Arts and Sciences Curriculum Development Proposal

Awarded for June 16, 2001 – June 15, 2002


A Three-Course Sequence in Geographic Information Systems for Sustainability

Professor Timothy L. Nyerges

Department of Geography


This project proposes to make significant improvements in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) education that will focus on a balance among substantive issues, methods, and concepts about sustainable development. This curriculum improvement will help students better integrate their learning across the GIS, environment and society, and urban/social concentrations within the Department of Geography.


A GIS integrates data management, spatial analysis, and map display techniques to address complex geographic problems, e.g., water resources management in relation to land use development.  Currently, a three-course sequence consisting of Geography 360 Principles of Cartography (Aut), Geography 461 Urban GIS (Win), and Geography 463 GIS Workshop (Spr), provides students with a scaffold-learning experience mostly with regard to methodology. The sequence serves approximately 200 students per year, each course having a significant “hands-on” lab component. Having articulated session-by-session objectives across the ten course GIS curriculum, there is now a clearer picture for curriculum improvement (See


Across the three-course sequence, this project will introduce students to selected sustainable development issues being discussed worldwide for economic, social and environmental domains; have the students work on those issues using GIS to integrate perspectives; and foster students’ consideration of “pluralistic values” as a basis of addressing complex sustainable development concerns. One month summer faculty salary and three quarters of RA support (Summer and Autumn 2001, Winter 2002) are requested to design and implement these changes.


Geography 360 Principles of Cartography is about GIS map making and map use. Students have worked with data topics as opportunities for data acquisition arise.  This project will develop curriculum material to introduce sustainability indicators about social, economic and environmental issues as a substantive basis for GIS map making. Sustainability indicators are measurements that are understood by a diverse audience.  Student learning will “scaffold” across spatial scales (international, national, state, region, and local) and temporal scales (intragenerational and intergenerational).  Scaffolding is an incremental exposure to a set of complex ideas – a constuctivist approach to instruction.  A RA is requested for the summer quarter, who will compile the datasets for the lab assignments, work with a new version of ArcView GIS that is just being released, and integrate a CATALYST tool for peer-to-peer sustainability discussions (for approximately 70 students) for the Autumn 2001 class.  This past year, Friday lectures were replaced with a group essay session, where students commented on each others written understanding about links between lab assignments and lecture material from that week.  With the assistance of this project, a CATALYST tool will be linked to our course web page to support before and after class discussion to promote student engagement.  To evaluate improvements we will work with CIDR and the Office of Assessment to implement the learning outcomes rubric that is based on learning objectives for the class as specified in Appendix A of the GIS curriculum program (see


Geography 461 Urban GIS is about data management, analysis and display, focusing on urban issues.  This past year the course was redeveloped to more clearly focus on urban growth management issues.  After doing that it was recognized that growth management is but a state and local government perspective on urban issues, whereas sustainable development is an international, national and local community perspective on development.  Thus, this course is ripe for integrating the perspectives as “urban sustainability” – more clearly articulating the linkages between growth management and sustainable development.  Lab assignments about siting a wastewater recycling plant in King County will be recast to focus on community impact maps as a way of integrating perspectives.  A RA is requested for the Autumn quarter to implement those changes.  In addition, last year, two 5-minute essay assignments about learning objectives were conducted for the approximately 80 students at the middle and end of each lecture session. What did not occur was timely feedback on these essays because of the daily workload.  CATALYST will be used to implement peer-to-peer discussion about these learning objectives.  Student feedback from this past year was extremely encouraging. As in the Autumn, we will work with CIDR and the Office of Assessment to implement the learning outcomes rubric for the class based on learning objectives in Appendix A of the curriculum program (


Geography 463 GIS Workshop is one of the first capstone courses on campus. As such it is a social and technical-oriented learning experience whereby students integrate learning in a 10-week long, GIS group project.  The course has always had a major service learning link to various community organizations, depending on the interests of the students and the opportunities that arise for doing realistic, community projects from year to year.  This year there is a service link to the City of Seattle Office of Sustainability and the Thornton Creek Project just north of campus. What has been missing from this course, and desperately needed, is the implementation of a peer-to-peer project management tool that would allow students to interact, asynchronously on their projects, and hence improve the workflow and time management demanded by this type of capstone course.  Although we have examined and tested a number of different tools in the past, even a couple obtained as part of a National Science Foundation grant in 1994-1996, no tools seemed to address the need. Now that CATALYST is at a level to support this course, an RA is needed to implement the CATALYST tools to provide student to student engagement on tasks. Part of that engagement is identifying how to make stronger, technology links to the community service partners. As in 360 and 461, we will work with CIDR and the Office of Assessment to implement the rubric for Geog 463 as in Appendix A of the curriculum program (


Thank you for consideration of these significant improvements to UW GIS curriculum.


