Geography 75
Introduction to Remote Sensing
Spring 2020

InstructorJeff Tolhurst, Ph.D.
OfficeSugar Pine 119 and Fir 6
Office Hours: MW
8:40-9:40 pm in Sugar Pine (SUG) 119; MTu 4:30-5:30; W 5-6 pm in Fir 1; or by appointment
Phone: (209) 588-5235 office (+ msg); (209) 588-5104 (fax)

Course Credit
3 semester hours
None (Geography 59, 60, or 70 highly recommended)
Day and Time:
Monday 5:30-8:35 pm
Fir 1
Text: Fundamentals of Remote Sensing:
A Canada Centre for Remote Sensing Remote Sensing Tutorial
1) Fundamentals of Remote Sensing (downloadable pdf version from Canada Centre for Remote Sensing):
Fundamentals of Remote Sensing - Ressources naturelles Canada
3) Alternate Textbook (from Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing, and Processing (CRISP)):

Principles of Remote Sensing

Special Announcement:



Project Data Download Folder Includes:

1. Optical Data Set of a Property in Columbia (should be uploaded by 4-5-20);
2. Larger Data Set from Landsat 8 (be aware that the bands are slightly different than Landsat 7! Look up the band comparison online...!); and
3. Infrared Data Set of a Property in Columbia (same area as #1 optical data set and should be combined; can be used for students enrolled in both GEOG 68 and 75).

Pick the data set you want to work with for your project and show what you have learned in the class.

Supervised Classification Activity

Class Notes, Resources, and Activities Page

I. Course Description:

Introduction to basic GIS and GPS concepts and applications in the field of natural resources, earth sciences, and environmental systems.  Students will learn to use Global Positioning System hand-held units, base stations, and rover units, combined with Geographic Information System software to collect field data and produce maps for spatial analysis and decision-making purposes.  The first 6 weeks will be spent learning ArcView software; the second six weeks will be spent learning to use Ashtech and Garmin GPS units; and the last 6 weeks will be spent learning to design and carry out a research project merging GPS and GIS technologies. 

II.  Course Objectives: 

Upon completion of this course each student should be able to: 

1.  Use a field spectrometer to measure spectral signatures of different materials.
2.  Work with satellite imagery in ArcGIS.
3.  Use advanced display options in ArcGIS with the Image Analysis extension. 
4.  Use ArcGIS to
smooth & sharpen images; perform image subsetting and use convolution filters.
5.  Use ArcGIS to perform image and aerial photo rectification.
6.  Use ArcGIS to p
erform change detection - Burned Area Reflectance Classification (BARC); Vegetative Indices/NDVI.
7.  Use ArcGIS to perform supervised and unsupervised classification.
8.  Design a remote sensing project to collect, organize, manipulate, and analyze remote sensing satellite data, then give a presentation and communicate your findings to your peers.

9.  Work collaboratively in the computer lab with others in the class to help one another learn remote sensing concepts and computer skills.

           10. Acquire an appreciation of what remote sensing is, and can be used for.


Student Learning Outcomes:

· By the end of the course you will be able to collect, compile, organize, transform, analyze, and make intelligent land use decisions from analyzing geospatial, remote sensing, and attribute data.

· By the end of the course you will have worked cooperatively with a small group of peers to design and present a GIS remote sensing research project to the public.

· By the end of the course you will learn to summarize scientific concepts using a scientific/technical writing style.

Course Content:

Each of the following units will require somewhat less than one week to complete and will require a minimum of 3 hours per week of outside of class work.  It is likely that individual students will need additional time to work on computers during open lab time, since computer courses characteristically are very time consuming. 

IV. Representative Text(s): 

            1. Fundamentals of Remote Sensing: A Canada Centre for Remote Sensing Remote Sensing Tutorial;
                Link to Online Text:

Basic Method(s) of Instruction: 

            1.  Lecture and computer time will be intermixed as needed.  Basic fundamentals of GIS and Remote Sensing will be covered by lecture, demonstrations, and tutorials/exercises. 

