Resources for ESPM5295, GIS in Environmental Science and Management
Materials, Organized Chronologically          Link to Course Moodle Site

Changes for 2018: Remove GPS field collection in week 2, just provide points, and they do accuraccy assessment. Back to smaller study areas. Rain gardens to 0.5 m depth, and limit area. Verify sewer grates for you study areas. LiDAR just for canopy heights. Remove soil data download exercise. Spend more time on model builder, specific model for this exercise.  Contrast raster and vector solutions.  Have students do analysis first by hand, then by model builder.

Sept 4

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 1 - Introduction and Course Mechanics

Read and understand the Student Code of Conduct and Academic Integrity

Read the Semester Project Description, to get an idea of what we're heading for over the next 15 weeks, and look at the Rainfall Mitigation description and the Met. Council Summary for additional motivating information.

Before the end of class on Wednesday, sign up for one of the project areas on the St. Paul Campus (blank sign up sheet to be passed around during class period)

In Preparation for next Week's GNSS Exercise, visit the NGS Datasheet website, and download control sheet for 4 of the Larpenteur NGS point, A through D (PIDs PP3177 through PP3181)

Activate the MNGEO web mapping service (WMS) in ArcMap (see video "Using WMS" in the Resources column, to right), inspect the Campus project area you were assigned, and the NGS point locations along Larpenteur. The address for the WMS is, but you should read the general MNGEO WMS specification and site for a description of the images. We're in Ramsey County.

Pick one of the high-resolution image data sets, leaf off, and since the roads haven't substantially changed their alignments in decades, images from the early 2000s will be adequate.

Create a practice geodatabase in NAD83(CORS96) UTM Zone 15 coordinates. Add a feature class and digitize a polygon that defines the boundary of your chosen study area.  Use the images in the signup/handout as a guide for the approximate boundaries of your study area. Most boundaries consist of roads. Load an appropriate WMS image from the MNGeo site (see resources at right, and the Twin Cities, 2016 cir 7-county or similar images). Create a polygon that follows the bounding roads, including at least the middle of the road on the outside edge of your study area. Where it is a field edge or other non-road feature, follow the "natural" boundaries, e.g., fence line, ditch, or parking lot edges, giving yourself a few meters of outside leeway. Consult Paul or Andy if you have any questions on boundary location. Do this boundary carefully, you'll be using it later for much of the semester.

Create a map with an image background, your study area boundary, your name, a title, scale bar, and north arrow, and export as a pdf. Compress to a zip file (if you do not know how to do this, see "How to Zip/Unzip" in the Resource column to the right), and turn in as per instructions in the Deadlines column.

If you have questions after you've reviewed digitizing videos, and attempted a few times, ask Andy or Paul for help.

Generally, deadlines for the current week's work are described in this column  Turn in all assignments on the class Moodle site, unless specified otherwise. Some activities are due in the same week as assigned, but typically assignments are due a week after being introduced.

All assignments due on Moodle, unless specified otherwise

By end of Wednesday's class,  our first meeting, you must:
Sign up for a Study Area


Prior to class Next Monday, before the start of class, turn in your:

  1. Geodatabase with a feature class for  class for the study area boundary, and 
  2. Your pdf map of your digitized areas

Rules to follow when turning things in:

  • Unless otherwise specified, submit all data as .zip or similar compressed GDB or MDB files. 
  • Submit maps as pdfs
  • Include your initials at the start of your files, and a W# where # is the week at the end of the filename.  For example, I might name my map "pvb_practicemap_W1.pdf", my geodatabase "pvb_practice_data_W1.gdb" and my zip file "".

Failure to follow this naming convention for compressed and component files may result in a deduction.

Next Monday before class is a hard deadline, you should turn in what you have. This class moves at a fast pace, and you can't be neglecting new work.  Once the deadline has passed, you will receive a 50% deduction from your graded score, and after the next class meeting, zero points. Unless noted otherwise, this will be our policy for assignments. If you're traveling out of town for another committment, pre-clear tardy submissions.