Timothy L. Nyerges

Abbreviated CV



Address:               U of Washington, Geography           Telephone:           (206) 543-5296 (office)

                              Box 353550, Seattle, WA 98195                                  (425) 868-7162 (home)

Email:                       WWW:       



1977-1980           Ph.D. Geography, Ohio State University, Geographic Information Systems.

1975-1976           M.A. Geography, Ohio State University, urban and cognitive geography.

1974-1975           B.A. Geography with Distinction, Ohio State University, economic geography.



9/85 - present      Asst, Assoc, Full Prof, Dept of Geography, U of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

3/83 - 8/85.          Digital Mapping and GIS Consultant for various national and international companies

7/80 - 1/83.          Software Project Manager, Synercom Technology, Inc., Sugar Land TX



Introduction to Computer Cartography / Principles of Cartography

Urban Geographic Information Systems

Research Seminar in Geographic Information Representation

Geographic Information Systems Workshop

GIS for Risk Evaluation

Geography Tutorial for Majors

Geography Honors Tutorial



T. Nyerges PI. 1998 Objectives and Outcomes Assessment: Portable Information Technology for Curriculum Enhancement.  Funded by College of Arts & Sciences, $3,000.

September 16, 1998 – September 15, 1999.  Visualization of Uncertainty, National Research Center for Statistics and Environment, T. Nyerges and N. Hedley co-PI’s., $15,000.

T. Nyerges PI 1997. Drop-in Access to High-End Geographic Computing Equipment for Students in Department of Geography, University of Washington.  Funded by University of Washington Student Tech Fee Committee, $65,000

June 16, 1996 - June 15, 1998. Learning Skills for Undergraduate Education in Geography, as writing advisor to L. Jarosz, G. Krumme, J. Mayer, K. Mitchell co-PI’s, National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement Program, $48,000.

March 15, 1996 - September 15, 1997.  Equipment for Videotape Data Coding and Analysis, as supplement to Collaborative Spatial Decision Making Using Geographic Information Technology and Multicriteria Decision Models.  T. Nyerges, PI, National Science Foundation, Social and Behavioral Sciences Division, Geography and Regional Science Program ($8,000), with matching funds from the University of Washington ($5,850).

September 16, 1995 - March 15, 2000. CRESP - Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, one of 25 members of research team, Bernard Goldstein, Rutgers, PI, Elaine Faustman, University of Washington, CO-PI, U. S. Department of Energy, $45,000/year my part, $4,000,000 total.

June 16, 1995 - June 15, 1996. Electronic Library Resources for Upper-Division Undergraduate Geography Courses, G. Krumme, T. Nyerges and A. Zald, Allen Foundation, University of Washington, $9,000.

January 15, 1995 - December 15, 1995.  Collaborative Spatial Decision Making Supplement for Undergraduate Research.  T. Nyerges, PI, National Science Foundation, Social and Behavioral Sciences Division, Geography and Regional Science Program, $5,000

September 16, 1994 - September 15, 1997.  Collaborative Spatial Decision Making Using Geographic Information Technology and Multicriteria Decision Models.  T. Nyerges, PI, and P. Jankowski, CO-PI, National Science Foundation, Social and Behavioral Sciences Division, Geography and Regional Science Program, $126,000 (UW part), co-PI with Piotr Jankowski, Geography, University of Idaho.

June 16, 1994 - June 15, 1996. Facilitating Collaborative Learning and Critical Thinking in a Geographic Information System Laboratory for Undergraduate Education. T. Nyerges, PI, N. Chrisman Co-PI, National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement Program, $50,000.



