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Teaching Open Source GIS and Spatial Ecology

Updated: Jul 25, 2020


We just wrapped up a fantastic residential course for post-graduates

and professionals at the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation. SMSC is a collaboration between Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and George Mason University with classrooms and facilities on our campus in Front Royal.

The course covered the essentials of spatial ecology analysis including the basics of R and open source GIS platforms like QGIS and Google Earth Engine. I taught a number of modules including an intro to QGIS (dealing with spatial layers and projections) and an in-depth look at home range analysis in R. Other modules included supervised land cover classification in R and Google Earth Engine and resource selection functions for creating habitat suitability maps.

The course was attended by graduates and professionals from countries around the world including representatives from NGOs, national parks services and universities as far away as Madagascar, Germany, Ethiopia and the Bahamas as well as US based scholars.


The group were really engaged and we had some great open study sessions in the evenings to focus on specific data questions. Developing the course materials took months of effort in updating and writing new code and all of our interns at the GIS lab spent weeks checking and re-checking the code and then acting as TAs during the lab sessions. Overall it was a great success and we can't wait to do it all again.



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