Geography Department Theses and Dissertations

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About the MS GIS Program

Rapid growth has occurred in the field of geographic information during the last two decades. Stimulated by advances in the collection, storage and analysis of data, a new discipline has emerged - Geographic Information Science. Geographic Information Science involves research both “on” and “with” spatial technologies including geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and the global positioning system (GPS). At the core of Geographic Information Science is the integration of these technologies and their application to problems of spatial analysis. The foundational theory and principles of Geographic Information Science are based in the discipline of Geography. However, virtually all fields (from engineering, to medicine, science, business, social sciences and humanities) are now embracing Geographic Information Science in both theoretical and applied research.

Program Objectives

The Masters of Science in Geographic Information Science (MS GIS) integrates a suite of core courses with internship and independent research experiences to provide advanced training in the field of Geographic Information Science and its applications. Students completing the MS GIS will:

  • develop, manage and analyze spatial data using field and laboratory techniques
  • engage the rapidly expanding body of literature devoted to spatial data analysis and the application of geographic technologies
  • apply geographic technologies creatively in real-world settings to answer questions about spatial patterns and processes

More on Masters in GIS requirements:


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 44
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    Comparison of Sky View Factor Estimates using Digital Surface Models
    (2022-02) Adhikari, Bikalpa; Wilson, Jeffrey S.; Dwyer, Owen J.; Banerjee, Aniruddha; Thapa, Bhuwan
    Better comprehension of the Urban Heat Island study requires information on the natural as well as built characteristics of the environment at high spatial resolution. Sky View Factor (SVF) has been distinguished as a significant parameter for Local Climate Zone (LCZ) classification based on environmental characteristics that influence the urban climate at finer spatial scales. The purpose of this thesis was to evaluate currently available data sources and methods for deriving continuous SVF estimates. The specific objectives were to summarize the characteristics of currently available digital surface models (DSMs) of the study region and to compare the results of using these models to estimate SVF with three different raster-based algorithms: Horizon Search Algorithm in R-programming (Doninck, 2018), Relief Visualization Toolbox (RVT) (Žiga et al., 2016), and the Urban Multi-scale Environmental Predictor (UMEP) plugin in QGIS (Lindberg, et al., 2018).
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    Beyond Food Deserts: Assessing the Impact of Public Transit Availability Change on Spatial Access to Food
    (2021-03) Katz, Brandon P.; Wilson, Jeffrey S.; Johnson, Daniel P.; Thapa, Bhuwan; Dwyer, Owen J., III
    Food access is a dimension of food security that many struggle with even in high- income countries, which is a contributing factor to chronic diet-related disease. Inequalities in economic access to food has been addressed in public policy for several decades, but spatial access to food has only been seriously studied and addressed by policy for the past twenty-five years. After the food desert metaphor emerged, it was promptly accepted as a standard measure of food access for governments and a basis for policies created to address inequalities. Conceptual criticisms and methodological limitations of the metaphor have led the study of spatial access to food towards newer methods that measure food access more realistically and assist in the development and assessment of intervention strategies to inform policy decisions. This thesis describes the history of the food desert metaphor from its emergence until its adoption in US public policy, the conceptual criticisms and methodological limitations that surround it, and offers an analysis that measures the impact of change in the availability of public transportation on spatial access to food for various population subgroups that are more at risk of food insecurity in Marion County, Indiana. Results demonstrate that policies and plans designed without consideration for food access have an impact on it nevertheless, and that policymakers and planners can leverage such strategies to better coordinate efforts across government to reduce inequalities in spatial access to food and food insecurity overall.
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    A GIS Approach to Understanding Mississippian Settlement Patterns in the Central Illinois River Valley
    (2020-07) Swoveland, Kayla Jan; Wilson, Jeffery; Wilson, Jeremy; Lulla, Vijay
    Geographic Information Science (GIS) technologies have helped to further the research of archaeologists almost since the inception of the field. Archaeologists have long made observations rooted in what would become GIS, but it wasn’t until the early 21st century that science was able to back up these observations. From the seemingly simple task of organizing and storing spatial data to more robust statistical and spatial calculations, GIS has quickly become a valuable tool used by archeologists to better understand past populations. This research applied GIS to help understand the regional distribution of settlement locations from the Mississippian Period (AD 1050-1450) in the central Illinois River Valley (CIRV) of west-central Illinois. Settlement distribution was examined in two contexts, first in the context of larger, more “metropolitan” site placement in relation to smaller, more transitory sites. Secondly, site distribution was examined to see what, if any, pattern existed between site placement and a set of ecological factors. The results found that while smaller sites were prevalent around many of the larger sites, a few metropolitan sites did have a larger number of smaller sites surrounding them, supporting the idea of certain Mississippian sites serving as hubs. Additionally, it was demonstrated that several different types of GIS based analyses were particularly effective in helping to identify these patterns, thus solidifying and improving the role of GIS in the field of archaeology.