T. Nyerges, P. Jankowski, and C. Drew. 2001. Data Strategies for Social-Behavioral Research in Participatory Geographic Information Science”, International Journal of Geographic Information Science. 2001, accepted pending revisions.

C. Drew, T. Nyerges, K. McCarthy and J. Moore, 2001. “Using Decision Paths to Explore Three Environmental Cleanup Decisions: A Cross-Case Analysis””, Environment and Pollution, in press.

P. Jankowski and T. Nyerges. (equal contribution) 2001 “GIS-Supported Collaborative Decision Making: Results of an Experiment”, Annals of the AAG, in press for March 2001 issue.

P. Jankowski and T. Nyerges, 2001 Geographic Information Systems for Group Decision Making, Taylor & Francis: London. March, 2001. equal contribution; eight chapters synthesizing research 1995-2000, .

P. Jankowski and T. Nyerges, 2000. “GeoChoicePerspectives: A Collaborative Spatial Decision Support System”, to appear in The Analytic Hierarchy Process in Natural Resource and Environmental Decision Making edited by Daniel L. Schmoldt, Jyrki Kangas, Guillermo Mendoza, and Mauno Pesonen, Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht, Netherlands.

T. Nyerges, 1999. "Progress in Spatial Decision Making Using GIS", in Geographic Information Research: Trans-Atlantic Perspectives, (eds.) H. Onsrud and M. Craglia. London: Taylor & Francis, pp. 129-142.

T. Nyerges, T J Moore, R. Montejano, M. Compton, 1998. “Interaction Coding Systems for Studying the Use of Groupware”, Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 13(2):127-165.

T. Nyerges, R. Montejano. C. Oshiro, and M. Dadswell, 1998. "Group-based Geographic Information Systems for Transportation Site Selection", Transportation Research C: Emerging Technologies, 5(6):349-369

T Nyerges and P. Jankowski, 1997. "Enhanced Adaptive Structuration Theory: A Theory of GIS-supported Collaborative Decision Making”, Geographical Systems, 4(3):225-257.

T. Nyerges, M Robkin, T. J. Moore, 1997. “Geographic Information Systems for Risk Evaluation: Applications in Environmental Health”. special issue of Cartography and Geographic Information Systems entitled GIS and Risk Assessment, July, 1997, 24(3):123-144.

P. Jankowksi, T. Nyerges, A. Smith, T J Moore, and E. Horvath, 1997. "Spatial Group Choice: A SDSS Tool for Collaborative Spatial Decision Making", International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 11(6):577-602.

T. Nyerges, 1995. "Cognitive Task Performance When Using a Spatial Decision Support System for Groups", in Cognitive Aspects of Human-computer Interaction for Geographic Information Systems, (eds.) T. Nyerges, D. Mark, M. Egenhofer, and R. Laurini, Dordrecht : Kluwer, Sept, 1995, 311-324.

T. Nyerges, "Geographic Information Abstractions: Conceptual Clarity for Geographic Modeling", Environment and Planning A, 1991, vol. 23:1483-1499.

T. Nolan, and T. Nyerges, "A Land Information Systems Network for the Puget Sound Region," Journal of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, Vol. 3, No. 2, Fall 1991, pp. 25-34.

T. Nyerges, "Analytical Map Use", Cartography and Geographic Information Systems (formerly The American Cartographer) January, 1991, vol. 18, No. 1, 11-22.

T. Nyerges and N. Chrisman, "A Framework for Model Curricula Development in Cartography and Geographic Information Systems", The Professional Geographer 41(3) 1989 pp. 283-293.



  Editorial Board, Intl J of Geographic Information Science, J of Geographic Info and Decision Analysis

  Member, Association for Computing Machinery, Computer-Human·Interaction Specialty Group

  Member, Urban And Regional Information Systems Association

  Member, Past Board of Dir, and past Secy-Tres, GIS Specialty Group, Assoc of American Geographers.

  Member, American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing - GIS Division

  Member, Society for Risk Analysis

  Member, Representative, University Consortium for Geographic Information Science

· Past Member, experts panel, Federal Geographic Data Committee, National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

· Past Member of Steering Committee, National Committee for Digital Cartographic Data Standards

  Technical Advisor, Thornton Creek Watershed Project, K-12 Learning GIS in City Public Schools