Course files are on the L:\ drive accessible from the the computers in 35 Skok Hall, under the CFANS\LABS\ESPM5295 directory. In our instructions we'll refer to the subdirectory as CLD, for Course Lab Drive

Intro week slides

How to access lab files via VPN

How to Zip/Unzip

Using a WMS

 2017 Areas, assigned

NGS Control Point Data Sheets here

Video here, find "True" coordinates on NGS Data Sheets

Quick Guides for ArcGIS access at home:
1) Install Citrix & Class Shared Drive for ArcGIS via a browser

2) Video on Using VPN,Shared Network Drive and CFANS Citrix Desktop

3) Set up stand-alone ArcGIS on your home computer 

Review materials:

  • Intro digitizing videos, from FRNM3131

Sept 11

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 2 - GPS and NSSDA Accuracy Assessment

Our goal over this week and next is to assess the accuracy of our primary source image, a 2017 high resolution leaf-off image in the CLD\ESPM5295\CampusImages folder. This week we will learn to use the GNSS equipment (same as GPS, we use the terms GPS and GNSS interchangeably)  by collecting on some well-defined points along Larpenteur Avenue. Next week we will use the GNSS equipment to assess the accuracy of our base aerial images.

To verify that you can successfully use the GPS you should:

  • familiarize yourself with the GPS equipment (Andy will field demonstrate after lecture), 
  • collect and differentially correct test points on the Larpenteur NGS points, at least six repetitions of the Larpenteur points, including at least three different points. You can work in pairs on data collection, but you need to each do all parts of the work, do your own differential correction, accuracy calculations, and turn in your own spreadsheets and maps
  • create an NSSDA spreadsheet for your NGS test points, using the NGS coordinates as truth, and your GPS coordinates as test

The NSSDA spreadsheet and handbook are downloadable in the Resources column, on the far right. If you do not have all points collected and differentially corrected by the deadline, you're behind schedule, but turn in the points and the NSSDA spreadsheet with those points that you have.

Monday this week before class (10:40 a.m.), turn in:
PDF, MSWord, or text file of NGS point data sheets,
Geodatabase that includes your study area boundary

Next Monday, before class, turn in:

  1. ssf and cors files for NGS points on Larpenteur, zipped, and 
  2. NSSDA spreadsheet for the Larpenteur points

Accuracy Assessment Slides

NSSDA sheet here.

NSSDA handbook, here.

-Juno3 Setup
-Juno3 Data Collection
-Juno3 Differential

-JunoSB Setup
-JunoSB Data Collection
-JunoSB Differential

Image Coordinates:
Extracting XY from shapefile or feature class points (for NSSDA calculations)

Sept 18 

Assignments Deadline Resources
Week 3 - Assess Image Accuracy using GNSSAssignment Details Here

You often have access to orthographic aerial photographs across a range of resolutions and dates. Here we have available a series of high resolution (2 to 5 cm) aerial images captured with drones in 2015, 2016, 2017. We'll be assessing the horizontal positional accuracy of the 2017, leaf-off image. 

To assess the accuracy of the 2017 leaf off image, you should:

  • Identify 10 points in your study area that are well-defined and identifiable both on the image and in the field (as a layer in your geodatabase)
  • Collect GNSS (same as GPS) points and differentially correct coordinates for those points (import/include corrected points as a layer in your geodatabase)
  • Extract the coordinates from the image, most easily by digitizing, then calculating geometry for x and y coordinates
  • Create an NSSDA spreadsheet, using your GNSS data as truth, and the image coordinates as test data
  • Create a map showing the image and GNSS-cors layer points

Next Monday 10:40 a.m. before the start of classturn in: 

  1. a map of your GNSS Accuracy points in your study area, 

  2. an NSSDA spreadsheet as an Excel file, 

  3. point geodatabase, and GNSS ssf and cors file

The CLD\CampusImages  directory contains 2 to 5 cm resolution aerial photographs

Efficient GNSS Accuracy,
Calculating Offsets

Sept 25

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 4 - Database Template & Flowchart Exercise

We will meet this week and discuss a database template. You will be working as a group, integrating our data, but each of you will be responsible for a small project area. You may work in groups, but a group of 2 will cover two study areas, a group of three three study areas, etc.