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    Modeling Suitable Habitat for the Common Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus maculosus) Utilizing Regional Data and Environmental DNA
    (2020-05) Fischer, Payton Nicole; Lulla, Vijay; Banerjee, Aniruddha; Wilson, Jeffrey S.
    The distribution of the Common Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus maculosus) is widespread but greatly understood. It is assumed that mudpuppy populations are declining due to poor habitat quality. However, there is not enough data to support this claim. The distribution of the mudpuppy is throughout the entire state, but only 43 of the 92 counties in Indiana have records. This project utilized habitat suitability modeling, focused on Indiana, to gain a better understanding of their distribution within the state. Data from Ohio and the Salamander Mussel (Simpsonais ambigua) were included to bolster the dataset. Environmental DNA was included to validate the model. Variables used in this analysis were Strahler Stream Order, distance to forest, percent agriculture, and tree canopy cover. Results showed that stream orders 4 to 6, a shorter distance to forest, less agriculture, and 30 to 40% of tree canopy cover was what contributed to suitable habitat. Stream order was the variable that contributed to the model the most. The areas of suitable habitat found were the HUC08 sub-watersheds in the northeastern and southwestern corners of the state. These areas included 19 counties were there were no previous records of mudpuppies. Environmental DNA showed that the negative samples were not found in suitable habitat. Further supporting the predicted area of suitable habitat. It is recommended that conservation efforts focus on the northeastern and southwestern regions. Interpreting this data to align with the regions set by the Indiana State Wildlife Action Plan shows that conservation should focus in the Great Lakes, Interior Plateau, and Valley and Hills area. It is recommended that more environmental data be conducted and that proactive conservation measures are implemented.
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    Ryan White: A Geospatial Analysis of his Correspondence
    (2020-05) Shaeffer, Haley Lynn; Johnson, Daniel; Wilson, Jeffrey; Lulla, Vijay
    The letters Ryan White received over the course of his diagnosis, illness, and eventual death show a spatial distribution that reflected the United States’ response to Ryan’s condition. Ryan was diagnosed with AIDS in December of 1984 at the height of the epidemic, and the panic that surrounded it. In 2000, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis accessioned a selection of letters sent to Ryan White and his mother, from 1980 to 1993. The expanded incorporation of these letters into the museum’s “Power of Children” gallery will introduce museum visitors to the public view on Ryan and the role he played in developing the public perception and awareness of AIDS in the 1980’s. Originally, it was anticipated that the distribution and number of letters Ryan received directly related to the concentration and spread of AIDS cases around the US. This research assumed that the AIDS community would have been more supportive and empathetic of Ryan’s diagnosis, resulting in those populations sending a higher number of letters. This assumption was also informed by the fact that the highest number of AIDS cases were in areas with large populations such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami. Yet findings showed relatively few letters were coming from the populated coasts where AIDS was more prevalent, and many more letters than expected came from areas with lower populations across the US. Ryan was one of the first children to go public with his AIDS diagnosis, which sparked strong reactions among people throughout the United States. Ryan’s correspondence and the outpouring of support he received allows insight into the multifaceted reaction to the AIDS crisis, especially from young people. Before Ryan became associated with the AIDS epidemic, this disease was seen primarily as an urban, gay, and drug-user related issue. The goal of this research is to gain further understanding of society’s shifting response to Ryan and AIDS during the 1980’s, by placing these letters in their social and geographic context.
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    From Hometown to Practice: Mapping and Analyzing the Medical Student Pipeline at the Indiana University School of Medicine
    (2019-10) Fancher, Laurie Michelle; Wilson, Jeffrey; Kochhar, Komal; Lulla, Vijay
    Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) teaches approximately 350 medical students each year. These students come from varied backgrounds and eventually end up practicing in a vast array of clinical specialties and settings. It is extremely important to monitor specialties and practice locations to understand exactly how IUSM is fulfilling physician workforce needs. This knowledge can help policymakers and school administrators shape programs and policies to better fulfill physician workforce needs. Geographic information technologies provide a framework to organize, analyze and visualize medical student data. Maps are a convenient and easily understandable method of conveying information with a location-based component. This project represents a step towards creating a coherent student database visualized with maps. Using data about the graduating classes from 2011-2018, a database was created that linked together geographic information of students from the various segments of their medical education such as residency, fellowship, and practice location. ArcGIS 10.5 was used to produce maps visualizing segments of this database. These maps also served to answer questions about the medical student graduates at IUSM, such as how many came from an in-state location and how many practice in-state. SPSS 25 was also used to compare results of various segments of the medical education pipeline. The database proves to be an incredibly necessary tool for keeping track of all IUSM graduates. Coherent, clean, and complete data is necessary for researchers at all levels as well as administrators. Keeping data up to date and centralized is essential and this project provides an easily updateable and useable format. The maps created from this database are also useful in showing trends across the graduates of IUSM, such as the Indiana counties that the graduates are most likely to practice in or the likelihood of practicing in specific shortage areas.
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    Integrating GIS in a Statewide Medical Education Administrative System
    (2019-04) Davis, Ashley Michelle; Wilson, Jeffrey S.; Kochhar, Komal; Lulla, Vijay O.
    Geographic technologies can be used to visualize and analyze data patterns that may go unnoticed from other approaches. The purpose of this project was to provide examples of how GIS and cartographic methods are being used to help facilitate communication and inform management processes for a complex statewide medical education system administered by the Indiana University School of Medicine, the largest medical school in the United States. The IU School of Medicine has nine regional campuses located around the state in addition to numerous partnering hospitals where medical students are trained. We illustrate geographic examples of various stages of medical student education from admissions, through campus assignments and clinical rotations, to residency training. These geographic processes are being used to inform reaccreditation processes as well as assisting administration with recruitment/retention strategies, statewide planning, and analysis in a complex medical education system.
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    The Spatial Relationship Between Septic System Failure and Environmental Factors in Washington Township, Marion County, Indiana
    (2019-04) Hanson, Brian L.; Johnson, Daniel P.; Lulla, Vijay; Bein, Frederick L.
    Underground septic systems thrive or fail based on the relationship with their local environment. This paper explores ways environmental variables such as soil type, tree roots, degree of slope, and impervious surfaces affect on-site wastewater treatment systems. It also discusses the effects each of these variables may have on a septic system, and the resulting impact a compromised system may have on the surrounding environment. This research focuses on an approximately 20 square mile area of central Washington Township in Marion County, Indiana. This area of central Indiana contains a large septic system owning population in a sampling of different environments such as wooded areas, hilly areas, and a variety of different soil types.
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    Onion Cultivation System and Spatial Distribution Centers in Tahoua Region/Niger
    (2019-01) Mallam, Abass A.; Bein, Frederick L.; Lulla, Vijay; Banerjee, Rudy; Wilson, Jeffrey
    Onion farming is the main irrigated crop that contributes to the economy of the Tahoua region, Niger. There are two factors that promote the outstanding potentialities of onion cultivation in Niger: the best productive variety “Violet Galmi”, and it is well adapted to storage. It is produced during both growing seasons which creates a permanent local supply of onions all year. Much of the producing areas are not accessible by road, which inhibits the marketing network. Farmers are in need of an improved transportation system in order to further develop onion production. The Violet of Galmi is grown by all the onion producers of Niger. This onion has a major importance in the socio-economic life of the Nigerien population. The consumers appreciate its cooking qualities and spicy taste. It also has a commercial advantage in the local and the sub-regional markets.
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    Public bike stations in Indianapolis: a location allocation study
    (2018-02) Cooper, Samuel D.; Banerjee, Aniruddha; Wilson, Jeffrey S.; Lulla, Vijay
    Location Allocation, rooted in Operations Research and Mathematical programming, allows real world problems to be solved using optimization (based on mathematics and science) and equity principles (based on ethics). Finding nearest facilities for everyone simultaneously is a task solved by numerical and algebraic solutions. Bikeshare as a public good requires equitable allocation of bikeshare resources. Distance, as an impediment, can be minimized using location allocation algorithms. Since location allocation of this kind involves large numbers, sophisticated algorithms are needed to solve them due to their combinatorically explosive nature (i.e. as ‘n’ rises, solution time rises at least exponentially – sometimes called ‘Non Polynomial Time-Hard’ problems). Every day, researchers are working to improve such algorithms, since faster and better solutions can improve such algorithms and in turn help improve our daily lives.