The University of Arizona Geographic Information Systems Technology (UA GIST) integrates GIScience, cutting-edge GISystems, and geospatial technology, with management skills for use in government, corporate, non-profit, and academic settings.

This collection showcases the master's reports and projects from graduates of the Master's of Science in Geographic Information Systems Technology Program.

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Graduating students are invited to submit their master's reports and projects each semester at the conclusion of their MS-GIST program.

Spring 2021 graduates can submit through May 31, 2021.

  • Log in to the repository using your NetID and password
  • Click the "Submissions" link in the left sidebar (under "My Account")
  • Start a new submission in the MS-GIST (Master's Reports) collection
  • You will receive an email with a persistent link to your submission when it is approved.

If you have questions about the submission process, contact us at repository@u.library.arizona.edu.


Contact UA GIST for more information about the Master's Reports in this collection, or about the UA GIST program.

Recent Submissions

  • The Archaeological and Historical Geospatial Analysis of the Port Chicago Disaster of 1944

    Korgaonkar, Yoga; Kiger, David (The University of Arizona., 2021-12)
    The Port Chicago disaster that occurred on July 17, 1944, is a historically important, albeit infamous event for several reasons. Three hundred and twenty (320) servicemen and civilians, mostly African American, were instantly killed and 390 more were injured from the blast. The events surrounding the explosion highlighted racial injustices and shaped the eventual desegregation of the armed forced shortly after. Ensuing investigations were predominantly of a military nature and occurred before GIS technology became a multidisciplinary approach to analyzing events. Here, a collaboration of historical data obtained and managed by the National Park Service is georeferenced and presented in a manner that tells the Port Chicago story and can be continuously updated and expanded upon. This project seeks to analyze the Port Chicago disaster in two areas: The physical phenomenon of the explosion itself, and the resulting historical/archaeological remnants linked to that explosion over space and time. Features are created and centered on the focal point of the explosion, and have been digitized based on historical maps and imagery. Damage zones were then created to summarize physical impact, such as deaths, injuries, percentage levels of damaged structures and associated costs. Historical imagery, diagrams, personal accounts, and archaeological remnants are then documented and embedded within their respective feature classes. A collaboration of over 100 artifacts, ground level photos, and documents are available to be accessed on ArcGIS Online and can be used to construct web-based mapping applications. This study highlights the integration of history/archaeology with modern GIST mapping and display abilities. It will further aid in explaining the Port Chicago disaster across space and give the user another paradigm from which to view how historical events unfold.
  • The Inequitable Distribution of the Urban Heat Island in Dallas County, TX

    Korgaonkar, Yoga; Segovia, Isaias (The University of Arizona., 2021-12-16)
    The Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect is a phenomenon where an urban area has a higher Land Surface Temperature (LST) than surrounding rural areas due to human activities. This phenomenon is caused by the increasing urbanization and the removal of green vegetation. The combination of urbanization and climate change has intensified the UHI within urban areas. Certain urban areas can see slightly higher UHI temperatures than other urban areas due to certain demographic, socioeconomic, and land-use factors. This study sought to see how the UHI effect is being distributed within Dallas County, TX. Dallas County has the 8th largest city in the United States which is the city of Dallas. The City of Dallas was one of the cities within the United States that was redlined by the US government. Redlining was the practice that was used to bar minorities from moving into predominantly white communities and obtaining financial resources. This study used data from the Landsat 8 satellite to determine the UHI within Dallas County and how it is being distributed within certain demographic, socioeconomic, land-use, and historical practices. The assessment was done at the census tract level to determine if tracts with higher UHI had differences in the covariates. Thru the assessment, predominantly White areas, with a high median household income, and have areas graded by the Home Owner Loan Corporation (HOLC) as “Best” or “Still Desirable” had a lower UHI temperature. While areas that are predominantly Black or Hispanic with a high poverty rate, a large percentage of areas covered by impervious surfaces, and have areas graded by HOLC as “Definitely Declining” or “Hazardous” have a higher UHI temperature.
  • The Florida Panther: Challenges to Keep This Endangered Species Moving Forward

