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Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment - Clark University

GIS for Development and Environment

The program in GIS for Development and Environment (GISDE) prepares professionals for careers where they apply the world's most advanced computer mapping technologies and spatial analysis to address crucial issues concerning socioeconomic development and environmental science.

Program Overview »
Sample Courses »
GIS for Development and Environment Faculty »
Sample Final Master's Papers »
Alumni Experience »

Program Overview

As a joint program with IDCE and Clark's School of Geography, the GIS for Development and Environment program is unique. It specializes in applications of geospatial technologies to problems of sustainable development and the environment, such as:

  • Earth system information science
  • Land change modeling
  • Remote sensing
  • Conservation GIS
  • Public health
  • Environmental justice

GISDE's program is designed for people with an interest in the use of applications of geospatial technologies (GIS, remote sensing) to environmental and social change issues. If you are interested in learning not only the tools of spatial analysis, but also learning how to apply these tools to real life problems in the course of seeking solutions, we encourage you to consider our program. The course of study is designed to accommodate both GIS novices and people with previous GIS experience.

Most GISDE students finance their education through a combination of savings, loans, scholarships, and grants. Some applicants find it useful to apply to the GISDE program, then use the letter of acceptance in their applications to funding agencies.

The GIS for Development and Environment Experience

GISDE Program offers two main tracks: a research track and a practitioner track. Students following the practitioner track are required to complete a summer internship. These internships typically fall in to the following categories:

Students who are following the research track find numerous opportunities to conduct collaborative research with IDCE faculty as they pursue their research on issues such as water quality, land use change, and global climate change the world over. Many GISDE students have co-published findings of their research with faculty members in respected journals in the field.

We have had recent success with GISDE students winning monetary awards for their research papers. To learn about future opportunities, visit the Association of American Geographers and The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association.

The Idrisi and Clark Labs Advantage

Clark Labs for Cartographic Technology and Geographic Systems produces the GIS software Idrisi, which is used in over 180 countries worldwide. It is the only academic institution in the world with a successful 25+ year history of GIS and remote sensing software development. GISDE students have a singular opportunity to learn the analytical power of raster GIS using Idrisi in their course work and research. Additionally, GISDE students may have an opportunity to work at Clark Labs as software testers, programmers or researchers, depending on each student's qualifications and the needs of Clark Labs.

Sample Courses

Advanced Raster GIS
Advanced Vector GIS
Computer Programming for GIS
Web Mapping and Open Source GIS
Environmental Application of GIS
Social Applications of GIS
Wildlife Conservation GIS
GIS and Accuracy Assessment
GIS for International Development
Advanced Topics in Spatial Analysis
Quantitative Environmental Modeling
Landscape Ecology
Introduction to Remote Sensing
Advanced Remote Sensing
Remote Sensing of Global Environmental Change

For a full list of current GIS for Development and Environment courses, see Clark's Course Catalog.

GIS for Development and Environment Faculty

As a unique joint program, GISDE students are taught by both GISDE faculty and faculty from the School of Geography. Our core faculty include:

Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Professor of Geography
Director, Clark Labs

Robert Gilmore Pontius, Ph.D.
Professor of Geography

Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of GIS for Development and Environment
Coordinator of the Graduate Program in GIS for Development and Environment

John Rogan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Geography

Jie Tian, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of GIS for Development and Environment

Florencia Sangermano, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor, Clark Labs
Adjunct Research Assistant Professor of Geography

Sample Final Master's Papers

2014 MS in GIS for Development and Environment Papers

  • Anne Clark Baker: Fisheries in Motion (advisers: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger and Rob Goble)
  • Chantal Begley: Data Management and Verifications: Summer 2013 GIS Internship with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Michael Cecil: GIS Mapping for the Greater Worcester Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP): Summer Internship with the Worcester Division of Public Health (Joint w/ Yuqi Chen) (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Yuqi Chen: GIS Mapping for the Greater Worcester Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP): Summer Internship with the Worcester Division of Public Health (Joint w/ Michael Cecil) (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Tyler Dahlberg: The Summer of Maps: Spatial Analysis for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Coalition against Hunger (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • James Dolansky: Utilizing GIS for Smart Grid Propagation Studies: Summer 2013 Internship with Mueller Systems (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)  
  • Jian Fan: Programming and Testing Modules in IDRISI Software: Summer Internship with Clark Labs (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Christopher Ferraro: A Computer Vision Based Approach for Reconstructing Complex Glacier Topography from Historic Aerial Imagery for Quantification of Longer-Term Changes in Glacier Geometry (adviser: Alex Gardner)
  • Liyao Huang: Environmental Injustice in the Spatial Distribution of Hydro-Fracking Wells in Four States of the U.S. (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Yongyao Jiang: Automated Mobility Mode Detection based on GPS Tracking Data (adviser: Jie Tian)
  • Supriya V. Khadke: Mapping Coastal Protected Areas at Risk to Sea Level Rise: A Resources for the Future Project (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Xiyu Li: Great Smoky Mountains Ecological Forecasting 2013 Summer Internship with NASA Develop National Program at University of Georgia (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Zihan Lin: IDRISI Software Development: Summer Internship with Clark Labs (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Timothy Liponis: Berkshire County GIS Land Conservation: Summer Internship with the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Edward Potter: Vector-Based GIS in the Telecommunications Industry: Summer 2013 Internship with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Hayley Solak: Multi-Spectral Monitoring of Algal Blooms in Lake Champlain for Enhanced Natural Resource Management: Summer 2013 Internship with NASA Develop National Program (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Mukesh Subedee: Time Series Analysis of Cedar Bayou: Summer Internship with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico (HRI) (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Yue Sun: Mapping Ambient Temperature based on Mobile Data (adviser: Jie Tian)
  • Ryan Taylor Williams: Analyzing Phenology and Drought Impact in the Amboseli Basin of Kenya with NASA-DEVELOP (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Yan Yan: Predicting Forest Disturbance and Regrowth in the Southern Yucatan, Mexico Using Multi-Date Landsat and Simulation Modelling (adviser: John Rogan)

