To broaden access to a comprehensive education in geographical information systems (GIS), three College of Natural Resources and Environment geospatial experts have authored an e-book called “Remote Sensing Analysis in an ArcMap Environment.”

The authors — Tammy Parece of Blacksburg, Virginia, a doctoral candidate in geospatial and environmental analysis; James Campbell, a professor in the Department of Geography; and John McGee, a professor in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation and a geospatial specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension — designed the e-book specifically to help make the tremendous volume of remotely sensed images more accessible to people who are learning, teaching, and working in geospatial sciences.

GIS is powerful technology that lets users display, map, associate, and explore many different kinds of information and spatial data, offering a valuable tool to industry and governments to help manage resources. GIS data also serves as the foundation for many geographically based smartphone apps.

GIS analyses frequently use easily sourced data such as census and postal datasets. In contrast, remote sensing collects data about the Earth and its environment via aerial photography, radar, satellites, and other sources.

Data derived from remote sensing imagery is often used as a “backdrop” to accurately develop GIS map layers, which could include transportation and other infrastructure, impervious surfaces, wetlands, forests, and other features. The combination of GIS and remote sensing data helps guide decision-making at local, regional, national, and international levels.

New software — ArcMap 10.x with Image Analysis extension — specifically made to examine those remote sensing datasets was recently released. ArcMap is the main component of the equally widely available and curated suite of software called ArcGIS.

“Unfortunately, most conventional remote sensing software used for instruction is prohibitively expensive, taking remote sensing instruction out of reach for community colleges and high schools,” Campbell said.

The e-book fills that gap.

Written for students and professionals who have access to the new software through their employers or educational institutions, the new e-book teaches them how to use it.

Presented as a set of tutorials, screen-capture videos walk readers through each step of the process and provide links that expand the training to supplemental information and support online.

“Our goal was to extend the decision-making capabilities associated with remote sensing analysis to a much larger audience,” McGee said. By broadening access to analytical remote sensing software, the authors explain, the e-book helps remove barriers to growing a strong national GIS workforce. The book’s nominal price — $2.99, or free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers — further encourages wide distribution.

GIS technology is an increasingly prevalent tool employed worldwide in fields as diverse as tourism, finance, real estate, epidemiology, marketing, emergency response, natural resources management, agriculture, and transportation. Training tutorials such as the new e-book continue the authors’ outreach work raising awareness of GIS and bolstering the GIS workforce in Virginia and across the country.

The authors are partners in workforce development and technology transfer, teaching remote sensing at Virginia Tech. They also provide workshops for government and private sector employees, K-12 educators, and community college faculty.