    Korgaonkar, Yoga; Munoz, Milton (The University of Arizona., 2021-12-13)
    The endangered Florida panther (puma concolor coryi) continues to face challenges for expansion in the southern part of Florida. For decades, the Florida panther existence has been threatened by several factors such as genetic neurological conditions, and habitat displacement. With the rapidly growing population of Southwest Florida, the biggest danger for survival for the Florida panther today is habitat loss, and the proximity to busy roads and highways. The goal of this project is to display current Florida panther geographical range, areas with high indexes of vehicular mortality, and areas suitable for potential growth. Several datasets were obtained and manipulated to produce maps showing panther radio-collared telemetry readings, mortality records, and Florida land use over the years. A similar assessment was done to the Florida black bear, a species facing similar habitat issues in the Southwest Florida region. A habitat suitability model was done to measure potential areas for recovery after decades of extinction danger. Habitat suitability models are essential in the planning and development of wildlife corridors. The findings of this study could be used for Florida panther conservation projects, and wildlife protecting plans to maintain areas suitable for wildlife proliferation.
  • Tackling Tree Equity: Social and Economic Predictors of Urban Tree Canopy in Tucson, AZ

    Christopherson, Gary; Boyer, Jessica Caitlin (The University of Arizona., 2021-08-20)
    Urban tree canopy provides essential ecosystem services to cities, from improving human wellbeing and health to reducing the urban heat island effect. However, previous studies have shown that tree canopy is often inequitably distributed. In 2019, Tucson was named the 3rd fastest-warming city in the United States. In response, the city government implemented the Tucson Million Trees initiative to help mitigate rising temperatures in the desert city. In an effort to make tree canopy more equitable, this study intends to determine what factors contribute to tree inequity in Tucson so that these factors can be considered in decision-making for tree-planting locations. Using existing data from the Pima Association of Governments, average tree canopy in each census block group was determined. This tree canopy data was tested against 26 variables commonly associated with tree inequity using exploratory regression. Regression analysis identified a seven-variable model with positive correlations between average tree canopy and population density, median household income, percent population with a bachelor’s degree, percent rental households, white population, and vacant households. The model showed negative correlations between tree canopy and percent population living alone. We hope that the results of this study can guide decision makers within the Tucson city government to prioritize block groups using the variables identified as predictors of tree canopy.

    Mason, Jennifer; Youngstrum, Gavin (The University of Arizona., 2021-08)
    California has been in a drought since the year 2000 and is now considered to be in a “megadrought” (Borunda, 2021). Dead and weak trees are susceptible to native bark beetles and as the drought continues to create more vulnerable trees, the bark beetle population has been increasing, causing more tree mortality (Rosner, 2020). Giant sequoia trees are the largest trees on Earth and live for thousands of years (“Giant Sequoias”, 2021). Scientist have seen not a severe increase in sequoia tree mortality due to the drought but have seen a “die-back” in their foliage and canopy loss caused by low water stress (“Leaf to Landscape”, 2016). Fire is an important part to the life cycle of giant sequoia trees, and they have been known to survive through many fires throughout their existence (“Giant Sequoias and Fire”, n.d.). However, with an increase in forest fire fuel from the drought, rising temperatures causing dryer tinder and many years of fire suppression, fires are getting unnaturally hotter and stronger, putting sequoia trees at risk (Fox, 2021). When scientists noticed their dying foliage and canopy loss, the Leaf to Landscape Project was created through partnership with multiple federal agencies and universities to study the giant sequoia trees health (“Leaf to Landscape”, 2016). The project collected tree data by flying an aircraft over Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park using LiDAR technology (Nydick, 2018). My project utilizes the LiDAR data to analyze dead tree clusters and their proximity to giant sequoia groves using a variety of cluster finding techniques using ArcGIS Pro. Locating dead tree clusters will help assist with future fire planning for the protection of sequoia trees.
  • Understanding Patterns of Extraterrestrial Phenomena: An Exploratory Spatial Analysis of UFO Sightings Throughout the Contiguous United States from 1910-2014

    Lukinbeal, Chris; Prichett, Hannajane (The University of Arizona., 2021-08)
    Are humans alone in the universe? It is one of the most profound existential questions of all time. It is a question that this project regrettably will not answer. We all want to know if UFOs are real because not understanding the unexplained is uncomfortable. Analyses in this project seeks to uncover consistent patterns in the reported sightings of extraterrestrial phenomena in the contiguous United States in the last century. The purpose of this master’s project is to analyze data to look for patterns and relationships between UFO sightings and population density, population movement over the last century, and UFO sightings relationships to military installations across the Contiguous United States. To do so, tabular data was geocoded, and a geodatabase was established reflecting sightings between 1910 and 2014. The points were clipped to the Contiguous United States and analysis of the data focused on density and buffer analyses to examine population density relationships, mean center for population movement through time, and buffer analyses to examine sightings relationships to military installations. Results tend to show a relationship between population density and increased sightings of UFOs. No conclusive results showing temporal patterns related to a mean center analysis and mixed results related to military installations were found. GIS based research on UFOs is an important and growing field of study. This Masters Project contributes to helping us better understand UFO data from a spatial science perspective.

