Geospatial Research, Education and Outreach Efforts at the University of Minnesota

By McMaster, Susanna; Edsall, Rob et al. | Cartography and Geographic Information Science, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Geospatial Research, Education and Outreach Efforts at the University of Minnesota


McMaster, Susanna, Edsall, Rob, Manson, Steven, Cartography and Geographic Information Science


The University of Minnesota has had a strong history and tradition in the field of geospatial (or geographic information) science and cartography The University is one of seven founding members of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science and home to key departments, to geospatial research and education centers and programs, as well as to myriad resources found in libraries and laboratory facilities on campus.

As an early pioneer institution in GIS, the University of Minnesota has a longstanding interest in research and education in geospatial science. The University of Minnesota helped create, in the 1960s, one of the first Geographic Information Systems, the Minnesota Land Management Information System, and in the 1990s, a leading open source web-mapping application, MapServer. Such collaboration has made the State of Minnesota very recognized for its progressive implementation of GIS in local, county and state government, in programs and agencies such as MetroGIS, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Minnesota Department of Transportation. Presently, over ninety faculty at the U of M engage in geospatial science or cognate fields via research, teaching, or outreach.

We offer over seventy courses in GIS or related topics that contribute to two undergraduate, three masters, and three doctoral programs including the professional Masters in GIS (MGIS) degree program, the first of its kind in the United States. Both the undergraduate interdisciplinary minor and MGIS program have a multidisciplinary focus that involves the collaboration of various departments and colleges across the campus. The undergraduate interdisciplinary minor was developed based on collaboration amongst four colleges on campus including the College of Liberal Arts, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Science, College of Science and Engineering, and College of Design. We also conduct research on U.S. academic cartography and professional GIS education as well as general aspects of GIS education. For example, GeoWall, a tool for 3-D visualization, is being used to incorporate technology-enhanced learning into the geography curriculum.

The University has many internationally known GIS research centers, including the Center of Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), the National Historical GIS, the Spatial Databases and Data Mining Research Group, and Environmental Resources Spatial Analysis Center (ERSAC). CURA also supports important GIS and cartography-related outreach with the local community through the University Neighborhood Network, a system designed to match up University resources with local community development projects. The Minnesota Population Center's National Historical GIS supports social science research and also provides GIS and cartographic training and services. The Spatial Databases and Data Mining Research Group, associated with the Computer Science department, focuses its research on the storage, management and analysis of scientific and geographic data, information and knowledge including application areas in transportation, virtual

environments, Earth science, epidemiology, and cartography. ERSAC features about 20 faculty and 50 graduate students from eight departments and five colleges with common research interests in the geospatial analysis of natural resources and the environment.

The University's Geospatial Science page provides additional details about GIS and cartography related activities on the University of Minnesota campus: http://geospatial.umn. edu/index.htm.

Other key resources can be found within the University's library system and laboratory facilities. The University Library system includes geospatial resources (both current and historical) at the John Borchert Map Library (including the publically-accessible Automated Cartographic Information Center), the James Ford Bell Library with its recent acquisition of the Ricci Map, and the Forest Resources library that houses an extensive collection of remote sensing related materials. …

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