Geospatial Modeling and Analysis

This is an unmaintained course material, please see current material at:


Course description

The course explains digital representation and analysis of geospatial phenomena and provides foundations in methods and algorithms used in GIS analysis. Special focus is on terrain modeling, geomorphometry, watershed analysis and introductory GIS-based modeling of landscape processes (water, sediment). The course includes analysis from lidar data, coastal change assessment and 3D visualization.


Vaclav Petras, Anna Petrasova

Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday 3:00 - 5:00pm, other days are fine too but send email
Office: 5111 Jordan Hall

Helena Mitasova, see H. Mitasova's MEAS page and home page.
Office hours: Currently on scholarly leave


Knowledge of GIS principles at introductory level or strong computational background, GIS410 Introduction to GIS, GIS510 Introduction to GIScience or GIS530 Principles of GIScience are recommended.

Educational approach

This course will consist of lectures, readings, hand-on exercises, homework assignments, and a major project. All the work will be collected within an electronic portfolio that will systematically include the work that you will do for this and other GIS courses. Extra credits will be given for innovative solutions, creativity in problem solving and extensions to given tasks.

Class materials and schedule

See instructions in Schedule, Lectures, and Assignments (applies also to distance education).


No required textbook, on-line material is used. You may find the following titles helpful for some topics:
  • Neteler, M. and Mitasova, H., 2008, Open Source GIS: A GRASS GIS Approach. Third Edition. Springer New York Inc, p. 406. Available free as e-book through NCSU library, click on eBook link on the grassbook website from a computer registered at NCSU.
  • Smith, Goodchild, and Longley: Geospatial Analysis (free access)
  • GIS 4 Geomorphology
  • Hengl, T. and Reuter, H. I., 2008, Geomorphometry: Concepts, Software, Applications, Elsevier, and a related web site
  • Petrasova A, Harmon B, Petras V, Mitasova H., 2015, Tangible Modeling with Open Source GIS. Springer International Publishing. Available free as e-book through NCSU library, click on the eBook link from a computer registered at NCSU.


GRASS GIS, ArcGIS. To download, follow the links at the Course logistics web page.

Grading policy

40% homeworks, 20% midterm, 40% project, 100% is the maximum number of points (total + extra credits) achieved in class. Points are taken off for late submissions.
GradeCourse and each HW


  1. Data acquisition and integration
    • mapping natural phenomena, concept of continuous fields and discrete sampling
    • units, projections, coordinate transformations, georeferencing
    • geospatial formats, conversions, geospatial data abstraction library
    • raster and vector representation, raster-vector conversions and resampling
  2. Data display and visualization
    • display of continuous and discrete data, use of color, shading, symbols, to extract the spatial pattern and relationships
    • 3D visualization: multiple surfaces and volumes, 3D vector objects
    • visualization for data analysis (lighting, zscaling, transparency, cutting planes, animations)
    • view/create maps/post your data on-line (Google Earth/Maps, GPS visualizer)
  3. Geospatial Analysis
    • foundations for analysis of continuous and discrete phenomena
    • neighborhood operations and buffers,
    • analysis and modeling with map algebra,
    • cost surfaces and least cost path,
    • spatial interpolation and approximation (gridding)
  4. Terrain Modeling and Analysis (Geomorphometry I-III)
    • terrain and bathymetry mapping
    • mathematical and digital representations (point clouds, contour, raster, TIN)
    • DEM and DSM, working with multiple return lidar data
    • spatial interpolation of elevation data and topographic analysis
    • line of sight, viewshed analysis
    • solar irradiation, photovoltaic energy potential
    • time series of elevation data, analysis of coastal change
  5. Flow tracing, Watershed Analysis and Landforms I-II
    • methods for flow routing and flowaccumulation
    • extraction of stream networks
    • extraction of watershed boundaries and building watershed hierarchies
    • feature extraction, landforms
  6. Introduction to Modeling of Geospatial Processes
    • model formulation, input data processing
    • introduction to GIS-based hydrologic and erosion modeling
  7. Project

Academic integrity
Overview, Policies, Code of Student Conduct
Attendance policy
in regular section, attendance is checked at each class, see also attendance regulations and university definitions of excused absences
Accommodation of students with disabilities
Disability Services Office

For non-NCSU visitors

This course material is open and is often used by people outside NCSU. Note that although we are trying to have maximum of our resources open, some linked things like online library resources and virtual computing lab are accessible only to people at NCSU. However, GRASS GIS and the dataset used in the assignments are available to anybody under and open license. The most useful page for an outside visitor is the list of GRASS GIS assignments.