GIS at Dickinson College

GIS News, Events and Student Work blog

Month: December 2013

Investigating the Feasibility of Green Roofs on Dickinson Campus

For the Introduction to GIS final project this Fall, the class learned and published map applications using the ArcGIS online service provided by ESRI. For my project, I conducted a spatial study on the feasibility and potential benefits of green roofs in the Dickinson College campus. The reason why I wanted to do this is because green roofs would be a great way to advance Dickinson’s mission and sustainability. Green roofs have been used extensively throughout history, and cities are now encouraging its implementation as they significantly help fight climate change, along with several other benefits. These include increased levels of oxygen and decreased levels of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants; insulation; protection against flooding and runoff; and a source of locally grown food.

For this study, three Dickinson buildings were selected based upon the flatness of their roofs and the availability of space on them: the college main library, Kaufman Hall, and the Holland Union Building. The potential green roofs would contain greenhouses and rooftop gardens, wooden paths for aesthetic and accessibility purposes, fences for security purposes, and staircases for access from the inside of the building.
An online map application was created using ArcMap 10.1 and the online mapping service provided by ESRI. Potential costs were estimated for all of the elements and carbon dioxide absorption rates were estimated for the rooftop gardens. Both sets of data were estimated by finding the cost per square foot for each element from online sources and online marketplaces, such as Amazon, and creating new fields on the attribute tables on ArcMap and using the field calculator tool.
On ArcMap, layers for all Dickinson buildings and satellite imagery were used to create polygons representing greenhouses, rooftop gardens, staircases, wooden paths and fences. This was done with the editing tool in ArcMap. The map layers were then added to the ArcGIS online map service and an online map and map application were created.

The main product is an online map application that users can access for their information. The map shows all layers with a basemap for Carlisle streets. Buildings that would not serve as potential candidates for green roofs were represented in gray-colored filled polygons, while the three buildings selected for green roofs were represented by black-outlined and hollow polygons.


Full Map


Library with pop-up text box containing information on a potential garden


Union building with pop-up text box containing information on a potential greenhouse


Kaufman Hall with pop-up text box containing information on a potential staircase connecting the inside of the building with the roof


The estimates for prices were close to $630,000 for all greehouses, and close to $1,075,000 for all gardens. The approximate cost for all three green roofs was estimated at $1,800,000. In addition, the total rate of absorption was estimated at 0.94 metric tons of carbon dioxide.


Although costly, green roofs have multiple benefits and have the potential of substantially cutting on electricity, heat and ventilation costs in the longer-term. At a college campus, they can also serve as great learning laboratories for students and faculty, and can look very appealing for visitors.

The ArcGIS online application was very useful to present this data and make it accessible to a much broader audience.

Dickinson College’s Lit Walkways in Relation to Public Safety Concerns

Project Link:


Public safety concerns at Dickinson College are dynamic; this is especially true with lit walkways on campus. Areas that are initially classified as ‘safe’ to walk through can within a short amount a time be classified as ‘dangerous,’ and vice versa; the areas that were ‘red-flagged’ by students five years ago are no longer issues today. The Department of Public Safety recognizes these concerns and is open to suggestions made by students in an effort to make the campus feel safe.  In this project, I wanted to explore the current concerns of students by mapping the Dickinson owned lamp posts and highlight areas that should be focused on for the addition of new light fixtures in the near future.


I began my study by renting out a recreational grade Garmin 62S from the Bosler Media Center and mapping out all Dickinson owned lamp posts on the main part of campus as waypoints.  Originally, I also wanted to collect waypoints for all the Carlisle Borough street lamps and Dickinson parking lot lights within the main campus, but the task was too complex for this current project.  In total, I mapped 271 lamp posts which I located while doing a walkthrough of the campus.  After data collection, I uploaded the waypoints as a shapefile on ArcMap and added other data layers that detailed parts of campus, including buildings, streets, walkways, as well as a satellite image of the area.

