September 2, 2014

GISci Certificate

Welcome to Miami University’s Geographic Information Science (GISci) Certificate Program


NEW:   GISci Certificate now counts as a Thematic Sequence!

Interested in using the GISci Certificate to take care of a Thematic Sequence in your Undergraduate Degree?  If you are a non-Geography major, the registrar’s office will now see the GISci Certificate the same as it does a Minor.  This means the Certificate will now count as a Thematic Sequence.  Contact the Registrar’s office if you have any further questions (529-8703).



Miami’s Certificate in GIScience is designed to give students who earn the Certificate the necessary technical skills and theory-based background to compete in the rapidly growing field of Geospatial Technology.  GIS skills can be applied to a variety of career-paths from natural resources to planning to business, etc.

Miami’s GISci Certificate is a meant to complement any existing degree program (undergraduate or graduate) or it can be earned by itself.


Please refer to the following pages for additional information on courses, GIS resources, and GISci at Miami University:
GISci Certificate Course List
Careers in GISci
GISci at Miami University

What is GISci?

GISci is an abbreviate for “Geographic Information Science”.  GISci is the theorectical foundation for all spatially driven technologies, such as GIS, Remote Sensing, and GPS.  The GISci Certificate at Miami is focused beyond just Geographic Information Systems to the broader Geographic Information Sciences.  Students will not only learn GIS theory and techniques, but also Remote Sensing, GPS, Database theory and practice, and computer programming.  All of these topics together help to provide students with a well-rounded GISci education and and understanding of how the diffferent spatial technologies are different but can be used together to answer questions about our natural and built environments.

What is GIS?

GIS is an abbreviation for “Geographic Information Systems“.   Geographic Information Systems are how we answer questions about “What” and “Where”.  Much like paper maps have historically helped humans define and describe their environments (natural and built), GIS provides the tools for humans to do this in the digital age.  A common definition of GIS is that it is “a computer-based system to aid in the collection, maintenance, storage, analysis, output, and distribution of spatial data and information” (GIS Fundamentals by Paul Bolstad ).

At Miami, we break this definition down as the following:

Computer-based system” – Nearly all of Miami’s computer labs are equipped with the industry-standard GIS software package, ArcGIS from ESRI.  Each student taking a GIS course at Miami receives a student copy of this software that can be loaded onto their own person desktop or laptop computer.

To aid in the collection…of spatial data” – The Department of Geography has Garmin 60Cs GPS units that all students in GIS courses learn to use.  Students are taught how to gather GPS data in the field and download that data into the GIS software.  STudents are also taught how to add additional tabular data to already existing GIS datasets.

To aid in the maintenance…of spatial data” – Many datasets created for governmental entitities and businesses need to be continually updated and maintained.  Students will learn the database techniques necessary to build funcitonal databases and update those databases with new information for use in GIS.

To aid in the storage…of spatial data” – GIS data, like any other data or files, must be stored on a computer hard-drive, USB drive, or written to a CD or DVD.  Students in GIS classes will work with a variety of GIS data types and learn how best to store these datasets for current and future use.

To aid in the analysis…of spatial data” – Spatial analysis is at the heart of GIS.  The power of GIS data is that it allows people to ask questions of their data related to WHERE that data is and WHAT information is stored in a database about that data.  Questions such as how has a river changed over time, how are census block groups similar or different, what is the best path for business deliveries, where ist he best location for a new cell tower are easily answered using the tools with GIS.  The GIS courses at Miami focus most of their time teaching students the wide variety of spatial analyses possible with the GIS software.

To aid in the output and distribution…of spatial data” – GIS data and answers genereated from spatial analyses are only useful when they are used and distributed.  Key to this is being able to understand the results of an analysis and being able to communicate that to a more general audience.  One of the most powerful ways to do this is through creating maps.  Students i nteh GIS courses will learn the basics of cartograpny and how to create a map the serves a desired purpose adn audience.  Increasingly, the focus for distributing these maps is via the web.  In the advanced GIS courses students will learn about creating and distributing their own web maps.

What is Remote Sensing?

Remote sensing is broadly defined as studying an object without being in direct contact with it.  More specifically, the term usually refers to satellite- or aircraft-based digital image data and its analysis.  Commercial satellite data (e.g., Landsat) have been available since 1972 and are used for a wide variety of applications from physical geography to urban studies.  Remotely sensed images can be used to generate GIS data and for basic interpretation to identify land use patterns and delineate damage from fires, floods, and other natural hazards.  Digital image processing techniques allow more sophisticated analysis of image data such as land cover mapping, and inferring relationships between reflectance (proportion of reflected sunlight) and land surface characteristics. An important advantage of remote sensing is that it provides a synoptic view of the landscape.  This broad view of Earth’s surface is extremely valuable for studying geography.  We currently offer one remote sensing course every semester (GEO 448/548) and one course that includes remote sensing once a year (GEO 444/544). Also look for occasional special offerings in remote sensing (under 460G/560G).

Color infrared aerial photo and corresponding land cover map for part of Hamilton, Ohio.

What is GPS?

GPS is an abbreviation for “Global Positioning Systems.”  GPS uses satellites orbiting the Earth and hand-held GPS receivers to provide users with their location on the planet.  GPS is used in a wide variety of ways.  Many cars have GPS built-in to provide navigation assistance.  Researchers use GPS to locate specific locations for their topic of interest.  Cities and Counties responsible for maintaining infrastructure use GPS to locate and map water lines, sewer lines, and other utilties.  Recreationally GPS is used for Geocaching and is now integrated into many social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The Department of Geography at Miami uses Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx GPS units for teaching.  Graduate students and other researchers also have access to the Department’s two Trimble GeoXT GPS units.

Admissions Information

The Certificate is available to all students on any of Miami’s campuses.

Students Enrolling at Miami for only the GISci Certificate
Please check back here soon for updated information!

Students Returning to Miami for the GISci Certificate and/or other Degrees
Simply fill out the returning student form and your student account wil be reactivated within 24 hours and you will then have access to all Miami courses.  Please indicate that you are returning for a Non-Degree Program.
After your account has been activated, please contact Robbyn Abbitt ( to register for the GISci Certificate.

Current and Prospective full-time Oxford, Middletown, or Hamilton campus students (undergraduate and graduate):
Contact Robbyn Abbitt ( in the Department of Geography to fill out the necessary paperwork.  There is no enrollment fee for the Certificate.  There is a $10 graduation fee associated with the Certificate.

Federal Financial Aid Information:

Currently students enrolled at Miami University who are only enrolled in the GISci Certificate program are NOT eligible for federal financial aid.