Postings in the ‘GIS’ Category


The Virtual Burnham Initiative

September 10th, 2010 by
Contributed by:  Donnie Sendelbach, Director of Instructional and Learning Services/Director of ITAP

burnhamThe Virtual Burnham Initiative, a multimedia project creating 3-D models from a 1909 Chicago city plan by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett (Plan of Chicago often referred to as the Burnham Plan), received a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Start-up Grant in 2008 and currently is their featured project.  The NEH is currently accepting applications for its next round until October 5, 2010.  To learn more about applying for this next round, you can visit their web site or contact Donnie Sendelbach, who served as Co-director of the Virtual Burnham Initiative before coming to DePauw.

While components of the Burnham Plan were implemented to create modern Chicago, students using SketchUp and Google Earth brought to life other components that were not implemented in reality, including buildings in Grant Park (see photo above). The flat images from the Burnham Plan were transformed into models enabling 360º views and placed within Google Earth’s modern Chicago, which takes the Burnham Plan to another level of visualization while merging past planning with current reality. If you have Google Earth on your computer, you can download files from the VBI website to view yourself.  Through 3-D modeling, students and scholars are able to visualize how Chicago could have developed while considering the possibilities for future city planning. Through additional historical information, they can also study how city politics shaped the building of Chicago as the new field of city planning evolved.

Chicago area high schools and universities along with city administrators have contributed to the VBI, which is, to quote the grant application, “a project about the community that can become part of the community offering a heretofore impossible organization of material related to the Plan with a unique application of different virtual modeling technologies to enhance collaborative humanities scholarship.”  Students who worked on the project developed an appreciation for architectural history, city planning, and research decision-making as the Plan’s series of sketches include multiple variants for a given building.  One of the students creating these models, Michael Ojdana (Lake Forest Class of 2008), is currently working at Convergence Training creating 3-D models after he graduated from DePaul University with an M.S. with a Digital Cinema: 3-D Animation Concentration.

For more information on the project, please view this video inviting others to participate:

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GIS @ DePauw

February 11th, 2010 by
Contributed by Beth Wilkerson, GIS Specialist

clip_image002GIS Day™ is a global celebration held each year on the Wednesday of National Geographic Society’s Geography Awareness Week. Since 2004, the DePauw GIS Center has joined hundreds of organizations in over 80 countries around clip_image004the world in sponsoring a GIS Day™ event. At our event this past November, faculty, staff, and students gathered in the first floor atrium of the Julian Science and Mathematics Center to celebrate DePauw’s geographic “intellectual life”. Although there were many interesting displays, a perennial favorite is the GIS poster session where students, faculty, and staff from various disciplines and departments across campus share how they are applying GIS in their respective fields in a casual and relaxed setting. To view highlights of GIS DayTM 2009, visit Also, be sure to mark your calendar for GIS DayTM 2010 to be held on Wednesday, November 17!

For those of you who are not familiar with GIS, GIS stands for Geographic Information System.  GIS is a computer-based technology that helps people think spatially and approach problems from a geographic perspective by linking spatial data with other quantitative and/or descriptive information and presenting the results on an interactive map. By converting data into visual layers on a map, users can gain a better understanding of the data and can immediately begin to pick out trends or relationships that may not have been discovered using traditional analysis methods.

clip_image006This emerging technology touches our lives daily as it is used throughout the world to solve issues related to the environment, health care, land use, business efficiency, education, transportation, homeland security, economic development, agriculture, conservation, telecommunications, public safety, etc. In fact, according to Monica Pratt, editor of ArcUser magazine, it wasn’t that long ago that “a map was something that fell out of the middle of the latest issue of National Geographic magazine or lived in the car’s glove box (if you managed to refold it) or was tacked up on a classroom wall”. Today, thanks in part to GIS, the use of geographic information “so permeates our world that its use has become remarkably integrated into everyday life”.

When the DePauw GIS Center was created in 2005, GIS was essentially an unknown technology utilized by a select few in just a couple of disciplines. Since then, awareness and application of GIS (as well as other spatial technologies) at DePauw has grown tremendously. Today, the DePauw GIS Center has supported or is supporting projects involving over 20 administrative and academic departments and programs (e.g., Alumni Relations, Art, Asian Studies, Biology, Classical Studies, Economics and Management, Geosciences, History, Information Services, Physics, Sociology and Anthropology, etc.). Below is just a small sample of the numerous recent/ongoing projects supported by the DePauw GIS Center.


  • Sustainability – GIS was used to analyze employee commuter routes and to help calculate its impact on DePauw’s carbon footprint for the Energy and Climate Working Group.
  • Campus Master Plan – The GIS Center is providing spatial data/maps of the DePauw campus, DePauw Nature Park, and surrounding Greencastle area to Ayers-Saint-Gross Architects & Planners to aid development of the DePauw Campus Master Plan.
  • clip_image008DePauw Network – GIS is being utilized to map data, voice, and cable lines as well as other hardware to help the Network Team manage DePauw’s network infrastructure.