    Sánchez-Trigueros, Fernando; Loftus, Pauline (The University of Arizona., 2021-08-19)
    Wildfire in the Southwestern United States is an escalating problem for residents and managers to contend with, particularly for those living and working in the Wildland Urban Interface. Fuel management mitigates the cost of wildfire suppression and protects people and assets. In the Fry Fire District, grants from the Arizona State Department of Forestry and Fire enable collaboration between the district and private landowners in fuel reduction with mechanical thinning and controlled burns. In this study, GIS tools were used to analyze multiple seasonal images from Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance data. The acquired images were corrected for cloud cover and cloud shadow. The change in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and change in Normalized Burn Ratio were then calculated to assess density and recovery. Managing fuels, particularly in the WUI, can help mitigate the extremity, intensity, suppression cost, and loss of life and property resulting from wildfires.

    Sanchez-Trigueros, Fernando; Seay, Laura (The University of Arizona., 2021-08)
    Horse racing in the United States has been around since 1665, but seriously took off after the Civil War in 1868. The sport has always been dangerous, with most of those dangers being manmade. One of the most widely discussed aspects is administering drugs to the racehorses. While drugs may play a part in the number of injuries sustained by the horses, the questions being asked in this project focus on the natural environment surrounding the racing rather than the artificial environment created by man. Does geographic location and climate play a role in horse track fatalities? Data, including number of races per month and fatalities per year, was collected along with specific climate data for each racetrack location from Jan 2009 through December 2020. The data was analyzed using regression testing. Racetrack locations on the west coast were compared to their east coast counterparts. Northern tracks were compared to southern tracks. Through all comparisons, there does not appear to be a strong connection between the geographic locations of the racetracks and the fatalities reported each year. More detailed analysis to determine that correlation is needed.
  • Flood Risk Assessment of the Greater St George, Utah Area Based on Land Cover/Land Use and Watersheds

    Sánchez-Trigueros, Fernando; Moertle-Litson, Jasmine (The University of Arizona., 2021-08)
    The Greater St George area in Southern Utah is a hot spot for development. The gradual increase in population size has caused a large growth in construction. In 2018, a large storm hit the area and caused massive flooding in Washington, Utah. This was caused by new construction blocking a natural floodplain. This caused a diversion of the waters into the people’s homes below. The point of this project is to identify the changes in the land from the year of 2008 to 2018 along with displaying the natural water passages in the area. The areas that are overlapped with the flood zones that have been developed on, are at a potential risk of dealing with major flood damage. Using the unsupervised and supervised classification systems on ArcMap along with a watershed analysis, the flood hazard zones information will be displayed within the area. The unsupervised and supervised data signifies that the major flood zones are now encountering more developed areas. This indicates that if more work isn’t done to prevent flooding, then more homes are susceptible to damage. Census data also indicates the communities with the most flooding risk are the low income and high minority communities. The impact of developing the area to support the growing population is ultimately having to cost the city and the citizens more money. The developers need to make sure they examine the natural water ways and avoid causing more flood damage to the city.
  • A Spatiotemporal Exploratory Analysis of Assault Crimes Near Portland's TriMet Public Transportation Network

    Sánchez-Trigueros, Fernando; Shigeta, Robert (The University of Arizona., 2021-08-17)
    Portland’s public transportation system, TriMet, is an extensive network of buses, light rail, and streetcars. Millions of passengers ride on the transit system every year. Likewise, each year thousands of people are victims of violent crimes in public spaces throughout the city. A geospatial analysis of assault crimes may offer law enforcement an invaluable tool for examining the spatial patterns of assaults. This project is a spatiotemporal exploratory analysis of assault crime near transit nodes in Portland, Oregon. The analysis calculates location quotients for aggravated assaults, simple assaults, and intimidation assaults at the macro, meso and micro levels. Location quotients measure the concentration of each offense type in buffered areas around transit nodes relative to the surrounding area at each level of the analysis. Location quotients at the macro level for each offense type in each year of the study period were between 2.4 and 2.8, indicating assault crime concentrations were approximately two and a half times to nearly three times higher in areas within 500 feet of the transit system throughout the entire city. The results of the macro analysis suggest that a spatial relationship exists between Portland’s public transportation network and locations of assault crimes. Results of the meso and micro levels varied considerably between neighborhoods and intersections, suggesting other underlying factors should be studied.
  • Southern Sierra Nevada Backpacking Route Planner