After creating this map, I met with Lt. Fasio of the Department of Public Safety who has data from the past year of areas which students have alerted him as being ‘unsafe’ as well as areas that he realizes need attention in the near future.  Taking this list, and visually analyzing the map I created, I found 6 areas that could be considered problem areas which the school should focus on for the addition of new light fixtures in the near future.  This includes the area surrounding the recently acquired Allison Hall, the walkways leading to South College, the railroad tracks in front of Kaufman Hall, the area around Dana Hall, the routes to reach the Factory Apartments, and the area around the Kline Center once its construction is completed in the summer of 2014.  I made another shapefile that outlines these areas on campus in ArcMap, and following this, I uploaded all my files to ArcGis Online into a webmap application.  Along with working with the presentation of the web map I created, I also added interactive descriptions for the problem areas.


Although I always hear my fellow students complaining about the lack of lighting on campus, and even though I did find some problem areas, overall this campus is very well lit.  It must not be forgotten that this campus is incorporated within the town it is located in; Carlisle residents live adjacent to on-campus housing and the center of town is just down the street from campus.  Therefore, students cannot expect that the campus will be lit up to the degree that a football field or theme park would. Also, considering that I did not include Carlisle Borough street lights or Dickinson parking lot lights, this map shows a very safety-forward campus as long as students stay on Dickinson walkways and stay aware of their surroundings.  I hope other students will also understand this conclusion from my map and see what areas they may want to be extra cautious around until there are additional lighting fixtures in place.


The images below show data layers used in this project; the first being the lamp posts collected, the second being the problem areas in relation to these lamp posts, and the third being a description box created in the ArcGis Online Application.


Lamp posts

Problem Areas


Description Box

Dickinson College Arboretum


To become an accredited arboretum there are certain professional standards that need to be met by an accreditation program. That can be done by either the Morton Registration for accreditation (1) or the Tree Campus USA program (2). The use of which program will be used for Dickinson’s future ambition to become an arboretum has not yet been decided, however work has begun to fulfill the general basic requirements for Dickinson to become an arboretum. Dickinson College has been mapping the trees on campus since the spring of 2010. Kristin Meseck, a student at the time at Dickinson, started the project as a part of the Advanced GIS course offered at Dickinson. She worked in collaboration with Mark Scott, Dickinson’s own arborist. Since then multiple students and GIS interns have worked with Mr. Scott and have contributed to the data collection over the years. Mr. Scott has since then strived to turn Dickinson College into a arboretum by starting the general process of surveying and identifying the trees on Dickinson’s campus. The data that is collected includes tree number, common name, family, genus, species, variety, height, diameter, if the tree is native, condition of the tree, if there are insects and disease, if it is dedicated, pruning requirements, miscellaneous work, comments, if the tree has been removed and the type (deciduous or coniferous). After the collection of this data and the exact GPS coordinates of each tree are recorded, the data is all entered into a database so the data can be projected onto a map. Since 2010 over 700 trees have been surveyed and that is not even 50% of trees on Dickinson’s campus. For my final project in the Introduction to GIS course I have taken all of the data collected thus far and have created an interactive web map application available to any individual who would like to learn about the trees on Dickinson’s campus.


To begin the process of making a map on ArcMap, I was given the collected tree data from Jim Ciarrocca, Dickinson College’s GIS Specialist. Using that data I constructed a map of the trees on Dickinson’s campus. I created a map with specific levels of details on the trees present in that area. The data attribute tables were edited to show every tree’s information in a more uniform way. The first level has five trees indicating specific tree areas, for example, Morgan Field, Academic Quad, and more. The next detail level separates the trees into whether they are coniferous or deciduous trees and there are symbols differentiating the two. The last and closest level of detail available separates the trees by family; each family has a different symbol indicated in the legend. There are also layers indicating Dickinson College buildings, for spatial reference for the user.

After the map was created in ArcMap, I began the uploading process to ArcGIS online to publish the map. I signed into my account through ArcMap and followed the prompts to publish the map online. Once the map was up online I needed to choose a web map application template in order to create a web map application to share the map online. I chose the Storytelling Basic application because it allowed me to display the map effectively. After the Web Map Application was finished I was able to share it with everyone using a URL, anyone could see it even without an ArcGIS account.


An effective part of using a web map application are the pop-up windows available for each symbol on the map. This allows users to click on a tree and find out the information available on that particular tree. The pop-up seen in this image example is how all of the pop-ups in the map look.