2013 MS in GIS for Development and Environment Papers

  • Ermyas  Birru: Monitoring, Evaluation, Quality Improvement and Capacity Building using GIS: Summer Internship with Partners In Health in Malawi (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Kevin Butler: The NASA Develop Program: Summer Internship Experience (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Jie Cheng: Mass in Motion project: 2012 Internship at UMASS Medical School (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Barbara Horvatic  Fire hazard mitigation analysis: Summer Internship with Greenleaf Forestry and Wood Products  in Colorado, USA (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Julia Lenhardt: The IDRISI Ecosystems Services Modeler: Internship with Clark Labs  (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Quiao Li:  A spatial-temporal analysis of the correlation between MODIS AOD and PM2.5 in Massachusetts (adviser: Jie Tian)
  • Rachel E. Maingot: Utilizing NASA’s Earth Observing Systems to Assess North Carolina’s 2011 Fire Season: Summer Internship with NASA DEVELOP Program (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Nathan Mietkiewicz: A century of ecological change in a subalpine forest of the Swiss Alps (adviser: Dominik Kulakowski)
  • Luyang  Ren: Implementing Visual Contrast in Viewshed Determination (adviser: Ron Eastman)
  • D. Russell Sands:  Effectiveness of MODIS Vegetation Continuous Field product for allocating global forest change 2000 to 2010 (adviser: John Rogan)
  • Yu Sun: Developing New Modules in IDRISI Software: Summer Internship with Clark Labs, Clark University (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger) 
  • Jenna Turner: GIS and Asset Database Management: Summer 2012 Internship with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Jacob Wasilkowski: Automated Map Design Research with the Cartography & Geovisualization Group at Oregon State University (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)
  • Luisa Young: Land Use/ Land Cover Classification of Northern Vietnam: Summer Internship with the East West Center (adviser: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger)

Quotes From Our Alumni

GIS for Development and Environment alumni pursue their passions concerning sustainable development and environmental protection in meaningful careers where they apply hi-tech skills that they learned in the GIS for Development and Environment program.

"The GISDE program at Clark University gave me practical geospatial expertise and applications knowledge, in addition to professional skills valued by the industry. The reason I was hired at Cabrera Services, Inc. as a GIS professional was because of my degree and experience from my education during the GISDE program at Clark University. The hiring manager told me that it is well known that this is 'the best program for remote sensing and GIS'."
Boriana Pangelova (GISDE/M.A.)

"If you are working in the GIS industry, an M.A. from Clark will open a lot of doors for you. It gives you a competitive edge necessary to survive in a highly competitive industry. Moreover, you will have an opportunity to think beyond how to maintain data and use software. You will have the chance to address real world problems."
Sarah Elliott (GISDE/M.A.)

"My education at IDCE positioned me to get a job where I could apply GIS technology to development issues. I had worked in GIS and remote sensing production, but to do GIS analysis, I needed a graduate degree. Clark was a perfect fit. It had an emphasis on GIS analysis rather than GIS production, and I could find professors with the expertise in my interests: land-use change in the context of international development and natural resource management."
Louis Paladino (GISDE/M.A.); Peace Corps, Paraguay; GIS Research Engineer, I Sciences, LLC

"What I liked most about Clark's program was the quality of the teaching. Clark does an excellent job of stressing GIS concepts rather than merely teaching how to use software. I also found that having the Idrisi Clark Labs organization nearby was another big advantage, both for employment opportunities and for the chance to observe cutting-edge developments in GIS software."
David Benz (GISDE/M.A.); Peace Corps, Central African Republic;
Remote Sensing Research Assistant, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium

"I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the GISDE program which allowed me the flexibility to pursue unique and innovative research. In addition, the advice and support of IDCE faculty, staff and fellow students played a major role in my Fulbright fellowship award, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life."
Miguel Castrence (GISDE/M.A.); Fulbright Fellow.