As noted on the first day's discussion, and in the Problem Statement Document, we have two overarching questions to address this semester. Our task this week is to develop the "standard" geodatabase template that you all will use in developing data that allows us to answer these questions. We will then spend most of the next four weeks populating this geodatabase, stitching together our individual areas, and creating seamless layers for our entire study area.

From the problem specification, you'll see we need layers for at least landcover, canopy, buildings, elevation, stormsewer location, watersheds for each stormsewer, and flowpaths. We may need additional layers. We also need to enforce some topological rules for these layers. 

Together, or in small groups, develop a geobase specification. As noted in the exercise instructions, this includes a list of layers, topological constraints between layers, layer attributes and their names, and allowable values. It also includes details for the entire geodatabase such as the extent and coordinate system, the cell size for any raster data sets, and the attribute type, precision, and scale.

You'll each develop data layers for your study area using this specification. We'll then stitch these layers together for the entire study area, and do a combined analysis.

You should ask any questions and initiate any discussion during the Monday class meeting. We'll have an entire-class discussion and identify a geodatabase template, or model, and other steps for a designated subset of students to complete.

This Wed., before class:
turn in your individual sample database, and an MSWord or RTF listing layers, attributes, and types, as per the exercise instructions.

Next Wednesday, before class:
Turn in your turn in your flowchart of proposed analysis

Weekly Slides

Storm Sewer Catch Basins and Lines 
Storm sewer file for download here

Note that the sewer grate inlets are in the point data file named Catch Basins.

There are several types of features in the point file. The item MN_TYPE in the table notes Catch Basins, with a value of CB. You can ignore all the features with something different than a CB value for MH_TYPE. However, some of the CB points are NOT below sewer grates, so you'll have to eliminate some. In addition, some new grates will have been added, and some will have been moved, so you'll have to verify each grate in the field as an exercise in a couple of weeks.

Notes on Topology

Using to create a flowchart of your workflow

Finding Tools in ArcMap:
-Search for Tools

Oct 2

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 5: Finalize Data Template, Initiate Data Development

Monday, in class, discuss and finalize the geodatabase template. Begin digitizing data in individual project areas. Review the digitizing and topology creation tools, using resources at right and/or from previous courses.  

Begin digitizing - you should start with, your tree canopy data layer.  Digitize at least 20 individual trees/crowns, including both conifers and broadleaved species (if you have both).  

Also digitize at least 10 buildings into a buildings layer, including both pitched and flat roof buildings if you have them, as we will use both of these in our field data verification section, next week.

If you have time, you would be well-advised to make substantial progress on both the building and tree polygon data layers, because we'll be using most of the data in the following two weeks.

This Wednesday, before class starts, turn in:
Your final geodatabase template, with all your layers, attributes, and topology rules specified. Turn these in as a zipped geodatabase.

Next Monday, before class, turn in:

  1. Your digitized tree and building data layers, as a geodatabase, with features, and
  2. a pdf map depicting both sets of features, with your study area boundary and background image.

Editing admonition

-Digitizing Refresher,
-Editing tips
-Cut & Split Polygons

-Topology concepts
-Create topology,
-Applying topology, identifying topological errors
-Correcting errors example 1, 
-Fixing topological errors example 2

Oct 9

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 6 -  Field Verification Exercise

Modern GIS data collection includes electronic verification and logging. This week you'll use electronic forms and verify/attribute data. We'll take our database into the field, and verify the surface type and canopy type layers. 

Complete the Field Verification Exercise  - verify two layers, buildings and tree canopies

Next Monday, before class, turn in:

  1. Your verified data layers, as a geodatabase, and
  2. two maps, one each of the verified and labeled points and the underlying polygons (e.g., building outlines, and the verified points, symbolized to show verification status).

