Geospatial Information Science and Technology - Online and Distance Education

Geospatial Information Science and Technology


GIST Capstone Experience

The GIST online capstone experience provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their accumulated degree skills and expertise by developing and communicating the solution to a complex geospatial problem through a capstone project.

Learning Approach: One goal of the capstone is to engage students with community partners to create a service learning experience. Service learning differs from community service in that the students are not merely providing a service to complete a task, but working with a community partner to collaboratively solve a problem. Both parties learn during the process. This strategy works well for our students because they are not only using the skills and knowledge they have developed through the GIST program, but are also applying their expertise to a real world problem in collaboration with the client.

The Process: During their last semester in the MGIST program, students select from a suite of possible projects spanning a variety of organizations and disciplines. We make every effort to match a student with a project of direct interest to the student’s career path. If students would like to suggest possible partners for an upcoming GIST online capstone experience project, they should contact us ahead of time and we will do our best to facilitate a project.

Once a project is selected students work one-on-one (or in small groups) with the community partner (a.k.a., ‘the client’) to examine the client’s needs, expectations, and deliverables. Throughout the semester students develop their project to meet the client’s needs, culminating in a professional presentation to the partner, representatives of the program, and the NC State community at large.

Capstone Projects

Students across our programs have worked with dozens of community partners, including local, state, regional, and federal government agencies; non-profit organizations; universities; and private industry.  A sample of the exciting, real-world products our students are developing every semester in direct collaboration with our partners through the MGIST program are highlighted below.

NOTE: Our sample projects server is currently undergoing maintenance; therefore links to web-based applications may not be available. You can still click on a link to read more about the project. 

Triangle Land Conservancy Visualization of Urban Growth

Community Partner: Triangle Land Conservancy
Student: Leslie Sox

The Triangle Land Conservancy works at the regional level, which they define as the six counties including Chatham, Lee, Orange, Durham, Wake, and Johnston. The goal of this project was to perform a regional analysis forecasting urban growth to communicate the impact of loss of natural areas due to development at a regional scale through visualization.

This project incorporated growth model data produced by researchers at the NC State University Center for Geographic Analysis using the existing model described in: “FUTURES: Multilevel Simulations of Emerging Urban–Rural Landscape Structure Using a Stochastic Patch-Growing Algorithm,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, DOI:10.1080/00045608.2012.707591.

The resulting product was simulation of land use/ land cover changes using the FUTURES model. The project results are now prominently displayed on the Triangle Land Conservancy’s main website.

Elephants on the Line: GIS Mapping of the Bhutan-India Transboundary Asian Elephant Population

Community Partners: NC State College of Natural Resources; Elephants on the Line

Multiple students contributed to this project over several semesters, enhancing and improving a tool that partners use to educate and guide conservation and protection efforts. Elephants on the Line (EOL) is a Community Based Conservation Program for the Asian Elephant Population. Partners are using geospatial tools for citizen engagement and education with researchers, forest managers and citizens of the Bhutan-India Transboundary region.

North Carolina State University, along with community partners in Bhutan and India, seek to develop GIS tools that will assist in the conservation planning, educational outreach, and that will serve as an important tool for future discussions amongst the groups, districts, and international borders. This project seeks to design web-based applications that will allow specified users to edit and analyze the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) data and base decisions on the results.


Community Partner: IntraHealth International

This project supported the Government of Kenya’s efforts to make dramatic changes to its health worker education and training systems through visual display and spatial decision support applications across the public and private sectors. Database development links location of training institutions, trained healthcare workers and professional licensure with the ability to analyze conditions in areas of greatest need.

View a Draft of the Web Application.

Hofmann Forest Hydrology

Community Partner: NC State University

Process automation to prepare data and run raster analysis for spatial and temporal agreement in precipitation amounts across the forest to compare rainfall estimates from a field gauge network (HOBO) with radar-based models from the National Weather Service. The result is a Hydrologic Web-Mapping application for the North Carolina State University Hofmann Forest. Developed using GIS resources, the application measured point precipitation and radar precipitation data obtained from National Weather Service. The development of such a web application will enhance the visualization and manipulation techniques for hydrologic modeling.

  • Publication:

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charter Analyzer

Community Partner: NC Clean Energy Technology Center

This project developed an analysis tool allowing edit access for scenario planning. The application is available for public view with limited functionality and access to some data layers.

>View a Draft of the Web Application.

Healthy Food Access

Community Partner: Wake County Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Program
Student: Jeremy Barnes

Working with staff from the Wake County Human Services (WCHS) Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section, this project used geospatial analysis to examine access to healthy food options for all citizens of Wake County. Together, they sought a method to identify specific areas of needs, or “food deserts,” areas with limited or no access to healthy food sources such as grocery stores, supermarkets, or farmer’s markets.

Project needs included the identification of food deserts at a local scale, and integration of local food sources (healthy and unhealthy) with socio-economic data through visualization.

Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Data Organizer

Community Partner: The NextGen Air Transportation (NGAT) Center

NGAT wanted to organize their data in a way that would enable them to easily locate and view any imagery they have collected. This project resulted in a database to organize the information about the imagery, and a web mapping application to allow easy access to query and view the data.

The end product consists of the organization of NGAT’s UAS flight data and the development of an interactive Web Mapping Application to enable easy access and visualization of the data.

Appalachian Trail Spatial Fire Management Map Booklet and Analysis

Community Partner: Appalachian Trail, NER/NCR National Park Service, Fire Management Office
Student: Greg Dunigan

The goal of this project was to create a public interfacing website to facilitate the dissemination of geospatial data in the form of a map book. The primary users of the application are local rural fire departments who assist with fire management along the Appalachian Trail. The Web Application allows users to create new maps and perform analysis in a much more timely fashion.

View a Draft of the Web Application.

American Tobacco Trail Crime Analysis

Community Partner: NC Rail Trails and NCSU College of Design
Student: Elizabeth Daniel

The American Tobacco Trail is a 22 mile multi-use rail-trail located in the Triangle Region of North Carolina, following the corridor of the former New Hope Valley Railroad through Durham, Chatham, and Wake Counties. In an effort to evaluate crime perceptions and its relationship to the trail and surrounding areas within walking distance, crime statistics and environmental and structural characteristics of the trail area were investigated for an area within 0.5 miles of a 6.8 mile trail section extending from I-40 to downtown Durham.

View a Draft of the Web Application.