Exploring the Fundamentals of GIS

Exploring the Fundamentals of GIS

Hi and welcome to my GIS lab manual. I hope that the material and the links herein are helpful for you. I have developed this lab manual with the goal of helping people learn more about GIS and the applications of ArcGIS.

First, if you would like to simply download the entire book as a PDF, you can do that here.

Exploring the Fundamentals of GIS



The Introduction has a very nice table of contents referencing all the skills that are learned in each chapter. It should be helpful for you as a reference tool.


GIS Primer: Exploring GIS Applications

This exercise is to introduce the learner to the wonderful world of GIS and the growing number of applications of GIS in our daily lives.

Data Sources:

No data is required for this exercise.


Exercise 1: Exploring ArcGIS

Exploring some of the very basic functions of ArcGIS.

Data Sources:

CA Counties

CA Earthquakes

CA Hydrology

CA Outline

CA Pop Places

CA Transportation


Exercise 2: Storing and Distributing Data and Map Documents

Begin exploring some production of GIS. Storing data, creating map documents and understanding the relationship between the two.

Data Sources:

Pt Reyes Trails


The National Park Service used to have a much easier data download interface. You can download these datasets here: Trails  Vegetation

Marin Co. Roads



Obtained during Exercise 1


Exercise 3: Building a GIS Data Library

The missing link, wait, No! That's the links that the learner will use as they start to build their own GIS data library for a specific county.

Data Sources:

Learners will find and download their own data collection.


Exercise 4: Spatial Reference

All the rest of your data is working fine, but one layer is tiny and out in the middle of the pacific? Maybe your spatial reference is wrong.

Data Sources:

Learners will continue to download and/or use their own data.


Exercise 5: Working with Tables

So much information, so little spatial locations ... Yet! Joining and relating tables to spatial data opens a whole new world of data. This exercise also explores some of the functions available with your attribute tables.

Data Sources:

CA Census tracts

See Appendix B

CA census tract data

See Appendix B


Exercise 6: Symbolizing Your Data

This exercise explores many of the more common methods of data symbolizing.

Data Sources:

State wide schools, GNIS

Census TIGER/Line features: Roads and other line features

See Appendix B

County Wide census blocks

Developed as part of Exercise 6, see appendix B

State Wide counties

Obtained during Exercise 1 


Exercise 7: Labeling

Arial, 8 pt... Gotta Love it... NOT! Explore the wonderful world of font styles, sizes, and so forth.

Data Sources:

Learners will continue to download and/or use their own data.


Exercise 8: Creating a Map Layout

Bringing things all together, this exercise explores the tools used moving your data layers into a map.

Data Sources:

Learners will continue to download and/or use their own data.


Exercise 9: Spatial Analysis - Land Use Change

This exercise uses a variety of spatial analysis tools designed for Vector data analysis. Again, this exercise can be applied to the individual county previously selected by the learner.

Data Sources:

County Outline Obtained in previous exercises.
Land Use / Land Cover See Appendix B
Urban Growth Projected for 2020 See Appendix B
Urban Growth Projected for 2050 See Appendix B


Appendix A: Data Conversion

Appendix B: Data Sources