Weekly Slides

Field Validation Exercise

Oct 16

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 7 - Introduction to LiDAR Exercise

LiDAR reclassification and height calculation for your project area. You'll download data from a DNR website for your study area, and process it to extract building and tree heights.  You're advised to use batch processing, or if you know how, use model builder, to ease the workflow.

Also pay attention to the recommendation about working with your data on a local drive, or you might have long processing times.

Instead of turning in your data files via Moodle (they may be too large),  copy your processed .las files and your final geodatabase layers to the class drive.

Create a subdirectory named with your initials or name. Create two subdirectories within that, one named trees, the other buildings, and copy a geodatabase with your final point files that has the ground heights, feature heights, and calculated heights, and your polygon features with heights. You should have these point and polygon layers for both your buildings and tree canopy. 

Observe our naming conventions, that is, include your initials and the week in the geodatabase name.

Next Monday, before class, turn in:

  1. A map of your buildings, with the LiDAR height of each as a label
  2. A map of your trees, with the LiDAR height of each as a label
  3. Also copy your LiDAR data to the 5295share directory, on the class L drive, as noted in the instructions to the left.

    Stick to our naming conventions, that is, include the week and your initials in the geodatabase name.

Week's slides


Oct 23

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 8 - Soil Data Download/Development 
Soils data download exercise 

Download and condition soil data to reflect surface permeability

Slides for soil data download

As with last week, copy your incremental geodatabase to the class L drive, in the subdirectory with your name.

If you get done early, or have extra time, you might want to start on the hydrologic processing, for next week.

Before class on Monday, next week, turn in:

  1. A map of the soils data, categorized/labeled/colored by maximum rainfall absorption, and
  2. Copy your geodatabase to the class L Drive

Oct 30

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 9: Hydrologic Processing

Project work day on Monday, Instructor discussion with 4295 students on overall project. 

You will condition your DEM and calculate flow direction, flow accumulation, pourpoints, and watersheds.

This was covered in FNRM3131/5131, taken by most folks in this course, so we won't provide specific instructions. There are several videos and  files in the resources column at right that cover the steps, one an excerpt from the FNRM3131/5131 lab on this, and the other two reports from past student technical assignments, in which they described processing steps.

You will want to run the SINK function in the ArcToolbox->Spatial Analyst->Hydrology tools in ArcMap, shown in the videos, but not covered extensively in the written documents.

As with the LiDAR and soils data, copy the final geodatabase to the class L drive, in the 5295share directory, in the subdirectory you created with your name.  You will make sure the gdb contains your watershed layers, including the filled DEM, sinks, flow direction, flow accumulation, pourpoint, and watersheds (all rasters), your starting grate locations, pourpoint grate locations as vectors, flowpath vectors, and watersheds as polygons.

Before class next Monday, turn in:

  1. Turn in via Moodle your watershed map, with the image background, study area boundary, and the usual other map elements 
  2. Copy your geodatabase with watersheds to the class L drive, in your named subdiretory.

Monday Slides 

Make your analysis easier: Add a custom toolbox in ArcMap

Watershed videos:
1) DEM fill, sinks, flow direction, flow accumulation

2) Snap pour points (grates), Watersheds

PDF guides:
Excerpt from Hydro Processing lab in 3131/5131

Nov 6

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 10: 

Batch File and Model Builder Automation
Monday: Discussion of automating tasks, and processing point clouds to identify canopy from various sources

Batch file description (again), and ModelBuilder description and assignment

Wednesday: discussion of databases layers (undergrads), analysis and flowcharts (both undergrads and graduate students)

Project data output requirements

Turn in by next Monday, before class:

  1. Turn in your completed geodatabase for your study area. Because your geodatabases may be too large to submit to Moodle, you should put it in the class L drive, in the 5295Share\Z_FinalData\yourname subdirectory
  2. Also turn in your Modelbuilder file, and sample data geodatabase to test model runs. This doesn't have to be your completed geodatabase, you may subset it as needed. If it works on your completed geodatabase, you can copy the geodatabase to the class drive (as instructed above), and turn in just your modelbuilder file, and note when you turn it in that you've done this.

