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USD to Offer Certificates in Geospatial Analysis

A USD student kneels on the ground with a shovel and rule. They measure the distance of the hole they dug. USD students will learn how to perform skills such as advanced mapping in courses that lead to earning the newly developed certificate in geospatial analysis.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Starting in fall 2020, undergraduate and graduate students at the University of South Dakota can earn a certificate in geospatial analysis, giving them the expertise to collect, analyze and visualize spatial data.

Performing geospatial analysis requires the ability to use software including geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing and equipment such as sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles. Students earning these certificates will acquire the skills to use, gather and display data over time and place.

“Students from a range of disciplines will benefit from these certificates. Knowing how to use software and tools such as GIS, remote sensing and drones will give our students a leg up in a range of fields from agriculture to city planning,” said Meghann Jarchow, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Sustainability & Environment.

In addition to benefiting students in sustainability & environment, the certificate will be valuable for students in biology, anthropology, political science and computer science.

Ranjeet John, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology/sustainability & environment, works extensively with geospatial analysis in his research on grassland ecosystems. He will teach multiple courses for both the undergraduate and graduate certificate. These courses include Remote Sensing, which teaches the concepts and applications behind gathering data from a distance, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

“The skills that students will learn in the geospatial analysis certificate will complement the content knowledge that students will learn in their academic majors and minors,” John said.

Tony Krus, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology, received funding from a South Dakota Board of Regents grant to support an Advanced Visualization Lab that is being developed to provide the computing resources needed for the geospatial analysis certificates. Krus will acquire a surveying device called a total station to train students on mapping techniques.

“The new total station will be used regularly in my archaeological classes and the archaeological field school I will be running in Clay County,” Krus said. “GIS and advanced visualization techniques have become increasingly important in emerging anthropology careers, especially archaeology, over the 21st century. Many entry-level careers in archaeology require at least some familiarity with tools for advanced mapping and GIS.”

The undergraduate and graduate geospatial analysis certificates each require 12 credit hours of coursework. Students majoring in any discipline may earn these certificates.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News