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Geographic Information Systems

Male sitting at computer with two screens


NRRI’s GIS laboratory was established in 1988 through a National Science Foundation grant, with matching funds from the University of Minnesota. Using state-of-the-art GIS software and hardware, the lab provides NRRI and other university researchers with access to advanced GIS methods for basic and applied natural resources research. Among notable projects in the lab are a detailed watershed assessment of environmental stress for the US and Canadian Great Lakes basin, an ecological design for restoration in the St. Louis River Estuary, and a map of potential native plant communities for Minnesota forests. The lab derives new research methods in spatial analyses, such as the application of object-based image analysis for developing fine-scale maps of urban watersheds. Finally, the lab houses an extensive repository of spatial data that contributes to a global pool of publically-available information; information that is essential for making environmentally and economically sound natural resource decisions.

Key Services and Equipment

  • Custom-built PCs designed to handle workflows on large data sets
  • ArcGIS platform and peripheral applications, QGIS, PostgreSQL, LASTOOLS, Feature Analyst
  • LiDAR analysis capabilities, including bluff identification, stream power assessment, forest canopy analyses
  • An eBee-Ag Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with multispectral camera designed for vegetation analysis (managed in conjunction with UMD Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences)
  • FARO Focus4D Terrestrial Laser Scanner and associated image processing software (managed in conjunction with UMD Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences)
  • Various input devices include digitizing tables, color scanner, and GPS receivers
  • Output devices include large format (13"x19") inkjet and standard size color laser printers, as well as access to NRRI’s 50” plotter.
  • The GIS Lab maintains a Data Portal for project data, located at This portal is also accessible through the Minnesota Geospatial Commons.

The NRRI GIS facility is networked with gigabit ethernet connections, with a series of RAID servers for backup and local data storage.