The MAD Help Desk is closed. All MAD facilities (computer labs, workshop, photo studio, sound studio, darkroom, and film development room) are closed until further notice. You can access a lab computer remotely.

Geographic information systems (GIS)

A map of the Kitchener-Waterloo area with an overlay of roads and a Model Builder screenshot.A geographic information system (GIS) is a collection of technology, procedures, people and data that support the capture, management, manipulation, analysis, modelling and display of spatially referenced data within the context of organizational or project goals and objectives.

If you have questions about GIS support in the Faculty of Environment, contact Scott MacFarlane.

Software resources

The main GIS software used in introductory courses is ArcGIS. Support for this software is available from your teaching assistant and resources built into the course materials. You can also check for answers to FAQs about ArcGIS.

Other software such as FME Desktop, ArcGIS Server, Oracle, SQL Server, Idrisi, and open-source alternatives are used in upper-year courses and research projects.

For access to GIS software in our computer labs, see the list of software installed on MAD computer lab machines. In addition, Environment graduate students and students enrolled in certain courses can also try the Remote Access to ArcGIS service (currently in beta).

Learning resources

These two MAD-authored tutorials can get you started with some of the basics of using GIS:

In addition to these MAD-authored resources, Esri provides many free training resources. Any of these lessons are good places to start: Getting Started with ArcMap, Getting Started with ArcGIS Pro, or Getting Started with ArcGIS Online.

Data resources

For GIS courses, datasets are packaged and provided within the course management system.

For data needs beyond course assignments, the Geospatial Centre maintains a large collection of geospatial data for academic purposes.

Some other sources for Canadian data include: Geobase, Geogratis, and Geoconnections. Open Data initiatives at many Canadian municipalities such as the Region of Waterloo's Open Data Portal are a great source of data to explore.


Who can use this service:

  • Current undergraduate students
  • Current graduate students
  • Faculty

How to request this service:

Support for this service:

Service category:


EV2 - Environment 2
200 University Avenue West