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Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for Earth and Environmental Scientists

This course aims to equip earth and environmental scientists with skills to use Geographical Information Systems to make maps and to visualise and analyse a variety of spatial data.

GIS is particularly important in Earth and Environmental science. From creating geological and mineral resource maps to applications in areas such as natural hazards, civil engineering, including building bridges and roads, soil types, agriculture, and urban planning, GIS provides the tools for visualising and analysing spatial relationships. GIS is also essential for locating the georesources that we will need for the transition to the green economy.

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Who it’s for

Earth and environmental scientists.

At Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, we’ve created a brand new online course, looking at GIS Techniques from a geoscience perspective. So, while you may have seen other GIS programmes, we think this is a pretty unique course. The content has been designed with geologists and environmental scientists in mind, and examples throughout the course focus on georesources.

What you’ll learn

On successful completion of the course a participant will be able to:

  • understand the principles and applications of Geographical Information Systems
  • understand the different types of spatial data and the ability to select and implement the most appropriate methods to analyse and display them
  • select and apply appropriate coordinate reference systems and change between them
  • use QGIS for displaying and analysing spatial data, especially for Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • digitise spatial data to make maps
  • use web mapping services, tiles, plugins and the QGIS toolbox

Topics covered

  • the QGIS interface
  • working with raster and vector data
  • print layouts: making a map
  • working with other types of layers
  • web mapping services
  • tiles
  • digitising
  • plugins and the toolbox

How is the course delivered?

This is an online course which will be delivered in English by GIS and prospectivity mapping experts from Cardiff University and includes content provided by colleagues from the Geological Survey of Finland, and Midlands State University, Zimbabwe.

The course length is approximately 16-20 hours.

Most learning will involve asynchronous activities such as videos and exercises, which course participants can undertake in their own time and at their own pace. There will be a ‘live’ session in which the course leader will teach fundamental concepts and techniques, give examples, and provide feedback through questions.

There is also an end of course test to assess learning. Participants who achieve 80% or more will receive an e-certificate of completion.


While there are other GIS courses available, the particular focus of this one on earth and environmental science gives it a distinctive character which will appeal to those working in the field as students or professionals.

The course aims to be a relatively quick and effective introduction, which will give particpants a platform to use GIS at a basic level as well as to develop more specialised expertise.

Our team:

  • provides a friendly, welcoming and supportive environment in which to learn
  • consistently receives outstanding feedback from learners

The design enables you to:

  • undertake the independent study element of the course at a time suitable for you, and at your own pace

Take a look at this short video, outlining the aims, objectives and benefits of this course:

Watch GIS Techniques video

Teaching and useful information

All participants will need a laptop or desktop computer with reasonable internet access. Participants will need to have installed QGIS.

This course is delivered remotely online. We will provide learning materials, and other information (such as login details) in the two weeks leading up to the start of your course. Learning materials will be accessed via Learning Central and will be available to access during the course.

Course lead

Professor Thomas Blenkinsop

Tom is a Professor of Structural Geology at the University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He has 30 years’ experience in structural analysis. Much of this has been carried out in the context of consultancy for problems of hydrothermal mineralisation for major mining companies. Through this experience he has developed a unified and systematic approach to structural analysis, which includes new and simple methods of dealing with structures such as lineations, folds, and shear zones.

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