Batch Processing:
-Sample Wetlands data
 Batch File

Model Builder:
-Quick Tour
-Arc Tutorial Using Models
-Arc Tutorial Creating Models

Final Project Resources:

-Problem definition slides

-Example flowchart

-Flowchart description

Nov 13

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 11: Stitch data together and/or Project work

Database compilation, begin stitching tiles after everyone turns in their data, and begin analysis in earnest. Re-read the project description provided in the first week.

Next Monday, before class, turn in the complete geodatabase, stitched together

Because your geodatabases may be too large to submit to Moodle, you should put it in the class L drive, in the 5295Share\Z_FinalData\yourname subdirectory


Nov 20

Assignments Deadline Resources
Week 12: Project work Next Wednesday, before class, turn in map and combined, campus-wide geodatabase  

Nov 27

Assignments Deadline Resources

Week 13: Project work

Note that as you transition to the data layer modifications to reduce runoff, you MUCH EACH DO YOUR OWN WORK AND ANALYSIS.  I WON'T ACCEPT IDENTICAL MODIFICATION LAYERS from two different students. You'll both get incompletes, and I'll require you to do the work independently before assigning a grade.


By this Wednesday, by 2:30, turn in analysis results for condition as-is, for at least one rainfall amount (e.g., 1 inch).

These should include

  1. a map with a points data layer for each grate, and an attached table with the flow volumes for each storm level in the table, and
  2. a copy of your geodatabase on the class share drive
Note that you will most likely find it easiest to calculate a runoff "credit" for each of your rain gardens/surface infiltration areas, and your underground storage features.  For rain gardens this credit is equal to the area area in square meters, times 1.5 (maximum depth of rain garden, in meters), to calculate storage cubic meters of water. Your sum for the containing watershed should be reduced by this amount for each rain garden.  An underground storage feature is simply a point placed on a flowpath as near the outlet pourpoint as feasible, with an assigned maximum storage volume. 

Also note that the rain garden must be located on or near a flowpath, and downslope from a runoff generating area (impervious, building, saturated soil) in your watershed.

Dec 4

Assignments Deadline Resources
Week 14: Project work  

Dec 11

Assignments Deadline Resources
Week 15: Project work, develop short report of analysis results, recommendations    

Dec 18

Assignments Deadline Resources

Finals Week: No class final; all assignments due by Wednesday, December 21, 1:30 pm

You should turn in three final geodatabases:

1) A geodatabase with the word "Current" in the name that contains data used for calculating your "current condition" runoff for all required rainfall amounts. These are the base final data, as provided, with any modifications to the main data layers.  The geodatabase should also include your final "surplus water" layer, that is, the layer that you summed by watershed to get the total runoff volume for the study areas. 

2) A geodatabase with the storm amount in the name, e.g., "1/4inch",  "1inch" etc., that includes the modified layers used to obtain your corresponding mitigation of runoff. You should include both the original and modified layers for a given storm level only, e.g., the original canopy layer and the canopy layer with added trees for a 1" storm, and NOT the canopy layers for any other storm level.  If you did not need to modify a layer to reach the 1" threshold (e.g., no green roofs required for buildings), then just include the original layer (e.g., the original buildings).

You could potentially include any of the modified/new layers from: a) canopy, b) rain gardens/surface storage, c)perviousness, d) buildings (with green roofs attributed), e) subsurface storage entry points.

Your final report should include the information a brief description of the goals and study areas, and focus on where the primary runoff generation areas were, and a description/discussion of the changes for reducing runoff to zero under the different rainfall amounts. This should include appropriate maps/figures.

Note that your report can be as a PDF, a website, or other media or formats agreed upon individually with the instructor.


Wednesday Dec 21