Certificate in Geographic Information Systems

Earn your Certificate in GIS while completing courses toward your graduate degree in the Master of Environmental Studies or Master of Public Administration programs!
Image of a GIS story map detailing information about culvert removal in Pierce County

Why GIS?

Environmental work often depends on maps and spatial datasets. A wide array of physical and social scientists, policy makers, and businesses use spatial data analysis to inform decisions in urban planning, natural resource management, wildlife conservation, and social wellbeing. Because GIS provides a platform to integrate data from diverse disciplines and sources, it serves as a core technology for interdisciplinary work in environmental studies.

For this reason, the ability to collect, manage, analyze, and interpret spatial data is a high-demand skill in many sectors. Our graduates find that expertise in GIS, when combined with their broad interdisciplinary training, makes them very competitive for a variety of positions in government, private industry, non-profit organizations, and education.

Two MES students present in front of a screen showing a graphic titled Seattle Housing

MES students earn the GIS Certificate while also completing required electives toward their graduate degree

Our curriculum is designed for students to build their GIS skills in a systematic way while exploring their particular environmental passions through the GIS 3 course sequence which includes: Introduction to GIS, Advanced GIS, and Special Topics in GIS.

Student looks toward a projected image during a GIS presentation.

Upon successful completion of all three elective GIS classes (12 credits) students will earn our GIS Certificate. Students will also have a solid foundation for a professional GIS certification examination, such as the ArcGIS Desktop Entry certificate offered by Esri, Inc (makers of ArcGIS software). 

See examples of student work

Ecological Connectivity in Washington State by Brian Stewart and Megan Tuttle

Abstract: As anthropogenic encroachment increases on wildlife habitat there are infrastructure solution that have become more prevalent in our state. Roadways are one type of infrastructure that inhibit or promote ecological connectivity, via culverts and bridges. The connectivity of both hydrology and riparian corridors are essential in the movement of both ungulates, salmonids, and other species listed in the state of Washington. Our goal is to develop a visual representation of high use wildlife corridors, overall connectivity, and hydrological connectivity in Washington state. The data we are using is in part collected from Survey123, and in part drawn from several state agencies and has been married together to develop a representation of corridors and their importance for decrease in influence on our state waterways as well as negative wildlife interactions.  

Invasive Species Distribution in Priest Point Park by Heather Gibons and Leslie Carman

Abstract: Using the GIS mobile app Collector, Priest Point Park was surveyed for invasive species plant occurrences as well as the level of infestation (Low, Medium, High). This data was collected in conjunction with the Olympia Parks and Recreation department in order to get baseline data of the invasive cover in the park and to understand which areas could be targeted for removal. We found that English Ivy was the most common invasive species present, and English Holly, the second most common.

Thurston and Pierce County Food Deserts by Eden Thorkildsen and Malena Boome

Abstract: This map project shows food deserts in Pierce and Thurston County based upon census tract information and the USDA Food Access Research Atlas. Food desert data was combined with ESRI Business Analyst data to look at density of unhealthy food access, otherwise known as food swamps. A walk time analysis highlights accessibility issues in both high and low access areas, through the use of an online map journal.