Lab‎ > ‎

Lab 01 - ArcGIS & WebGIS Intro


The purpose of this lab was to reacquaint students to using ArcGIS by producing a basic map using ArcMap 10.2. Students were given a shape file containing two polygons (see Discussion section below for more details) and were asked to produce a map that met the "6 C's" defined below:

1. Colorful -  (but not cluttered) An effective use of color to distinguish features and emphasize key aspects of your map.
2. Creative - (but not confusing) There are lots of creative ways to display your geographic data and analyses
3. Correct - All analyses, calculations and labels are correct
4. Context - (location, coordinates, projections, scale, orientation, setting) All maps should have enough context for the user to discern where it is, what its about and what the scale is within the context that its presented (e.g. stand-alone map vs. within a report).
5. Convincing - (fit for purpose) All maps have a purpose, and your map should be effective at conveying the message it is intended to.
6. Consistent -  There should be logical, graphical and typographic consistency both within a single map and among multiple maps in the same assignment or project.

This lab also introduced students to WebGIS through the creation of an interactive Google Map (see Results) and the creation of a website using Google Sites.


Study Site Map

My map depicts two hypothetical monitoring locations for soil compaction adjacent Tony Grove Lake near Logan, Utah. I defined the monitoring location near the campground (outlined in red) as an area of severe soil compaction. I defined the other monitoring location north of Tony Grove Lake as an area of moderate soil compaction. This hypothetical map could be used by the US Forest Service when identifying and monitoring impacts to heavily visited areas within the Uinta - Wasatch - Cache National Forest. Please click on the map below for a larger image.
Key features of the map:

A legend that defines one monitoring location (shown in red outline) as an area of "severe compaction" and the other (shown in green outline) as an area of "moderate compaction".  

A locator map of Utah to provide monitoring location context.

A scale bar of appropriate scale and units (1 km).

A graticule to provide Universal Transverse Mercator northing and easting coordinates.

A north arrow.

Text that indicates: 
    1) the coordinate system and projection used.
    2) data sources
    3) when the map was created and by whom. 

A simple a clear layout that conveys the intended message of the map (fit for purpose).

To download a PDF of this map, please click here. 

Interactive Google Map of Study Site

The interactive map below can be used to explore the Tony Grove Lake area and play with different backgrounds to provide further location context. This is map is an example of a WebGIS.

Lab 01


Learning outcomes for Lab01:

  1) Familiarization with ArcMap through the creation of a basic map: 

  2) Creation and manipulation of a website using Google Sites: 

  3) Creation of an interactive Google Map and insertion into a web page.

This lab provided the often frustrating, but essential process of getting back up to speed with ArcGIS after a hiatus of several years. Through the use of two polygons, I was re-introduced to vector data - discrete polygons, points, and lines used to represent the geometry of real-world objects (Bolstad 2005). These features often have associated attributes that help to describe them (e.g: name, distance to reference site, species, etc). 

Shapefiles (.shp) are a popular vector data format created by Esri.  The geometry of a feature is stored as a shape composed of a set of vector coordinates (ESRI 1997). Layer files (.lyr) on the other hand, are files that store the path to a source dataset or other layer property, including symbology - how features are displayed on the map (ESRI 2012). Layer files are not actual data, instead they can be thought of as links to data such as shapefiles. 

I enjoyed the open format of this lab. Students were allowed to create a map that they could be proud of. This left room for creativity while developing technical skills to create maps, effectively display spatial data, and build a unique website. 


Bolstad, P. 2005. GIS Fundamentals: a first text on geographic information systems. 3rd Ed. Ider Press. St. Paul, MN. p 33.

ESRI, 1997. Shapefile Technical Description. Accessed 1/14/2014.

ESRI, 2012. Knowledge Base - Technical Articles. Accessed 1/14/2014.
Joseph Flower,
Jan 10, 2014, 2:24 PM