    Sanchez Trigueros, Fernando; Dufour, Hilary (The University of Arizona., 2021-08-15)
    The process for planning backpacking trips in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range takes into account a multitude of geographic data, which is dispersed across multiple sites. This dispersal makes the process laborious. Wilderness permits are linked to trailheads and reserved online through Recreation.Gov or Yosemite Conservancy, which lack sufficient spatial information required for planning. I developed an ArcGIS WebAppBuilder application for backpacking route planning in the Inyo National Forest, Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. The application was developed through data gathering and vetting, geoprocessing and digitizing, use of geometric networks, Arcade expressions, Python, web maps and WebAppBuilder. Data is centralized from various sources and enhanced in ways that make it easily consumable in a web application format. Widgets are utilized for simple filtering and viewing of layers such as trails and trailheads. It is a much-needed solution for planning wilderness travel in the Southern Sierra Nevada.
  • Protecting Ka Mo'omeheu O Hawai'i: A Cultural Resources Risk Assessment

    Sanchez, Fernando; Ruddell, Kasiah (The University of Arizona., 2021-08)
    Archaeological and historic sites are important to contemporary societies all over the world, especially to peoples like the Kanaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiians, who have suffered the attempted theft of their culture and identity. The Hawaiian Island of Oahu is rich with cultural resources including over 2,000 archaeological and historic sites. Oahu is the most populated and industrial of the Hawaiian Islands and is not escaping climate change caused sea level rise and coastal erosion, so these sites are at risk of being damaged or lost. With so many cultural resources, it is difficult to discern what threatens each site via standard observation and field methods. In this study, a Cultural Resources Vulnerability Index is used to determine the level of risk for cultural resource sites on Oahu. This index combines both coastal vulnerability and anthropogenic risk factors as well as position on the island to provide a risk ranking. Coastal vulnerability includes flood zones, sea level rise, coastal erosion, elevation, and slope and anthropogenic factors include location in State Land Use Districts, population density, and air pollution. With such a rich density of cultural resources, this study illustrates how GIS can be used to examine multiple risks and ultimately ascertain which sites need immediate action. Lastly, a dashboard application is used for easy visualization of the results.
  • Determining Opportunity: The Need for Forming a Families Opportunity Index

    Sanchez Trigueros, Fernando; Johnson, Erika (The University of Arizona., 2021-08-14)
    The relationship between families and communities are apparent in the opportunity available to the family unit. How a family fares in a community can have lasting effects, both generational and to the community that they are a part of. Measuring opportunity through an index is best practice because of its multi-dimensional aspect, however, no index exists when evaluating the opportunity of families. The nearest index to providing some indication is the Opportunity Index, but it also fails to capture the complexities that families contend with. Using the framework from the Opportunity Index, along with adding other markers of family opportunity based on research, a Families Opportunity Index was created to better quantify the opportunity of families for the counties of California. The new Families Opportunity Index includes added indicators for the Economy Dimension of the Index. By modifying the Economy Dimension to focus on data that would capture indicators that effect the most vulnerable of families, single parent families, and recently separated or divorced families, we can capture a more realistic picture of a family’s opportunity for each California county. The expectation is that the Families Opportunity Index will be used to inform better public policy for Families.
  • Advanced and Spatial Statistics in High School Basketball

    Sanchez Trigueros, Fernando; Reigelsperger, Jordan (The University of Arizona., 2021-08)
    Sports analytics in professional basketball leagues, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA), have transformed their respective leagues by introducing new statistical measures to quantify individual player and team performance. NBA organizations have teams of personnel and dedicated analytics departments dedicated to analysis. However, high schools generally do not. Thus, revolutionary statistical measures are not available to the programs serving as the foundation for professional leagues. Data from a five-game stretch of the 2020-2021 varsity boys’ basketball season was utilized to provide a high school with advanced statistical measures to evaluate individual player and team performance. A review and plotting of game-tape from the sample was performed, followed by the calculation of advanced and spatial statistics. The advanced statistics revealed that during the sample individual players and the team were less efficient than their professional counterparts in all areas. The relative inefficiency is attributed to a lack of 3-point shots, the result of 3-point shots when taken, and the prevalence of inefficient shot attempts. The result of 3-point shots when taken being less efficient was expected due to the disparity of individual player skill that exists between high school, collegiate and professional basketball players. Spatial statistics, though hindered by small sample size, revealed clustering of efficient field goal attempts near the basket and low clustering of corner 3-point field goal attempts, another efficient attempt. As a pilot study, the findings of this capstone can be used to illuminate patterns and trends, as well as efficiencies and inefficiencies to improve upon.
  • A Comprehensive Study of Forest Health and Structure Following the West Fork Fire Complex in Southwest Colorado through Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR)