These three images show the three different detail layers of the web map application, which were described in the methods above.

First level of detail.

First level of detail. The tree areas.


Second level of detail.

Second level of detail. The tree types (deciduous or coniferous).

Third level of detail.

Third level of detail. The tree families.





















The Dickinson College Arboretum Web Map Application can be seen at:



ArcGIS online is an incredible tool that allows you to make a map available and interactive to so many people. The application allows you to better show the story you want to tell because it is interactive and the different templates allow you to decide how exactly you would like to tell that story. This tool is new, so there were some challenges in learning how everything works and including everything you want to do. For example, there is not a way to include labels on the map, which is why the pop-up windows are necessary to give the user information about the items on the map. A feature that I hope will be added to the templates is that if photographs could be added to the pop-up windows, because then for this particular web map I could have added a photo of what a particular tree species looked like, for better understanding by the user. Overall, it is an extremely beneficial tool and continues to change and offer more services to a mapmaker.





More information on the progress of this project  can be found at:


Dickinson Lithology

One of the distinctive features of Dickinson’s campus is the stone–in buildings, walls, outcrops, and gardens. The primary rock type is limestone, which Dickinson as adopted this into their ceremonies, for example, by phrasing graduation as going “beyond the limestone.” Limestone is the traditional building material, making up even the newest campus buildings. In exploration of the prevalence of limestone and other local rocks on campus, I have adopted the task of mapping and locating decorative rocks and outcrops, as well as the main buildings, at Dickinson (see first image below). This map can be used to aid instruction on outcrops within Dickinson’s Department of Earth Sciences and by campus tour guides for aid in describing the history and prevalence of limestone and other rock materials on campus.

Data was either extracted from the Dickinson GIS server (ESRI, Dickinson) or collected using a handheld Garmin GPS. Dickinson building, walkway, and street shapefiles were uploaded and modified from the server. Rock points were collected using the Garmin, and outcrop polygons were digitized by connecting points taken around the perimeter of each outcrop. All information from the GIS server files, including rock type, construction date, and building name, was retained and modified only for readability purposes (see second image below). Information on rocks and outcrops–rock type, location, and special feature–was interpreted in the field using personal knowledge of rock types and structures (see third image below).

Results and Discussion
It is clear by the map that the majority of Dickinson’s lithology is limestone that occasionally contains calcite veins. Special features are mostly limited to Kaufman’s rock garden to the west of the building–this garden is the main spot on campus used in instruction by Dickinson’s Department of Earth Sciences. Limestone and marble are also present elsewhere in small quantity. Knowing the locations of individual rocks or outcrops and the lithology of rocks, outcrops, and buildings can be used by the Department of Earth Sciences for demonstration of field observations of lithology, and even by tour guides to demonstrate Dickinson’s fidelity to the limestone tradition.


Finished map showing locations of main Dickinson buildings, decorative rocks and erratics, rock outcrops, campus walkways, and local streets.

Popup listing building name, construction year, and building material.

Popup listing building name, construction year, and building material.

Popup listing rock type, location, and preserved feature (if any).  Popup is the same for outcrops.

Popup listing rock type, location, and preserved feature (if any). Popup is the same for outcrops.

Dickinson College Edible Gardens


The edible gardens around the Dickinson College campus provide a sustainable and convenient way to access organic food within walking distance of the entire campus. These gardens hold a vast amount of vegetables, fruits, and herbs including tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, rhubarb, basil, parsley, kale, chard, lettuce, apples, and so much more. It is surprising how few people know about this resource that is so easily accessible. At a college that so adamantly pushes sustainability and supports local and organic foods, it is important that these gardens are common knowledge among the student body as well as staff. Therefore, for my final project I chose to explore these edible gardens in order to provide a comprehensive and interactive way for people to learn more about them.