            2.  Students will learn to use ArcGIS software and the Image Analyst tool to organize, pre-process and process, analyze, and present remote sensing data in a project-driven, peer-reviewed format.

            3.  Student projects will be highly directed at first, then evolve into autonomous ventures by the end of the semester.  Each student earning 3 units of credit will design and carry out a culminating project to be presented to peers during the final week of class. 

VI. Method(s) of Evaluation: 

1. Lecture and lab activities will be turned in for credit and concepts and processes will be summarized in written abstracts; GIS and remote sensing concepts will be covered on the test; the project will be assessed on an individual basis, to be turned in toward the end of the semester (see below).

2. Grades:

In Class Assignments 10%
Activities and Exercises 10%
Exam 40%
Project 40%

3. Lab exercises and in class work is essential to your success and is your individual responsibility to complete in a timely fashion. I expect you to ask for assistance when needed.

Note: A grading curve will not be used to determine grades. Grades will be determined as follows:

A 90-100%
B 80-90%
C 70-80%
D 60-70%
F < 60%

Project Guide


  1. You will demonstrate organizational, communication, and critical thinking skills during your presentation.
  2. You will present research findings/conclusions using a combination of media forms your peers and instructor (research and format are described below).
  3. You will demonstrate competence with applying GIS and remote sensing knowledge and skills acquired during this course.


Presentations in story format are becoming increasingly popular due to their effectiveness in communicating information. Software that incorporates video, audio, textual, graphic, animated, and other media forms are mainstream in business, scientific, and educational applications. Research has shown that people acquire knowledge and information in a variety of modalities (eg. visually, auditorally, kinesthetically, etc.) and stories are most effective in helping people remember your message. In order to effectively communicate your research to your fellow classmates, you will design a project that uses more than one media form (i.e. video, slides, audio tape, text, posters, manipulatives, models, dramatic presentations, musical presentations, etc.). Remember, you are trying to: 1) learn new information; and 2) effectively communicate that information to others.


1. Project Ideas:
A) pick a concept where remote sensing GIS can be used in the decision-making process;
B) think carefully about the scope and sequence of the project (can you complete it by the end of the semester? and in what order will you carry out the tasks that need to be done?)

2. Past Student Topics:
A) Viewshed Analyses for Potential Real Estate Buyers in Calaveras County
B) Erodability Potential for Roads Within the North Fork of the Tuolumne River Watershed, Stanislaus National Forest
C) 3D Bathymetric Map of San Diego Reservoir, Columbia College Campus, Sonora, California
D) Using Unsupervised Classification to Determine Management Driven Stand Types, Stanislaus National Forest
E) Calculating NDVI to Assess Oil and Gas Potential
F) Assessing Meadow Health in the Stanislaus National Forest Using Supervised and Unsupervised Classification Techniques
G) Assessing Fire Hazards On and Around the Columbia College Campus Using Remote Sensing and Other Techniques
H) Assessing Land Use Changes near Sonora, California, Using Remote Sensing

These topics are intended to motivate you to generate your own ideas. Make sure the scope and sequence of your topic is manageable for the given time allotment.

3. Project Format:
A) should have an Abstract (see rules for writing an Abstract below)
i) a concise, informative summary/statement of conclusions reached
ii) not more than 150 words
iii) turned in to me at the beginning of the presentation

B) Should use a "STORY" format. Stories have: i) a beginning; ii) a middle; and iii) an end. Tell us your story. Here is a link to some suggestions that may be helpful:

C) should have a list of references cited (listing each source of information used
; use the online citation machine to cite your sources: EasyBib)
i) any statement that is not general knowledge needs to be credited
ii) do not just use encyclopedias and textbooks
iii) use primary (scientific journals, interviews with researchers) and secondary sources (books and review articles that deal with a specific topic)

D) should be professional (clear, audible, legible, neat, high quality, etc.)