    Sanchez Trigueros, Fernando; Rodriguez, Michael (The University of Arizona., 2021-05)
    In June 2013, southwest Colorado faced one of the largest wildfires in state history, the West Fork Fire Complex. Being composed of three separate fires (Papoose, West Fork, and Windy Pass), the wildfire burned approximately 110,000 acres within the Rio Grande National Forest. This project aims to understand how the West Fork Fire affected forest structure and recovery, and measures these impacts using Landsat 8 imagery to analyze NDVI and NBR. NDVI was calculated to understand impacts to vegetation, while NBR was calculated to understand overall burn severities. Specific measurements of NDVI and NBR values were collected across 30 designated control points within each set of imagery. NDVI results showed a 63% decrease in control point values from June to August 2013, indicating immediate impacts to forest structure. The average values fell from greater than 0.20 to less than 0.10, classifying these once sparsely covered lands into areas of barren rock or sand. NBR values saw a decrease of 309% over the same period. ΔNBR values averaged 0.33 which indicated moderate to low severity burns throughout the landscape while ΔNDVI averaged 0.12. NDVI found a 123% increase in July 2016 compared with the 2014 data, and NBR detected a 114% increase. Both analyses presented higher values in 2016 compared with their 2013 data, showing evidence of forest recovery. The results indicated the West Fork Complex had a moderate to low impact. Additionally, results demonstrated how NDVI and NBR helped to classify the severity of wildfires, vegetation health, and how these methods can be reproduced.
  • Creating a Secure Data Architecture and Digital Platform for the Borderlands Observatory Collaborative

    Lukinbeal, Chris; Bristol, Warren (The University of Arizona., 2021-05-10)
    The Borderlands Observatory Collaborative is a group of advocates, NGOs, and academics that want to promote ethical, horizontal research on border militarization. This collaboration created a data architecture and digital platform for NGOs, advocacy groups, and academics to communicate their information to the public. ArcGIS Hub provided an interface to create a user-friendly platform to store, mix and display spatial and other information and keep data secure and private for collaborators. It takes untold sums of human effort, labor, technical know-how, people power, and geospatial tools to create datasets used in the region, including humanitarian, social, and environmental, as well as ongoing monitoring of changing issues. The purpose of this Master Project is to detail the creation of this Hub site and one case study from the project on mapping the construction, litigation, and environmental policies associated with Trump and Bush era border walls. The case study focuses on the collaborative work performed with The Sierra Club utilizing ArcGIS Hub and AGOL tools. This study utilizes Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) feedback from collaborative members to guide the creation of a secure data architecture. This study explains the techniques used from PPGIS feedback to create a Hub and applies PPGIS to construct a border wall AGOL Dashboard. The collaboration in this study is ongoing, but a noted finding from this PPGIS experience was with information that is highly sensitive, personal, and political, the collaborative tended to prefer less centralization and a diffused data sharing platform and power structure for ethical reasons.
  • Socioeconomic status and land cover as predictors of the urban heat island effect in Tempe, Arizona

    Sanchez Trigueros, Fernando; Madigan, Sean (The University of Arizona., 2021)
    Developed land emits heat more effectively than rural land. This results in an urban heat island effect, where cities have hotter temperatures than surrounding rural areas. Urban heat islands pose a public health risk in many cities and especially affect areas of lower socioeconomic status, where people are more vulnerable to extreme heat conditions. The Phoenix Metropolitan Area in Arizona is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States and regularly experiences extreme heat in the summer. Tempe, a city within the metropolitan area, has outlined a plan to decrease the urban heat island effect by increasing tree cover to 25% by 2040. Landsat 8 OLI/TIRS satellite imagery was used to estimate land surface temperature (LST), a measure commonly associated with urban heat island effects. A land cover classification and US Census data were used to predict mean LST in Tempe. Exploratory regression and spatial regression identified a six-variable model with increases in mean household income, college population, grass land cover, and water cover all decreasing mean LST, while increases in urban land use and a spatial lag variable increased mean LST. Although overall estimates of tree cover were 23% of the land surface, estimates were high as the classification model overestimated tree cover due to the spatial resolution of the Landsat 8 sensor. Results suggest that although Tempe has made progress in its goal, there are discrepancies between areas of differing socioeconomic status.
  • A Habitat Suitability Analysis of Texas Horned Lizards in Texas and New Mexico