My study began with a meeting with the head gardener on campus, Ann Dailey. She provided me with a list of specific plants around campus and their locations. She gave me a list of six gardens: The Health Center, Handlebar, ATS, Library, Weiss, and KW. To this list I added the Treehouse gardens and the newly planted apple trees by the Children’s Center. She noted that these will change in the coming year as construction happens and plants have to be moved, but for now the plants in each garden are as follows: the Health Center holds peppers, tomatoes, and squash; the Handlebar garden is entirely herbs; KW has a small garden which holds Tomatoes, peppers, and squash; the triangular garden in between the HUB and ATS has only parsley for now; the Library Terrace has peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash; Weiss has peppers, tomatoes, basil, and squash; and, finally, the Treehouse garden includes tomatoes, lettuce, kale, chard, basil, and onions.

After acquiring this information I then did my own data collection, which involved collecting waypoints with a GPS. I checked a recreational GPS out of the Media Center and made my way around campus, marking the gardens as waypoints on the GPS. Once I had all of my points, I uploaded them to the computer and into ArcMap. From here I proceeded to put together a map using the provided layers of buildings, streets, and walkways, as well as a satellite image for my base layer. I added the waypoints and to their attribute tables, added fields to include information about which garden each point was and what plants were included in each specific garden. I was eventually able to upload this map to the online program where I edited symbology and configured the pop-ups to make the map more aesthetically appealing. Once this was completed I turned it into a Web Map Application. From here I was able to finish formatting and then publish the final product.


This map provides an easy way to learn about foods available right here on campus. It is also can be easily updated with any change to the gardens. Each garden changes slightly from year to year and this medium makes it easy to modify the map when those changes, or possibly even additions, do occur.


Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 10.11.27 AM

Finished Map of Dickinson College Edible Gardens








Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 10.15.01 AM

Attributes of Weiss Garden given within the pop-up

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 10.14.07 AM

Attributes of the Treehouse Garden given within the pop-up

Dickinson Campus Virtual Tour


The campus of a college plays an integral role in a student’s decision to attend the school. Currently, Dickinson takes advantage of many different ways for prospective students to interact with the Dickinson campus through multiple visit days each year, daily tours, and off campus events. While Dickinson also has quite a large internet presence, there is a lack of the full range of information that is available through an on campus visit. For many prospective students, learning about a college online is very important to the college search process and can often impact whether or not a student actually visits the college. The existing virtual tour on Dickinson’s website is not comprehensive and focuses on some general aspects of life at Dickinson such as academics and residential life. This “tour” does not follow a specific path and is difficult for students to gain a full understanding of Dickinson through viewing the tour. As a tour guide I realized that many of the campus features that are integral to campus tours are left out of the virtual tour, presenting a very different message in the two forms. I have created a virtual tour that mimics the campus tour route to provide prospective students with a much stronger understanding of the buildings, features, and requirements of Dickinson.


To create this map I collected data using a GPS. I walked around the Dickinson campus on my typical tour route and stopped at all buildings and landmarks that I discuss or highlight while on my tour. I included these points, as well as the general tour route in my map. Before uploading my map to the internet, I created a general map in ArcMap. This map consisted of basic layers such as points of interest, the campus buildings differentiated by category (academic, residential, student life, etc.), local and state roads, and the campus tour route. When I uploaded my map to the internet I decided to use a satellite image layer as a basemap. As a result, it became superfluous to include such layers as the buildings and roads because they were clearly visible in the imagery. I formatted my map in a virtual tour format that provides a picture and a description for each point that is highlighted.


While this map is not completely comprehensive and does not replace the need for campus tours it does provide a more detailed understanding of Dickinson in one place for prospective students. Hopefully as a result of this more prospective students may gain an interest in Dickinson or at least have a familiarity with the campus when they visit.


The Dickinson campus with highlighted points of interest

The Dickinson campus with highlighted points of interest

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 11.32.45 PM

Some of the many points of interest included in the campus tour


Dickinson College Farm: Expansion, Production, and Good Food


The Dickinson College Farm, located in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, provides produce and meat for the College cafeteria, the Campus Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, the farmer’s market and Project SHARE (the local food pantry). The farm has just less than 12 acres in vegetable production as well as 18 acres of pasture for sheep, chicken, and beef cattle. Student farmer workers collect approximately 700 lbs of compost from the campus dining hall daily, as well as work on the college farm with the farm managers, apprentices, and the packinghouse manager.

Additionally, the farm is a living laboratory for student research projects and a variety of classes on campus including biology, environmental science/studies, GIS, physics, and earth science, to name a few.

