Geospatial Modeling and Analysis

Course logistics

Course web site and Moodle

  • Distance Education material is organized under Schedule
  • Grades are posted on Moodle
  • Get help by posting on the Moodle forum


  • Focus of lectures is on principles, theory, concepts, methods and lectures are mostly software independent.
  • Slides and screen captures with audio are available at the lectures page.
  • Reading references and links to on-line material are included on the lectures page.


Install GRASS GIS and ArcGIS 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)
  • MS Windows 7+:
    • use the stand-alone installer package GRASS GIS 7.2.2 (stable), choose 32bit or 64bit depending on your computer. Alternatively, if you are a more advanced user, you can explore other available versions at the same page, for example daily builds of the development version which contains the most recent features.
    • If you have some problems see Troubleshooting GRASS on Windows wiki page
    • You may need to install IrfanView to view TIFF images saved by the 3D visualization module. Alternatively, you can just take screenshots of the 3D visualization.
  • Mac OS 10.7+:
    • If you have 10.11+, then use Homebrew tap from OSGeo. In terminal, execute:
      brew tap osgeo/osgeo4mac
      brew install numpy
      brew install liblas --build-from-source
      brew install grass7 --with-liblas
    • If you have older system or have SIP disabled, you can download and install required frameworks and GRASS GIS (start with the frameworks and then install GRASS GIS, download the one from June 13th.
  • Linux:
  • For NCSU students, GRASS GIS is available in NCSU VCL OSGeo Live and ArcGIS Desktop environments (both contain also QGIS).
  • GRASS GIS is also available online in rollApp with Premium account (QGIS is also available).
  • use available resources to learn about GRASS GIS


  • Proprietary package ArcGIS version 10.2 or higher:
  • use ESRI virtual campus, available at NCSU, to learn the software
  • use help pages to understand modules and their options


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



  • 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. Both GRASS GIS and ArcGIS 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: 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. Post 4-6 images per page.
    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
  • Sample paper formatting for MS Word (DOCX), LibreOffice (ODT) (view online in rollApp), and LaTeX (open online in Overleaf). 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.
  • For additional suggestions, please read detailed Report guide created specifically for this class.


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.