contest.

2006       Instructor: David Tulloch

In 2006, the primary product was a GreenMap of Elizabeth, NJ and the Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed.

The Elizabeth GreenMap reflects on both the community of Elizabeth, NJ and the Eliabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed which shapes the region. Version 1.0 of the GreenMap has already received lots of attention. A great article in the Star-Ledger, 2 awards in the NJ DEP State Mapping Contest (Newbie of the Year, and 2nd in Most Unique) and a mention in the Congressional Record.

Version 1.0 Front
(Slow download- 49mb pdf)
Version 1.0 Back
Easy Download JPEG
Version 1.0 Front
Easy Download JPEG
Version 1.0 Back


As with any materials developed by students, these maps should not be used for navigational or legal purposes.

No two years are the same. In 2005, we explored the Intrinsic Values of the Landscapes of the NY/NJ Highlands. In 2003 the class evaluated the Green Infrastructure of the Cook-Douglass campuses. In 2002 the class explored the concept of Landscape Change. In 2001 we conducted an assessment of the New Jersey Highlands. You can still see many of the papers and maps from that class. Much more is available at CRSSA if you are interested. In 2000, we looked at the allocation of 1,000,000 acres of Open Space in New Jersey.