45150 - Geographic Information Systems

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Moduli: Francesco Brardinoni (Modulo 1) Giuseppe Ciccarese (Modulo 2)
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures (Modulo 1) Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Geology and Territory (cod. 9073)

Learning outcomes

Students will become familiar with the main capabilities of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and will gain practical experience on problem solving through a learning path that includes: (i) GIS-based data collection (e.g., manual digital mapping on optical imagery, shaded relief rasters, and interferograms), (ii) GIS-based integratation of existing datasets (e.g., DTMs, aerial orthophotomosaics and satellite imagery, historical topographic maps, geological ancd geomorphological maps, sedimentological and geophysical data) and relevant spatially-distributed analysis, (iii) production of orginal maps, (iv) data interpretation and report writing towards a set of concise conclusions and open questions. Students will gain experience on the quatittaive characterization of landforms and the geomorphic processes that control landscape evolution in relation to landscape history, climate change and antrhopogenic effects. Students will be able to perform basic-to-advanced operations in ArcGIS, as well as in additional, open-source modules.

Course contents

1. Geographic Information Systems as tools for integrating georeferenced data collected across spatial and temporal scales;

2. Raster data, Digital Terrain Models and main topographic variables for the quantitative analysis of the Earth's Surface;

3. Vector-based data for building geo-referenced inventories and performing digital mapping;

4. Aerial photographs, staellite imagery and mapping applications;

5. Multi-temporal mapping for documenting environmental change (e.g., land use, landslide activity, active channel width, glacier change and rock glacier inventories for permafrost evaluation);

6. LiDAR technology for the acquisition of high-resolution digital topography: DTM and DSM.

7. Digital drainage basins and drainage networks;

8. Topographic curvature and surface roughness;

9. Practical examples of remote sensing for compiling geomorphic databases;

10. Integrating remotely sensed, field based and geophysical data;

11. Geomorphic Change Detection applied to sequential Digital Terrain Models.


Readings and lectures posted online.

Teaching methods

Lectures and six GIS lab sessions (ArcGIS Desktop 10.8.2). Students are distributed in alphabetical order in two groups.

Lab 1 - Introduction to Catalogue, Map and Toolboxes.

Lab 2 - Introduction to basic operations on raster and vector-based files.

Lab 3 - Multi-temporal mapping of Ventina glacier and climate change assessment.

Lab 4 - Digital delineation of drainage basins and automated extraction of fluvial channel networks.

Lab 5 - Working with geomorphometric parameters: topographic curvature and surface roughness.

Lab 6 - Group project (students work in teams of two) - Historical multi-temporal mapping (e.g., landslides, rivers, glaciers, rock glaciers, coast lines, land use) and quantitative analysis of geomorphic change. Students select an Italian study area and map changes on WMS-based imagery and Google Earth.

Assessment methods

Report 1: a guided report summarizing the main products and outcomes obtained during the labs (40%);

Digital oral presentation in class and discussion of the work conducted by groups in lab 6 (30%);

Report 2: report based on the group project (30%).

Teaching tools

Computer-based video projections and interactive group presentations/discussions.

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Brardinoni

See the website of Giuseppe Ciccarese


Climate Action

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.