Geospatial Modeling and Analysis

Course logistics

For the general introduction to the course, see Introduction to the Course.


Install GRASS GIS and ArcGIS Pro software following the instructions bellow. Note that ArcGIS is available to students through the university. GRASS GIS is available to anybody and you can continue using it on your computer after you graduate.


  • Free and open source package GRASS GIS (official website)
  • Microsoft Windows:
  • macOS:
    • Download GRASS GIS 7.8.6 binaries from GRASS GIS for Mac website and follow their instructions about running it from /Applications folder and about first time opening GRASS.
  • Linux:
  • Online:
    • For NCSU students, GRASS GIS is available in NCSU VCL OSGeo Live and ArcGIS Desktop/Pro environments (both contain also QGIS). The recommended image for the class is ArcGIS Pro 2.2, although it contains a slightly outdated version of GRASS GIS.
    • GRASS GIS is also available online in rollApp (QGIS is available too).
      • Premium account is required in order to fully use GRASS GIS (saving of data is needed).
      • Currently, only older 7.4.2 release is available.
  • use available resources to learn about GRASS GIS



Data are provided at three hierarchical levels:
  • entire NC state with raster data at 500m resolution: region nc_500m
  • South-west Wake County with raster data at resolutions 30m-10m: region swwake_10m
  • small watershed in rural area with data resolutions of 1m-3m: rural_1m
  • See more at GRASSbook datasets description


  • Sample GRASS GIS location, you have 3 options how to get it:
    • See the instructions below to make sure you have grassdata directory. Start GRASS GIS. In the Startup window, under the Location section, press Download, select Complete NC location, press Download, close when finished.
    • Download and unzip nc_spm_08_grass7. See the instructions below.
    • The same dataset is provided during installation of GRASS GIS on MS Windows under the name North_Carolina.

  • Sample ArcGIS Pro geodatabase


  • Create folders for your GIS data in a directory where you have permissions to write, for example:
    • MS Windows: C:\Users\myname\Documents\grassdata and C:\Users\myname\Documents\arcdata
    • Mac OS or Linux: ideally in your home directory, e.g. /home/myname/Documents/grassdata
  • After downloading, unpack the datasets and copy GRASS GIS location into grassdata and ArcGIS geodatabase into arcdata
  • Important: make sure that your unpacking software does not create additional directory with the same name, e.g. on MS Windows you typically get nc_spm_08_grass7\nc_spm_08_grass7, the instructions assume that you deal with this after unpacking)
Optional data sets for optional tasks in the assignments or for a project: You can find additional data for your project in this list of data providers.


In the assignments you will be performing similar geospatial analyses in two different software packages - GRASS GIS and ArcGIS Pro. Both GRASS GIS and ArcGIS Pro solutions are required, described in a single paper (more details see below). Step-by-step instructions are provided, but it is your task to explain what is being done in terms of methods and results, based on the lectures, manual pages and other on-line resources.


  • For each topic (as indicated in the schedule) you will submit a brief paper with min. 800 word text and 2 or more pages of graphics
  • Required paper sections:
    1. Introduction: task, problem, background, importance, motivation
    2. Methods: general description of methods and concepts, do not repeat instructions and do not discuss software issues here - this section should be software independent, common for both ArcGIS and GRASS GIS and equations for methods should be included where appropriate. In this section you should demonstrate that for the given step-by-step instructions your were able to explain what methods are being used to solve the given problem
    3. Results: images, maps, graphs, tables with comments, focus on what is interesting in the data and the derived maps, how does the method used influence the results. Include answers to questions in this section.
    4. Discussion: was there anything unexpected or problematic in the results? Were there any issues related to the methdology? Also discuss the software issues, including fixes and suggestions for improvements here.
    5. Conclusion: 1-2 sentences what you have learned
    6. References where appropriate
  • Please read detailed Report guide created specifically for this class.
  • Sample paper formatting for MS Word (DOCX), LibreOffice (ODT) (view online in rollApp), and LaTeX (open online in Overleaf; register using NCSU email). Do not use the text from this example, it is for formatting only!
  • Note that the submitted report should be in PDF, use naming convention LastnameFirstname_HW#.pdf.
  • You can find some helpful hints from past semesters in Comments/answers to HW questions.
  • Upload your assignment papers on Moodle site according to the instructions below.
  • Although the HW papers are short they should be in a writing style suitable for scientific publications. You can learn more about scientific publishing in Elsevier instructions. Please also read the first 10 pages on Publishing process which explains a structure of a scientific paper.


To manage your HW reports and project material we will use Moodle. Upload your HW report as PDF file LastnameFirstname_HW#.pdf (for example SmithJohn_HW3.pdf) on Moodle site by 11pm on the due date.

You will also use Moodle to post your project proposal, interim report, presentation and a final paper as well as any additional material that you would like to share (videos, demos, data, google maps).


See Projects page.

Grading and Policies

See Syllabus web page.

Don’t cheat (e.g. use other person’s results), but you are encouraged to collaborate and help each other with advice, for example, through the message board.