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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Geographic Information Science Laboratories

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Geographic Information Science Laboratories at Minnesota State Mankato

The Department of Geography at Minnesota State University, Mankato is home to two computer laboratory facilities devoted to Geographic Information Science (GISc) with emphasis on geospatial and locational analyses and modeling through research and teaching in GIS (geographic information systems), satellite remote sensing, GPS (global positioning systems), aerial photo interpretation, topographic map interpretation, historic map analysis, geospatial statistics, and cartography.

The Department and its faculty offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Geography as well as undergraduate and graduate Certificates in GISc. The MSU GISc program is unique in the State of Minnesota in that it offers training and research opportunities in GIS, remote sensing, GPS mapping, spatial statistics and cartography 'under one roof' in the Department of Geography.

Server support includes 10 TB (Terabytes) of dedicated memory on the university SAN (storage area network) with all lab, faculty and student workstations uplinked at GbE speed (Gigabit Ethernet or Gigabit per second), fully an order of magnitude faster than standard "fast Ethernet." All workstations are replaced every two years so that students and faculty remain at the cutting edge of research, modeling and teaching and learning capabilities and to keep up with ever advancing software.

One lab is PC-based with 28 workstations; software in the lab and at faculty and graduate student workstations includes:

  • ESRI's ArcGIS 10.x, including all extensions for GIS vector and raster analyses;
  • ERDAS IMAGINE 10.X for processing, analyzing and visualizing remotely sensed data;
  • ENVI 4.x remote sensing software for analyzing Hyperspectral and LiDAR data;
  • IDRISI-Taiga, a raster-based GIS and image processing software;
  • GeoSharpen™ and GeoReg™ from Space Computer Corporation to process, georeference and detect feature changes in Hyperspectral imagery.
  • ArcPad and Trimble® Mapping for mobile mapping and GPS applications;
  • SPSS for statistical analyses;
  • Adobe Creative Suite 5.x for cartographic work; and
  • MS Office.

The second lab is Apple Macintosh-based with 14 workstations that can run Windows or Mac operating systems. The Windows side has the same software as the PC-based lab, the Macintosh side includes:

  • GRASS-GIS 6.x (an open source vector and raster software package in use by some Federal agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers);
  • Adobe Creative Suite 5.x for cartographic instruction and design; and
  • MS Office for Mac.

GPS equipment includes over two dozen handheld differential units (DGPS) running ArcPad, Trimble® Mapping and Windows Mobile® software. The Department also owns two handheld Hyperspectral sensors used in research and teaching to calibrate airborne and space-borne imagery.

Several sets of introductory through advanced courses are offered regularly in the labs including: cartography, GIS, remote sensing, spatial statistics, historical mapping, and environmental hazards mapping. These courses provide undergraduate and graduate training in preparation for work using geospatial technologies in all fields.

Students and faculty in Archeology/Anthropology, Biology/Ecology, Earth Science/Geology, Recreation & Parks, Civil Engineering, Construction Management, Marketing as well as Geography utilize the facilities and equipment. Students are encouraged to participate in project-based learning as it provides real-world hands-on opportunities to expand skills. Projects are often brought to students in the form of a specialized course on a specific topic. Recent topics include: mapping and modeling of historical environmental hazards in the Mankato area using original survey plats, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, aerial photos from the 1930's to the present, remote sensing imagery and GIS; identifying sediment sources and modeling their rates of movement in the polluted Minnesota River using Hyperspectral imagery, LiDAR imagery, soils mapping and GIS; and spatial analyses of Paleo-Indian mounds at the Red Wing Locality, Minnesota-Wisconsin using historical maps and plats, aerial photography, remote sensing imagery and GIS.