Geog 461W: Student Projects

Dynamic Cartographic Representation

Most maps produced today are electronic, dynamic, and often ephemeral - with millions of maps generated on the web each day. At the same time, computer graphics technologies developed to enable scientific visualization generally are being adapted and extended for applications with geographic information. The goal of this course is to provide students with both the conceptual understanding and practical experience needed to design effective dynamic representations and assess their effectiveness.

During the term we explore the potential and implications of recent advances in cartography, exploratory data analysis, and information visualization as they relate to the theory and practice of geographic visualization (geovisualization). A key focus of the course is on "dynamic" representations of geographically referenced information. Dynamic representations are those that change as a result of user actions or data updates. Topics include: animated and interactive maps, exploratory multivariate spatial data analysis, geovisualization to support knowledge construction, interactive web maps, navigation aids for real and virtual worlds, map-enabled decision-support, collaborative geovisualization, dynamic maps to enable learning, semiotic principles for design of dynamic maps and related geovisualization tools, and perceptual/cognitive issues in dynamic geo-representation (including methods for studying the success of visual displays and interaction devices as well as tool usability).

All students take part in a group term project. Groups consist of 2-3 students. The projects focus on design and production of a dynamic, map-based, web-capable geospatial tool targeted to support some clearly articulated objectives. Recent student projects are listed below.

2017 Projects

Divvy Bike Share Application

An interactive web app for studying the usage of the Divvy bike share system that services Chicago, by generating dynamic heat maps cross-filtered by histograms, using the first quarter Divvy bike share data in 2017.

Alexander Jasper, Lucas Tranchita, and Kennon Artis


Death Rates in the United States

An interactive web app for death rates in the United States (1999 -2015) by an animated choropleth map and small multiples for each of the age-adjusted death rates for the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.

Miranda Waldman, Julia Higson, and Nick Kiraly


Earthquakes from 1965 to 2016

An interactive web app for visualizing earthquakes (magnitude 5+) from 1965 to 2016, by an appealing 3D rotatable globe, and two flat maps where one is cross-filter enabled.

Zicheng Huang, and Yuying Ren


Illegal Dumpsite Prospector

A web-based visual analytics tool for assessing illegal dumpsites in three PA counties, taking a coordinated view approach that presents significant variables associated with dumpsites -- using a map supplemented by a table and analytics charts, which also serve as control elements to filtering the dumpsite dataset.

Benjamin Carlsen


2016 Projects

Hurricane Matthew Visualizer

An interactive app to explore the extent of areas affected by Hurricane Matthew, windspeeds and Tide Gauge Measurements.

Paul Yost, Brandon Sekoski, Catherine Hensley, and Yuhao Wang



An app for exploring forest loss data in mining operation sites in Ecuador.

Jacob Marquardt, Charles Krugger, Skylar Roth



An app visually explore census variables in space and time. Users can render maps of the ten most populous U.S. metropolitan areas for the past five decennial census years with choropleth polygon layers of classed, normalized demographic attributes.

Quincy Morgan and Judy Smith


Interactive Visualization of Refugee Demographics in the U.S.

This visualization endeavors to convey the distribution of refugees in the U.S. from state to state, and offer details about the origins of refugee groups at a national scale.

Ruiqi Guo, Sophie Najjar, Vivaldi Rinaldi, Peter Ryan


Visualizing Wellness

This app enables users to explore the underlying spatial heterogeneity in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data.

Cary Anderson


2014 Projects

Visualizing Population Changes from the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami

A tool for examining the effects of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami.

Matthew Brothers, Patrick Dougherty, Yiting Ju


Visualizing Damage and Displacement in Sri Lanka After the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

A comparison of displacement and damage in Sri Lanka caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Hilary Clauss, Courtney Jackson, Nicholas Snyder


The Effects of Climate Change on the Treeline of Denali National Park and Preserve

A web resource for visitors of Denali National Park and Preserve to explore research into the effects climate change on the park landscape.

Yanni Cao, Mark Szajkowski


Effectiveness of Response to Hurricane Katrina (2005)

A tool to assist government and non-government organizations visualize and review the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Kyla England, Caitlin Ferrie, Riley O'Donnell, Kyle Wehr


Hurricane Sandy Resource Map

A web resource for those affected by, or providing assistance during a crisis to locate themselves and find their way to emergency resources, using Hurricane Sandy as a case study.

Anne Harris, Katherine Meckler, Gregory Milbourne


Hurricane Sandy Emergency Management Response Map

An application that assists emergency responders in resource allocation and situational awareness activities during crises, using Hurricane Sandy as a case study.

Andrew Homka, Sidharth Pandey, John Shaner


2013 Projects

State2State Flows

Provides an overview of annual inter-state migration flows from 2005 - 2011.

Sean Cooley, Jon Poler, Andrew Yacina

Demo Video of State2State Flows


Fire Map

An exploratory visualization tool for analyzing spatiotemporal trends in forest fires, designed for and used by the Dr Smithwick's Geog 097 course on sustainability.

