This is a document in support of the GESC 151 Our Digital Earth course.

Course Goal and Learning Outcomes

The goal of this course is to develop an understanding of how the earth is represented in digital systems and how these representations can be used to address environmental issues of societal relevance. In completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe how information about the earth is captured and represented in digital systems
  2. Explain how a geographic perspective on the world can contribute to understanding both natural and anthropogenic processes
  3. Learn how to access and analyze geospatial data
  4. Utilize freely available geospatial technologies to map spatial distributions of geographic features and processes
  5. Assess the accuracy and limitations of digital systems and geospatial data

Case studies used in this course

As DE tools and technologies can be used in so many different types of applications, we have selected a handful of sample problems which we will use to illustrate key concepts and tools in the course. The case studies as follows

  1. Crime and policing in the City of Toronto
  2. Mapping the weather
  3. COVID-19; mapping and modelling
  4. Forest carbon accounting using remote sensing
  5. Personal and community geographic knowledge
  6. Global marine shipping tracking from space
  7. Community-based mapping and counter-mapping

These case studies cover mapping, satellite imaging, big data and surveillance, climate change, among many other topical issues that intersect with the environment and its digital representation. As we move through the course, we encourage you to pause often to think about connections between the case studies, and how their digital representation effects how we come to understand and manage these important issues.

Course readings

There is not a required textbook for this course.

Weekly readings and related materials will be posted to the course website and integrated within the course materials.

How this course is structured

This course is comprised of 8 content modules, spread out over 10 weeks. Following that we have an exam, a term project and a town hall forum where we can showcase our projects. Each module will have

  • a small assignment
  • a short quiz (except for Module 1)
  • stop and think questions - which aim to get you thinking more deeply about certain issues, and which you can use as prompts for discussion posts
  • stop and do questions - which required you to explore a software tool or website, which may be asked about in further detail in quizzes and assignments

Below is a graphical overview of the scheduling of the key components of the course. Green means mandadory, yellow means optional (that week), and blank means not required for a particular week.

Scheduling overview of key components of the course

Figure 0.1: Scheduling overview of key components of the course