Two Harbors, California – Over the past three weeks, students in USC’s Geographic Information Science and Technology online M.S. program have gathered for a week each of required “real life” instruction on picturesque Catalina Island. Students from around the United States gathered at USC’s Wrigley Marine Science Center for instruction and research using Geographic Positioning System (GPS) technology as it integrates into GIS.
Lecturer Darren Ruddell describes the experience as allowing students to “increase their knowledge in the hardware and software systems underlying GPS and putting that knowledge to work in self-directed research projects that explore physical or social processes and the capabilities and limitations of various GPS receivers.” Students spent many hours in the field and laboratory and in the process met and worked with scientists and restorationists from the Catalina Island Conservancy and the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.
Student Christina Paganini reported that the week on Catalina provided “an invaluable opportunity to have hands-on experience with GPS and related equipment. The opportunity to apply the technology to personal projects really helped solidify the learning outcomes. ”
Students produced posters summarizing their research after collecting original data on and offshore from the island. Example projects included: Wrigley Marine Science Institute Utility Infrastructure Inventory (Shawn Baldwin and Christina Paganini), Mapping the Fennel Removal Efforts Around the Deer Valley Trail on Catalina Island, California (Brian Begley, Sarah Gehring, Brynn Lacabanne), and Finding Garibaldi: Best Snorkeling Areas Along the Catalina Shore (Anna Phi, Kaitlin Pinkerton, and Carrie Taylor).
The 1-week course was offered seven times in the 2011-2012 academic school year but will increase to nine sections (spring, summer, and fall) in 2012-2013 to accommodate the growth in the GIST program.
The GIST MS and Graduate Certificate programs currently serve 170 students, who pursue an 18-month program culminating in an independent thesis project or earn a certificate for 4-course sequence. The Catalina course was first offered in 1998 when the GIST programs were established by Dr. John Wilson, director of the USC Spatial Sciences Institute.