  • ASIA 140: Introduction to Chinese Culture – GIS and Google Earth content were generated to help students understand how China has evolved as a political entity over the centuries. (See image at right.)
  • BIO 345: Conservation Biology – GIS and GPS technologies are being used by students to monitor the spread of the invasive species Phragmites australis in the DePauw Nature Park Quarry.
  • HONR 191B: Science Research Fellows Exp. I – GIS technology was applied to data gathered by students to generate Putnam County night sky maps in order to study sources of light pollution. (See image below at right.)


  • Collaboratory for GIS and Mediterranean Archaeology (CGMA) – MAGIS (Mediterranean Archaeology GIS), an interactive on-line inventory of regional survey projects in the greater Mediterranean region, is developed and maintained by the DePauw GIS Center.
  • Socioeconomic Development of Tampico, Mexico– GIS is being utilized to map tax and property records to study social and economic change in Tampico from 1870 to 1910.

To learn more about GIS @ DePauw, please consider dropping by the DePauw GIS Center in Julian 110, calling Beth Wilkerson at x6554, or browsing the DePauw GIS Center website.

GIS Day 2008

November 17th, 2008 by

Celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of GIS Day

Contributed by Beth Wilkerson, GIS Specialist (adapted from GIS Day press release)

Held each year on the Wednesday of National Geographic Society’s Geography Awareness Week, GIS Day is a global event that celebrates geographic information system (GIS) technology. Its goal is to make people aware of this innovative technology that uses geography to bring numerous benefits to the world and to highlight the important contributions GIS is making in the fields of science, technology, information, and the humanities.

A GIS is a computer-based system that links geographic information with descriptive information and presents the results on a map. By converting data into visual layers on a map, users can gain a better understanding of the data and can immediately begin to pick out trends or relationships that may not have been discovered using traditional analysis methods.

Although you may not be aware of it, GIS touches our lives daily. It is used throughout the world to solve problems related to the environment, health care, land use, business efficiency, education, and public safety. For example, the power supply directed to homes, the patrol cars and fire trucks that keep neighborhoods safe, and the delivery trucks on the road all function more efficiently because of GIS. Most recently, we have seen how GIS technology can be used to aid Homeland Security initiatives, map the debris field following the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, monitor the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and track the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. The applications of GIS technology are endless, limited only by the imagination of its users.

2008 marks GIS Day’s tenth year, and this is the fifth straight year that DePauw has hosted a GIS Day event. This year’s event will showcase faculty and student GIS projects as well as introduce GIS concepts via posters, displays, multimedia presentations, and interactive activities.

Join us to celebrate GIS Day 2008, and find out how your colleagues are using GIS!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Julian Science & Mathematics Center Atrium

For more information, visit

Romancing the Three Kingdoms in Google Earth

November 17th, 2008 by
Contributed by Beth Wilkerson, GIS Specialist

thirteenstates.jpgAccording to Dr. Sherry Mou (Asian Studies), “teaching Chinese culture to students with little or no background in Chinese history and geography can be a challenge”. This fall, students in Dr. Mou’s First -Year Seminar are studying Chinese culture and literature with an added technological twist. Students are not only reading a complete translation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but they also are gaining insight into Chinese culture by using Google Earth.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a classic Chinese historical novel that was videowplacemark.jpgwritten in the fourteenth century. It focuses on events that occurred near the end of the Han Dynasty and during China’s Three Kingdoms era. This massive novel (120 chapters spanning over 2000 pages) includes numerous historical battles and places, and for readers unfamiliar with China, making sense of it all and keeping characters and events straight can be a daunting task. Dr. Mou is helping her students visualize the locations and grasp the cultural significance by using Google Earth to incorporate interactive maps and multimedia content into lessons.

Google Earth is a free, downloadable virtual globe application that allows users to virtually fly anywhere on the face of the Earth. The Google Earth globe is completely covered with spatially referenced aerial novelplacemarkers.jpgimagery, and via Google Earth’s navigational tools, users can zoom in to explore specific locations as well as tilt the view to see the terrain or topographical features of the Earth. In addition, Google Earth allows users to create custom content that can be shared with others, in this case, with students in a First-Year Seminar.

In preparation for the seminar, this summer Dr. Mou, Ryan Johnson (DePauw student), and Beth Wilkerson (GIS Specialist) worked to create Google Earth content to accompany the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel. In particular, placemarks (point locations in Google Earth) were created for locations mentioned in the novel. Not only do the placemarks provide a geographical frame of reference for what the students are reading, but by embedding images, text, and audio-video clips in the placemark description balloons, students gain a broader comprehension of the culture and its relationship to location. In addition, maps from the novel that portray troop zoomedview.jpgmovements, battles, or other significant events were spatially overlain on the Google Earth globe. Although the hand-drawn maps may not precisely correspond with exact locations of Chinese landforms and cities, students are able to get a sense of the role of geographical elements (e.g., mountains, plains, rivers) and how those features impacted the characters in the story and the events being described.

Because the seminar is still in progress, it is difficult to ascertain the full impact that Google Earth will have on this course. However, it is safe to assume that the incorporation of this interactive spatial technology will “not only illuminate the old stories, but also provide an exciting inter-textual adventure through the varied interpretations”. [Mou, CLTA Abstract, 2008]

For more information on how you may use Google Earth in your class, contact Beth Wilkerson at