GIS and Spatial Analysis

Tools and methods for the management and analysis of geographic information

Delivering accurate and up-to-date services revolves around knowing where people and resources reside. Solving spatial problems requires human expertise, access to relevant information, necessary infrastructure, analysis techniques and appropriate communication and delivery mechanisms. GIS and Spatial Analysis skill sets are crucial for today's society and have many uses ranging from emergency management and other city services, business location and retail analysis, transportation modeling, crime and disease mapping, and natural resource management. In addition, decisions that are made utilizing GIS and spatial analysis have important social implications for the people affected by them.

Learning the tools and methods for the management and analysis of geographic information is the core of GIS and Spatial Analysis (GIS-SA) in Geography at Ohio State. Substantive areas include computer and web-enabled mapping, exploratory spatial data analysis and spatial statistics, spatial decision support, spatial database fundamentals, and societal aspects of GIS.

Students in this specialization will receive extensive exposure to GIS and Spatial Analysis software. Hands-on experience in questions of interest to the student is an important part of the curriculum.

Issues and topics

The following is an example of the types of issues and topics students will study within the GIS and Spatial Analysis specialization.

Mapping patterns

  • Population change
  • Migration
  • Development
  • Ocean currents

Visual presentation

  • Organization
  • Symbolization
  • Color usage

Issue analysis

  • Air pollution
  • Planning
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty

Statistical analysis

  • Disease rates
  • Elections
  • Hazard incidence

Location optimization

  • Facilities/site selection
  • Mass transit routes
  • New construction


  • GIS software
  • Modeling

Acquired skill sets

Students can expect to acquire and perform the following skills sets within this specialization. Students also should have a solid background in mathematics and the physical sciences.

  • Critical thinking
  • Critical writing
  • Research
  • Strong organizational skills

Technical skills:

  • Quantitative data analysis
  • Graphic communication (including map reading and development)
  • Graphics and statistical software packages
  • Computer programming


GIS and Spatial Analysis Curriculum

Undergraduate Curriculum

Graduate Curriculum

The GIS and Spatial Analysis track offers graduate students the opportunity to earn a Master's degree and/or a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Geography. Please be aware that curriculum and requirements for graduate students are subject to change. Graduate students also should consult their advisor and the Department of Geography Graduate Handbook to ensure the appropriate requirements are met. In addition to the requirements, the seminar titles are subject to change. However, the assigned course number will remain the same.

Career opportunities

Geographers can find career opportunities in many fields both within and outside the field of geography. Below is a partial listing of careers that students within the GIS and Spatial Analysis specialization are well-suited and where previous graduates have found employment.

  • Planner: transportation, urban, health services, land use, etc.
  • Real estate appraiser/researcher
  • Shipper/route delivery manager
  • Drafts person
  • GIS analyst/consultant
  • Cartographer (U.S. Defense Mapping Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, etc.)
  • Software developer
  • Map archivist/librarian
  • Computer systems manager
  • Data processor
  • Market researcher/analyst
  • Location/site selection expert
  • Graphic designer

The following table provides an overview of the major themes of teaching and research in the GIS & Spatial Analysis specialization, along with the names of faculty associated with these themes. However, this list is far from exhaustive. Faculty draw from a variety of subjects within and across specializations to develop their unique research interests. Click a faculty's name below for his or her specific interests. On the following page, click on the faculty's name for his or her website.

GIS & GeoVisualization
 3D GIS 
 GeocomputationAhlqvist, Miller, O'Kelly, Sui, Xiao
 Spatial decision support systems & GIS developmentO'Kelly, Sui, Xiao
 RepresentationAhlqvist, Miller, Sui
 Uncertainty & semanticsAhlqvist, Liu, Xiao
 Qualitative & critical GISAhlqvist, Sui
 Volunteered Geographic Information & Social MediaAhlqvist, Miller, Sui
 Moving Objects DataMiller
Spatial & location analysis
 Service location modelsO'Kelly
 Spatial interactionO'Kelly, Sui
 Spatial statisticsLiu, Munroe, Sui
 Urban, regional, & natural resource planning & developmentLiu, Miller, Munroe, Sui, Xiao
 Applications of quantitative methods for addressing issues in telecommunications, sustainability, & assessing patterns of criminal activityLiu, Miller, O'Kelly, Sui,
 Representing space in location modelsMiller, Xiao
 Spatial optimizationO'Kelly, Xiao
 Hybrid geographiesSui
Space-time human activities & transportation
 Gender/ethnic issues in transportationMiller
 Activity patterns, travel behavior & accessibilityMiller, O'Kelly
 Information & communication technologies & geographies of everyday lifeMiller, Sui,
 Network analysis & designMiller, O'Kelly, Sui, Xiao
 Public transportMiller, O'Kelly
 Sustainable TransportationMiller
Human-environment systems
 Environmental modelingLiu, Munroe, Sui, Xiao
 Land-use & land-cover changeAhlqvist, Liu, Munroe, Sui, Xiao
 Remote sensing of the environmentAhlqvist, Liu, Munroe, Xiao
 Environmental valuationMunroe, Sui
 Environmental healthLiu, Mansfield, Miller, Munroe
 Livable CommunitiesMiller