Lab exercises used in the Geography 461W course at Penn State during the Spring 2014 semester.
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Geography 461 W Dynamic Cartographic Representation

This repository contain the exercises used in the lab portion of Geography 461W course during the Spring 2014 semester. These labs are designed to guide novice students through the process of creating a web map to support visualizing and analyzing data related to natural disasters, specifically forest fires in the United States. Each lab includes a detailed walk-through, outlining the goals for the lab and steps needed to accomplish these goals, and some starter code.

Lab Descriptions

Lab 0: Introduction to Development Tools, Frameworks, and Services

This lab is meant to introduce some basic concepts of and tools used in web development. Topics include the components of the web, the languages and markup used to store and display content, and the tools used to create this content. It also covers the Penn State Personal Web Space service, a hosting service available to Penn State students, faculty, and staff.

Lab 1: Finding and Working with (Open) Spatial Data

In lab 1 you will learn what spatial data is, where to find it, and how to prepare it for use in your Fire Map. Lab 1 covers the following topics.

  1. What is spatial data, who creates it, and how can we use it?
  2. How do we get, store, and access spatial data?
  3. How do we refine spatial data to make it easier to work with?

By the end of this lab you will be able to do the following tasks related to preparing data for use in a web map.

  1. Locate spatial data from a variety of online resources, and determine if and how this data can be used.
  2. Download, refine, and format data to be compatible with various web mapping technologies.

Lab 2: Mapping Data with Leaflet.js, MapBox.js, and TileMill

In lab 2 we switch from a data collection and preparation focus, to a data representation focus. You will cover the following topics in Lab 2.

  1. The basic components of a tiled web map.
  2. The tools used to create the support content for a web map.
  3. The tools and process used to create a static web map.

Lab 3: Customizing Appearance and Interactivity

Lab 3 builds on the map made in Lab 2, exploring another aspect of dynamic representation: interaction. This lab covers the following topics.

  1. The fundamentals of adding interactivity to a web map — how interactivity can be used to gain more information about the data, or to filter the data being displayed on the map;
  2. Creating interactive map symbols that offer greater details about the features;
  3. Creating interactive UI elements to control data filters.


As the semester progresses we move away from lab an toward the final projects. Unfortunately it's quite hard to cover all of the material you need to know to finish a final project during the course of the labs. So, there are three demos given in lab after the semester is over to help fill the gaps. These demos are much shorter, and focus on one or two specific components of an application.


The basics of implementing animation in JavaScript, including timers, controls, and logic.

Multiple Data Layers and Parallel Coordinate Plots

Handling and loading multiple datasets from different files using the Queue.js library. Creating a Parallel Coordinate Plot from a GeoJSON Feature Collection using the pcpGeoJson plug-in for D3.