Sarah Hanson, Anthony Marze, Jessica White

Demo Video of FireMap


Hurricane Map

An exploratory visualization tool for analyzing spatiotemporal trends in hurricane tracks from 2002 - 2009.

Helena Kotala, Haiyun Ye

Demo Video of HurricaneMap


MapStats Redux

A re-imagination of the MapStats project featuring vector graphics and interactivity.

Daniel Tauriello, Jonathan Zenker

Demo Video of MapStats Redux


Disease Rate Map

Visualization of census demographic information and CDC disease rate information for counties in the US.

Steven Hartwich, Anthony Ruane


2013 NCAA Men's Tourney: Twitter Conversation

An exploratory visualization showing conversation about the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on Twitter.

Nicholas Fink, Patrick Lavelle


2012 Projects


Visualizes the production and consumption of a variety of energy commodities in the United States.

Brandon Mallon, Aaron Marks, and Victoria Wilds

EnergyViz Demo Video


Texas Crop Mapper

Animates Texas’ crop production in relation to drought for both corn and wheat for the years 2002 – 2011.

Marry Morris, Erin Cafferty, and Omar Al-Hashimi

Texas Crop Mapper Demo Video


Space-Time Pattern Visualization

Displays spatiotemporal data and patterns for event histories based on the analysis of text from geo-located news reports.

Qian Di

Space-Time Pattern Visualization Video


Drug War Violence Mexico

Demonstrates the growth of violence and its relationship to drug smuggling, growing, and transportation activities over a four year period.

Chaoran Chen, Brian Chorman, and Ben Saxey

Drug War Violence Mexico Demo Video


Chesapeake Bay Pollutants

Provides an overview of water quality metrics and overall “State of The Bar” for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed over a 10 year period.

Bryan Gardiner, Laura Flyte, and Zach Stephens

Chesapeake Bay Pollutants Demo Video



Visualizes the historical and cultural significance of the rayon industry as it moved to the United States.

Katie Hess-Reichard

jtCULTUREmap Demo Video



Enables users to view and explore park information for America’s National Parks, Historical Monuments, and National Recreation Areas from 1981 to 2011.

Brianna Hammond, Kirsten Luzik, and Clare Price

VisitorViz Demo Video


2011 Projects

Deer Mapper

Provides a means of exploratory data analysis for New Hampshire whitetail deer hunting harvest data.

Developed by: Ethan Jackson, Evan Klauda, Bo Yao

Deer Mapper Demo Video



Visualizes the human factors that give cities their unique feel.

Developed by: Jim Cunningham, Rick Fourroux, Ryan Mullins

CityPulse Demo Video



An interactive map designed to explore the possibilites for future mining of rare earth elements (REEs) in the United States and to aid in allocation of  resources.

Developed by: Amanda Bowe, Morgan Iannuzzi

REEClaiming Demo Video


Marcellus Shale Explorer

Informing Pennsylvanians of the impacts of Marcellus Shale production throughout the Commonwealth.

Developed by: Harrison Forbes, Joseph Ritzman, Dan Uminiski

Marcellus Shale Explorer Demo Video


State College Nightlife

Our mission is to provide all the essential information one needs to plan a night out in a highly interactive and user-friendly manner.

Developed by: Alan Cunningham, Charlie Fuller, Kase Hartog

State College Nightlife Demo Video


US Lung Cancer Mortality

An interactive map to explore lung cancer mortality rates by U.S. County over 5 years.

Developed by: Sal Burgio, Brett Clark

US Lung Cancer Mortality Demo Video


2010 Projects

A.C.T.I.V.E Plan

Application for Community Traffic Improvement and Evaluation.

Developed by: Stephen Butzler, Andy Stauffer, Jinlong Yang


Centre Region FireGIS

Privides spatial data analysis and mapping tools for fire company calls and response times.

Developed by: Michael Archer, James Doyle, Kevin Griffith



The Basic Ordnance Observational Management System - geovisual analytics of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Iraq.

Developed by: Ben Finch, Matt Murdock, Nick Maziekas



An interactive mapping tool for high school students and their parents to filter various criteria during the college selection process.

Developed by: Brent Baker, Luke Heverly, Cory Hunter


West Nile Virus Visualizer

Tool to explore patterns in West Nile Virus detection data across the counties of Pennsylvania for the year 2003.

Deverloped by: Paulo Raposo



A statistics map for exploring world socio-economic data.

Developed by: Steve Sylvia, Kristyn Sullivan


2009 Projects


An interactive map to explore carbon footprint and energy consumption in the United States.

Developed by: Erik Olson, Valarie Troya


Penn State Campus Map

An interactive campus map of Penn State University, with buildings, points of interest, and other features.

Developed by: Tim Johnson, Mark Smithgall, Adam Thomas


Lehigh Valley Traffic

Animated map shows traffic volume for select traffic count locations in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania for the years 2004-2006.

Developed by: Jon Kistler, Tyler Stoner, Tony Yates