E) Use the following file organization structure for your projects: Standard Directory Structure for Projects


. Presentations:
A) Each presentation will be 9 to 10 minutes in length with time for questions afterward from the class
B) Each presentation will be evaluated by the members of the class on a standardized evaluation form to be provided
C) You will turn in a digital copy of your PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation along with the project folder with all of your subfolders including your data.

2. Poster:
A) You will turn in a digital copy of your poster in pdf format with the following: 1) Title; 2) Purpose; 3) Problem; 4) Significance; 5) Methodology; 6) GIS UAV/Drone Map(s)/Content; and 7) Abstract with summary & conclusions.

This project is due to be presented on the date listed on the calendar during scheduled class time. All deliverables are due at that time.
(Peer evaluations will be due at the end of class, following presentations. Credit may be given for completing evaluations).

1. Research
A) In the library there are books and technical publications on many topics; check the catalog or ask a reference librarian for assistance.
B) Online resources are available for research purposes. This will be one of your most valuable resources. See me if you need help searching for information on the web.
C) Within the community there are several professionals with strong interests in GIS, UAV/Drones, and GPS. Call them up for ideas, resources, answers to questions, etc.
D) Other students in the class or GIS program may be able to help guide your search.
E) I'll be able to provide support and guidance - use me as a resource.

2. Materials
A) Columbia College may be able to provide some materials on a check out basis, otherwise see me if you need support in this area.
B) The College has a data projector and access to a computer and multimedia software (i.e. PowerPoint or Google Slides).

Remember - the main goal is learn something new while becoming familiarized with Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing and to present your findings to others in the class. Pick something interesting and fun - and enjoy being creative with this project!

Proposal Outline
Proposal Example 1
Proposal Example 2

Computer Science 75 Exam

Directions: Please answer the question below for the exam. Limit your responses to one side of one piece of paper. Use diagrams and examples to clarify your descriptions and explanations. Follow the grading rubric below for guidance. I will review any rough drafts of your responses up to the weekend before the midterm due date if you’d like me to.

Exam Examples (for organization/format)

Here is the exam question:

1. Explain, in your own words, what remote sensing is and how it works. Include in your response a discussion of the electromagnetic spectrum (portions typically used in remote sensing and why), types of sensors (satellite characteristics, scale, resolution, etc.),  microwave remote sensing (radar basics, image distortion and inaccuracies, target interaction, advanced applications, etc.), and image analysis (processing, enhancement, interpretation, classification, etc.). Discuss limitations to remote sensing technology as well (accuracy issues, quality, resolution, errors, etc.).  Also discuss and give examples of different applications for which remote sensing is used.

Grading Rubric

High-quality responses contain:

• an overview of what you’ll discuss including a statement defining the main point
• specific examples showing depth of knowledge and supporting your ideas
• 2 or more carefully labeled diagrams depicting important processes
• accuracy, clarity, precision, depth, and breadth when discussing content
• good organization, well-developed arguments, few mechanical errors
• a conclusion/summary statement

Medium-quality responses contain:

• an overview of what you’ll discuss
• a general example supporting your ideas
• one or more diagrams poorly labeled
• some inaccurate, unclear, imprecise statements about content being discussed
• loosely organized thoughts, moderately developed arguments, some mechanical errors
• a poor conclusion/summary statement

Lower-quality responses contain:

• no (or a poor) introductory overview
• no (or minimal) examples supporting your ideas
• no diagrams, or diagrams with no labeling
• multiple inaccurate statements of the content discussed
• disorganized thoughts, weakly developed arguments, some mechanical errors
• no conclusion/summary statement

Lowest-quality responses contain:

• no overview
• no examples
• no diagrams
• many inaccurate statements of content
• unorganized, undeveloped arguments, mechanical errors throughout
• no conclusion/summary statement

“For students with disabilities, (i.e. physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, financial, etc., in nature), who believe that they may need special accommodations in this class, I encourage you to discuss options with me within the first 10 days of instruction.”