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What You'll Study

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Use R to carry out table manipulation, data visualization, and spatial analysis
  • Use a range of open source software to create and design maps
  • Create and import spatial data in QGIS and R
  • Perform database and spatial queries and joins in QGIS
  • Understand map projections and project spatial data in QGIS
  • Digitize new features using QGIS and its Open Layers plugin
  • Create habitat suitability and species distribution models
  • Calculate home ranges with different algorithms using animal tracking data
  • Conduct unsupervised and supervised habitat classification and forest mapping with satellite image
Program Details

September 14-18, 2020

Available Formats

Graduate (CONS 697, 2 credits)

Professional Training (SMSC 0516, 3.75 CEUs)


GraduateSee Mason’s graduate tuition rates

Professional Training: $1,922.00*

*Professionals from certain countries are eligible for a reduced rate of $1,355.50 which will automatically be reflected during the registration process.

Scholarships & financial aid


Apply by July 6, 2020

Payment due by July 20, 2020

Meet the Faculty

Qiongyu Huang
Wildlife Biologist and Lab Manager, Conservation GIS Laboratory
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Dr. Huang's current projects include quantifying the variability of the predicted giant panda future habitat, examining spatial temporal variability of resource availability in global grassland systems, and mapping forest and deforestation in Myanmar.
Melissa Songer
Conservation Biologist, Conservation Ecology Center
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Dr. Songer works on the conservation and ecology of endangered mammal species in Asia. Her research is focused on using advanced geospatial technologies to detect human transformation of the landscape and assess impacts.
Peter Leimgruber
Research Scientist and Head, Conservation Ecology Center
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Peter is particularly interested in addressing conservation challenges concerning the mobility of large mammals and of human elephant conflict.
Jared Stabach
Research Scientist
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Dr. Stabach’s research focuses on the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on the movements and habitat use of terrestrial mammals.


The course aims to provide graduate students and professionals with an introduction to freely available visual and analytical tools for working with spatial data. The course will focus on the use of R, Q-GIS, and Google Earth Engine. In addition to gaining practice in these environments using real datasets, participants will be able to learn and problem-solve independently after the course. Through a wide range of lectures and guided hands-on tutorials, the course focuses on training students to be proficient in using these popular open-source GIS and analytical software, particularly R, and to think critically to apply those tools in solving applied problems.

What’s Included

Acceptance does not guarantee you a seat in the course. Seats are allocated as registration payments are received, and early registration is strongly encouraged to ensure you get a spot.

The total cost for professional training includes our Housing ($288.00) and Dining ($192.00) Packages and covers:

  • Registration fees
  • Instruction, course manual, and other course materials
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off shuttle service at Dulles International Airport (IAD) at specific pre-arranged times. We do not provide ground transportation shuttle service to or from any other airports in the Washington, DC, region.
  • Transportation for course activities
  • Daily full-service buffet at the SMSC Dining Commons
  • Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including a shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at twice the shared housing cost)

Interested in Commuting?

Participants with a documented, permanent address local to campus may elect to commute with permission from SMSC. Commuters are required to purchase a reduced meal plan ($60) which includes lunch and snack breaks for each day of instruction. Additional dining options are available and may be selected during registration.  Email for additional information.

“Not only was this an educational intro course that covered a variety of synergistic topics, the diverse group of instructors and peers provided an interesting dynamic with unique contributions and I’m grateful for this brilliant new network!”

Sarah Wallerstedt Junior Scientist, Heliospace, Durango, Colorado, USA

“Great course to get a general understanding of the latest open-source spatial platforms. I also feel like I now have a basic understanding of spatial ecology concepts that I didn’t get a chance to learn in graduate school.”

Course participant 2019 Essentials of Spatial Ecology course offering
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