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Advanced Geographic Information Systems




Admissions requirements

Geographic Information Systems (200-level)


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an integrating framework that utilizes spatial data to characterize and analyze past, present, and future patterns and behaviors of a range of environmental and social phenomena. GIS is a powerful analytical tool utilized across many disciplinary and multidisciplinary scientific fields, such as sustainability, environmental modeling, planning, political science, public health, and international development. Some common applications of GIS include, for example, predicting ecosystem change caused by climate change, land degradation caused by land cover change, modelling the spread of infectious diseases in relation to environmental and sociological indices, or examining the impact of flooding on different socioeconomic classes. All of these applications utilize spatial information (locational data) as a basis for analyses, which are then further characterized by various qualifying indices (attribute data).

As A-GIS assumes a solid knowledge of GIS (200-level course), the focus of A-GIS is primarily the manipulation and analyses (‘sub-system’) of GIS. The course adapts both a conceptual and applied approach. Most of the class will focus on raster analyses and modeling, which is then integrated with appropriate vector based analyses. Formally the class is based around three labs and a final project, each of which serve as a single coherent topic. Each lab includes a range of analytical and technical GIS related skills, which progressively increase in sophistication and are inherently cumulative. Specific spatial data types and analytical procedures will be presented via the interface of ESRI ArcGIS and other appropriate software. Students are expected to work independently and with a partner. And as A-GIS is a ‘methods’ course for three LUC BSc majors (EES, GPH, GED) the focus is on technical procedures, which are reviewed with various ad-hoc examples (e.g., environmental, health, political…). It is expected, therefore, that students provide an appropriate thematic context for each respective lab and final project that is solidly based within their major.

Course objectives


  • Develop, manage, and carry out a scientifically sound GIS project,

  • Acquire skills and knowledge on the selection, integration, spatial analysis/modeling and visualization/communication of spatial information using GIS and spatial analytical methods,

  • Effectively demonstrate scientific writing related to a spatial topic within the students BSc major.


  • Learn to identify and translate a spatial research question into a GIS modeling problem and solution,

  • Recognize and critically evaluate specific spatial issues in GIScience related to research,


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The typical weekly format is a class lecture on Tuesday that emphasizes concepts, whereas Thursdays will be spent on practical applications and laboratory assignments. Students are encouraged to attend lab hours with the student assistant in the Digital Lab and/or other times in the Wijnhaven lab.


  • Three Labs (technical, scientific writing, production): lab 1 (10%), lab 2 (15%), lab 3 (17.5%): 42.5%

  • Final Project (as above, and presentation and project design): 22.5%

  • Software quiz (practical): 10%

  • Final exam (practical and conceptual): 17.5%

  • Class participation (e.g., discussion, weekly demonstrations): 7.5%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Required text:

  • Zhu, X. 2016. GIS for Environmental Applications: A Practical Approach. Routledge, New York, NY. (selected chapter sections)

Additional readings and articles to be distributed via BB.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Paul F. Hudson


It is not possible to do well in this course without spending considerable time outside of class working with ArcGIS on the computer. Thus, the course includes a weekly lab session in Wijnhaven and/or LUC’s Digital Lab with support from a student assistant.

Each student will have a personal folder on the Leiden network under their student i.d.# to be used for data storage and related class work (read and write permission), and will also have access to a general course folder to obtain data (read permission) for labs and assignments. The directory structure is: \vuw\public\Workgroups\FGGA\LUC-ArcGIS_Course.

All enrolled students are provided a free digital (online) license key about one week prior to the start of the course.