• Q: What does the University of Michigan offer in terms of support for users of GIS?
    The University Library's Spatial And Numeric Data services (SAND) offers a lab, assistance finding and using data, tutorials, and one-on-one and group instruction. It is open to all faculty, staff, and students. The Center for Statistical Consultation and Research (CSCAR) also offers Spatial / GIS user support along with help regarding campus-wide GIS software licensing and installation. In addition individual departments/schools sometimes have additional support for their communities e.g. the School of Natural Resources and Environemnt has the Environmental Spatial Analysis (ESA) Lab.
  • Q: What does the Environmental Spatial Analysis (ESA) Lab offer in terms of support?
    The ESA Lab offers free consultation and workshops to the SNRE community and research affiliates on topics relating to GIS, GPS, remote sensing, and spatial analysis. The ESA Lab also offers hourly service and support for clients within SNRE and UofM and for clients outside of UofM. Contact the ESA Lab Manager for details.
  • Q: Does the Unversity of Michigan have a mechanism whereby people can easily share spatial data sets with others who might be interested in them?
    Yes. The UM Library's searchable online Digital Spatial Data Catalog has links to a data repository; all are encouraged to submit data sets to it. These data sets might be ones you have created or modified or might be data sets you've found and would like others to know about. As with all community efforts it will work best if community members contribute! Contact spatial-data-access@umich.edu for assistance.

  • Q: What does the University of Michigan offer in terms of GIS and Remote Sensing education?
    Please visit the ESA Lab's education page for more information on: GIS/RS courses offered through the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) and the University of Michigan; workshops offered through the ESA Lab, CSCAR and NSDS; and the graduate certificate program in Spatial Analysis.
  • Q: Is there a tutorial I could go through to get acquainted with GIS software?
    Yes. Both ArcGIS and ArcInfo are distributed by ESRI. From their web page, click ESRI Virtual Campus, and from there navigate through the GIScience, GIS Technology, and GIS Applications courses. Most courses from the ESRI Virtual Campus are available at no cost to University of Michigan faculty, staff and students. See the "Online GIS Training" page hosted by CSCAR for a listing of courses available for free and for enrollment instructions. Also, an introductory tutorial and others are available from the University Library's Spatial And Numeric Data services at this link. Staff at SAND can also provide assistance with the use of these tutorials.

  • TIP => Launch the HELP system as soon as you open any GIS package.
  • Q: Where can I acquire public data?
    First check the UM Library's searchable online Digital Spatial Data Catalog. The State of Michigan maintains a MI Geographic Data Library. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) is a regional planning partnership that offers GIS data for souhteast Michigan. Digital line graphs (DLGs) and Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are available for the United States through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The Geography Network is also a decent place to start.<
  • Q: What about projections? OR Why don't my files overlay properly?
    All data you are working with in a project must have the same datum, projection, and coordinate system! A telltale sign that they do not is that data don't overlay as they should. So, the first step in organizing a project should be choosing a consistent datum, projection, and coordinate system for all your data layers. Check the on-line documentation for guidance with this.
    From the Geographer's Craft web site: 'Map projections are attempts to portray the surface of the earth or a portion of the earth on a flat surface. Some distortions of conformality, distance, direction, scale, and area always result from this process. Some projections minimize distortions in some of these properties at the expense of maximizing errors in others. Some projections are attempts to only moderately distort all of these properties.' This site has a lot of information on projections, as well as the closely associated topic of coordinate systems.
    Arc/Info-specific stuff
  • TIP => The first step each time you launch Arc/Info should be connecting to a workspace.
    A workspace is a directory containing geographic data sets and the associated INFO files for use with Arc/Info. Connecting to a workspace tells the program where to look for the INFO files and update the geographic data. Follow these steps to connect to a working directory in workstation Arc/Info:
    * launch ArcCatalog
    * click the right-pointing arrow
    * navigate to the appropriate directory on the left
  • Q: What is an arc interchange file (.e00)?
    Arc/Info interchange files (.e00) have become the de facto standard format for the transport of Arc/Info files. Because "coverages" are are actually bundles of files, Arc interchange files are used to transfer coverages, INFO data files, text files such as AML macros, and other Arc/Info files between various machines as a single entity with all the files included. Arc interchange files can easily be converted back to coverages in Arc/Info by launching ArcToolbox then navigating to Conversion Tools => Import to Coverage => Import from Interchange File and entering the approrpiate file.

remote sensing
  • Q: How can I obtain and import public satellite imagery data?
    MODIS Acquisition and Import Instructions | Landsat Acquisition and Import Instructions | ASTER Acquisition and Import Instructions
  • Q: What remote sensing software does the ESALab have?
    Remote sensing software has considerably more capability for working with raster data files than do GIS software packages. If you are working with images consider using one or more of the following software packages: ERDAS Imagine 8.6 Professional (only available to the SNRE ESA Lab), PCI Geomatica 8.0 (available to install campus-wide, see http://gis.umich.edu), and Idrisi 32 (available to install campus-wide, see http://gis.umich.edu).
    TIP: The vector module in ERDAS Imagine is the same as the ARC/INFO vector module, so ARC/INFO vector files are compatible with ERDAS Imagine. NOTE: Workshops are held for the SNRE community that give a brief introduction to ERDAS Imagine. Also, Remote Sensing of the Environment (NRE 441) is a good introductory course in remote sensing using ERDAS Imagine software.
  • Q: Is there an affordable remote sensing software package?
    Yes, Idrisi has an education package that is reasonably priced. The program functions much like ERDAS Imagine and is similar in terms of capabilities.
  • Q: Where can I acquire public data?
    Following are some good resources for public remote sensing data:
    Michigan air photos => MI Geographic Data Library
    U.S. air photos (high altitude; relatively inexpensive) => U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
    satellite imagery => Landsat 7 imagery
    NOTE: Landsat 7 data cost approximately $600 per scene and some planning is required to acquire the appropriate scene at the right time, depending on your study needs. Prices vary for older Landsat data; these can be found using the EarthExplorer or searching the University of Maryland Global Land Cover Facility's (GLCF) database. The GLCF has some data available for approximately $380 + shipping and also maintains a library of Landsat scenes available for free download.
  • Q: What is HDF format and how do I import an HDF-format file into Erdas Imagine?
    HDF is a physical file format that allows storage of many different types of scientific data, including images, multidimensional data arrays, record oriented data, and point data. Follow this link to a step-by-step guide on HDF data import (e.g., Landsat ETM+). Note: Always check the most recent version of the software you are using, because software updates often include support for new file formats.

other technology Qs
  • Q: How do I access and install spatial analysis software?
    The spatial analysis software packages available for installation reside on the Center for Statistical Consultation and Research (CSCAR) server. They operate a web site that details the procedure.
  • Q: Where can I get more information on University of Michigan technology?
    A good site for University of Michigan-specific information is operated by the university Information Technology Division (ITD).
  • Q: How do I restore a file that was on the SNRE network and was accidentally deleted or corrupted?
    Depending on how long ago the file was there, the SNRE IT consultants may be able to help you. Go to http://www.snre.umich.edu/help and look under "Network Services | Data backups and restorations" for more info.
  • Q: What options exist for accessing the SNRE network data server?
    Go to http://www.snre.umich.edu/help and click on "Accessing files on SNRE5" for details. Also see the question regarding mounting the SNRE data server under UNIX above.