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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.

"While we were taught GIS on the standard software packages, we weren't taught to just push buttons, but rather to make good decisions about data analysis. We were given a really strong grounding in the basics of what makes up spatial analysis, and we elaborated on that with groundbreaking analysis tools that are being developed right at Clark, which is an enormous asset. I think this really helps set GISDE grads apart from a run-of-the-mill GIS person."
Tyler Dahlberg (GISDE '14)

"The range of skills and perspectives I encountered in the Clark GISDE program was humbling and inspiring. I learned a great deal from my classmates in lab, where we were constantly problem-solving as a group. My professors' contributions to national and global research on issues of public health and environmental change amplified their teaching, and meant that we were encouraged as students to engage in applied research. Because of this I was able to contribute to projects structured by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) DEVELOP Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal and Ocean Applications Program, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Oxfam America during my time in the GISDE program. It was a tremendous learning experience."
Anne Clark Baker (GISDE '14)

"I am a GIS Specialist at AIR Worldwide and I think we have about ten Clark University graduates(although only two of us are GISDE, and not all are GIS people) that work here—the geography department is well respected. When I go to networking events in Boston there tend to be a good number of GISDE grads in attendance, considering how small the program is. Going to a school that is well known in your field for having a strong program in what you want to do is unquestionably beneficial, professionally."
Russell Sands (GISDE '13)

"Before coming to Clark I was not really sure about continuing in urban planning related GIS (my bachelor's degree) or picking up a new field. With the different courses I took at Clark, I was able to explore different options that were not available in other schools. The class size and the courses were perfect fit to interact with classmates and professors. The transition to my current role as a GIS specialist at Partners In Health happened right after graduation and I was able to cope with the work using time management and organizational skills I learned at Clark."
Ermyas Birru (GISDE '13)

"The GISDE program offered me many technical courses, from which I have learned some of the most advanced knowledge and skills in the GIS field. All the professors I know are intelligent, hard-working, and outstanding in their fields. My professors guided me not only when I was a graduate student, but also helped me with my career development after my graduation. I sincerely appreciate it."
Yue Sun (GISDE '14)