Using GIS at Vassar

At the GIS Lab and SciVis Lab

Vassar maintains two computer laboratories (the GIS Lab in Ely Hall and the SciVis Lab in Mudd-Chemistry) equipped with the latest versions of Esri ArcGIS Desktop, Quantum GIS (or “QGIS”), and Google Earth Pro for geospatial mapping lessons and applications. The Earth Science and Geography Department also maintains a set of tablet computers for moblie GIS applications.

Esri ArcGIS is the industry standard commercial software for geospatial mapping applications ranging from academic research in the sciences and humanities to facilities mapping and management to marketing research and crime analysis. Quantum GIS is an open-source geospatial mapping application and alternative to ArcGIS Desktop; it has many of the same features and functions and is available for no cost under the GNU General Public License. Google Earth is a free virtual globe, map and geographical information program.

The computers in both the GIS Lab and SciVis lab are equipped with commonly-used geospatial data about infrastructure (e.g. roads, railroads), natural resources (streams, waterbodies, wetlands, habitat), political and administrative boundaries, and demographics (population, age, race, ethnicity, income) for parts of the world, the U.S., New York State, Dutchess County, and the Vassar College campus. These data are available on the computer’s hard drives (C:\GISdata) and also on a network server. Additional data can be obtained from various academic and administrative sources in the U.S. and around the world.

On your own computer

Interested faculty can request ArcGIS Desktop for their computers from the available seats included in Vassar College’s academic license. Enrolled students can also request ArcGIS Desktop for their computers; student licenses are valid for one year and are fully functional. Quantum GIS and Google Earth Pro are available for download from their respective websites.

On any computer

Recently, Vassar faculty and students began using Esri’s web mapping platform (ArcGIS Online) for teaching and research. ArcGIS Online allows students and faculty to create interactive web maps and apps that can be shared with others. ArcGIS Online can be accessed from any computer using a web browser, and mobile versions are available for viewing maps and collecting data using the GPS receiver embedded into many mobile devices. Contact the GIS Academic Computing Consultant ( to request a login.