    Sanchez Trigueros, Fernando; Piehler, Reid (The University of Arizona., 2021-05)
    The Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) is a state-protected lizard native to the American Southwest. To rebuild the Texas Horned Lizard population, they are bred in captivity and released into the wild. Identifying factors that impact habitat suitability is vital to finding the proper areas for release and reintroduction. Environmental and human factors were examined in Texas and New Mexico counties native to the Texas Horned Lizard, as well as counties without known sightings, to determine which factors most impact habitat suitability. Four statistical and geospatial software packages were used to map, analyze, and evaluate 24 potential variables and it was discovered that elevation, road density, natural gas pipeline density, seasonal rainfall, land use category, and proximity to Red Harvester Ants are all statistically significant to Texas Horned Lizard habitat suitability at a 95% confidence level. Texas Horned Lizards are most prevalent in counties with low elevation, high percentage of open water or snow, low precipitation levels, and native habitats for Red Harvester Ants. Horned Lizards are also less prevalent where road density or natural gas pipeline density is high. No significant difference was detected in habitat suitability relative to Imported Fire Ants as suggested in previous studies. To protect viable environments for Texas Horned Lizard reintroduction, pipeline and road construction should be limited in the most suitable regions: eastern and southern New Mexico, the southern Gulf Coast, the Texas Panhandle, Edwards Plateau, and along the Rio Grande.

    Sanchez-Trigueros, Fernando; Carini, Kiri (The University of Arizona., 2020-05)
    As urban areas grow around the world it is important to understand whether species biodiversity can adapt to these environs. Birds are known to be indicator species of ecosystem health. Furthermore, they are relatively easy to observe. In 2001, the Tucson Bird Count (TBC) was initiated to establish a long-term monitoring effort of bird biodiversity in urban Tucson. This project investigates long-term trends in the relative abundances of six common urban Tucson bird species across land classifications using the latest National Land Cover Database products, spanning 15 years. Using zonal statistics methods to aggregate bird count data within land cover classifications, this analysis determined mean relative abundance for six species over time and across land cover types. The results found that population abundance for these species has been relatively stable over time and consistent across land classifications. While overall bird species populations have declined in North America, in urban Tucson, birds are adapting. Further analysis of the TBC is needed to gain insight into species distribution and the complexities of urban habitats.
  • Where am I? Developing Spatial Thinking Skills

    Lukinbeal, Chris; Glueck, Mary (The University of Arizona., 2020-05)
    Middle school students are inundated with a plethora of geographic and GIS instructional resources; however, these students often lack the spatial thinking skills necessary to orient themselves in space and make meaningful geographic connections to the world. The question, “Where am I?”, is challenging without an understanding of spatial orientation, distance, and connections. Developing geographic literacy, even geographic media literacy, being able to locate and connect themselves in the world, is critical to their greater understandings. With this Master’s Project, I document a learner-centered exercise that develops spatial thinking skills. Spatial thinking combines spatial concepts, visualization, and reasoning. Spatial thinking reaches beyond answering “where” with a simple “here” to consider personal awareness of spatial orientation along with spatial connections, and pattern recognition at different spatial scales for problem-solving, decision-making, or policy purposes. Middle school, a time of growth in student understandings from concrete to abstract, is an optimal stage to advance and implement spatial thinking skills. Furthermore, curriculum standards focus on crosscutting concepts of patterns, change, and scale, providing ample opportunity for increasing spatial understandings. This research project involved a sixty-five student cohort that was guided through a geographic inquiry process to build spatial thinking skills and conceptual understandings by orienting themselves in the classroom, applying historical survey methods to create a grid map of the school courtyard, and extending this to GIS-based virtual transects of student-selected connections. Outcomes indicate considerable growth in student spatial thinking skills and understandings. Their knowledge will be applied to future Earth Science investigations ensuring strong engagement and greater spatial understandings. Keywords: Geographic education, reasoning, spatial connections, spatial orientation, visualization

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