Geospatial Computing and Simulations

Geospatial Computing and Simulations

Course description

This course focuses on theoretical concepts and computational methods that describe, represent and simulate the functioning of real-world processes. We define the general properties of geospatial computation and explain the role of simulations in analysis and understanding of observed phenomena, testing of hypotheses and theories, and prediction of spatio-temporal systems behavior. We discuss the current methods and techniques for simulations using deterministic, stochastic and rule-based models as well as agent-based simulation of complex systems. Hands-on component of the course will cover implementation of simulations in GIS and advanced applications driven by the student’s research. Open science tools will be used for assignments. Prior programming experience is expected.


Professor Helena Mitasova

Office hours: by appointment
Office: 2127 Jordan Hall


GIS/MEA582 or equivalent, demonstrated programming experience

Educational approach

This course consists of lectures, readings, hands-on exercises, homework assignments, and a major project. Each week there is a lecture related to the foundations of geospatial computation and simulations theory, methods, techniques, and research challenges followed by a discussion. The material presented in the lecture is then explored through hands-on exercises using the technologies within the College of Natural Resource’s Geovisualization Laboratory and homework assignments. The important component of the course is a project aligned with the student’s graduate work focused on designing and implementing working geospatial simulation tool.

Participation: Students are required to identify one new or emerging geospatial simulation technique and prepare a short presentation for the class, possibly including existing interactive web application. This portion of the course encourages free exploration of, and creative thinking about, the vast array of emerging technologies that can be beneficial for student’s research.

Bi-Weekly Assignments: There are several assignments developed based on the required reading and the hands-on exercises. The assignments require independent work including data processing, visualization, and scientific writing, beyond what is covered in the lecture portion of the course.

Project: Throughout the semester, the students develop a geospatial computation or simulation tool using state of the art techniques relevant for their scientific domain. The development will be performed incrementally over the course of the semester. First, students will identify a research question that requires geocomputing or simulation of geospatial process or phenomena and exploration of system behavior under a selected set of conditions. Second, students will be required to develop a methodological workflow and identify the appropriate programming tools for implementation. Finally, the project culminates with a research presentation delivered to the rest of the class at the end of the semester and a short research paper written to the standards of a peer reviewed publication. Documentation of the simulation tool and a live demonstration will be required. The final design will be judged on methodological rigor, creativity, and presentation.


No required textbook, on-line material is used with links to the resources listed for each topic. The following titles are recommended for some topics:


See Course logistics web page.

Grading policy

20% class participation, 40% homeworks, 40% project (5% proposal, 5% progress talk, 5% final talk, 25% paper)
100% is the maximum number of points (total+extra credits) achieved in class. Points are taken off for late submissions.
Grade  Course, paper, and each homework
A+       97-100
A        93-97
A-       90-93
B+       87-90
B        83-87
B-       80-83
C+       77-80
C        73-77


See Schedule web page.

Academic integrity
Overview, Code of Student Conduct
Attendance policy
Attendance is checked at each class, see also attendance regulations and university definitions of excused absences
Accommodation of students with disabilities
Disability Services Office