Aerial image


A Garmin recreational grade GPS was used to collected and update features on the Dickinson College Farm in November 2013. These features were collected in the field and uploaded into a GIS to use in ESRI software, Arc Map. I was then able to use Arc GIS Online to upload the data and display it, here. Arc GIS Online is a new platform that is developing and allows users to display spatial data and navigate across the map. The map was compiled to attempt to display all of the relevant features of the college farm in one location to allow for the farm managers to better direct activity on the farm as well as allow visitors to interact with the farm and more easily find desirable locations as well as information. I hope this map can be useful to student farm workers, college guest, and prospective students interested in agriculture.

Entire Farm


            I was able to map several new features of the Dickinson College Farm, which had previously never been mapped including the swale, persimmon trees, and planned expansion fields. Additionally, several layers were updated to reflect the current infrastructure of the College Farm. These layers include the solar arrays, buildings, compost, production fields and roads. All of this data was compiled and is displayed online using the ESRI online software here.

The heart of the farm is the production fields and pastures that make up the farm. The fields grow many varieties of vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, onions, peas, beans, radishes, beets, and more. The pasture is home to meat cattle, sheep, meat broilers and layer hens. All of these functions work together to make up the college farm and allow it to help feed Dickinson College students, faculty, and staff. These crop varieties are not displayed on the map, as each year they move around the landscape as part of an integrated pest management scheme. The interactive map allows viewers to see the name of the production fields, as well as the pasture names. Here is a static version of the online map only displaying the production areas of the farm.

DCF Production

The most interesting and newest layer that is part of this project is the planned expansion fields layer. These fields will enter production during the 2014-growing season and are currently cultivated using conventional agricultural practices. This field was planted in soybeans during the 2013 growing season; however, the Dickinson College Farm plans to cultivate organic vegetables here in the near future. The College Farm has experience great success since beginning in the mid-2000s and the farm’s customers and the greater community will benefit from this increase in production, as more food is grown. The farm hopes to be able to grow more food for the cafeteria and all of the CSA members to continue to provide access to local food in Carlisle. The area of the new expansion is approximately 8.8 acres and will house 8 production fields to grow all of the varieties vegetable typically grown on the farm. This map displays the area that will go under cultivation during the summer of 2014 as well as a proposed outline for 8 vegetable production fields. It should be noted that this area will not be certified organic for 3 years due to the certification requirements.

Farm Expansion

Using ArcGIS Online to Map Dickinson College Soil Types


One tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than there are people on earth(1). Soil is how we have food, naturally filtered water, and land to build on. However, there’s a wide array of different soil taxonomy, classifications, and capabilities. There are twelve soil orders that are formed under different circumstances and are distributed all over the world. In Pennsylvania, there are about 29 different general soil taxonomies according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Within Cumberland County, there are 112 specific types of soil(2) and within the town of Carlisle, there are at least 5 soil types. The Dickinson College campus is situated on three different soil types: Hagerstown silt loam 0-3% slopes, Hagerstown silt loam 3-8% slopes, and Urban Land and Udorthents. I chose to look at the soil types underlying Dickinson College and understand what their uses are.


The first item that needed to be downloaded was the soils of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. I used the Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (PASDA) downloadable data. The Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) database provided me with the soil classification of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service is the originator of the data that I had used. Using Microsoft Access allowed me to look at all of the available data tables, however it was not necessarily clear what all the acronyms stood for. With previous knowledge in soil ecology and composition along with some research, I was able to decipher what most of the acronyms stood for. Upon review of all data tables, I chose the tables that provided information I was going to use in the end. The data tables chosen were then imported into excel so they could ultimately be imported into ArcMap.

I built my ArcMap the way I hoped it would appear on ArcGIS online. I focused on the Dickinson College campus soils within Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In order to import the ArcMap document into ArcGIS online, I signed into my account through ArcMap and allow all of my connections to view the published Web Map. A set of full instructions on how to publish an ArcMap document can be found at:

Once the Web Map was published, I was able to edit colors of different polygons as well as configure the layout of the pop-ups when clicking on a feature. Once the Web Map looked the way I wanted it to, I needed to share it in order to choose a template that my map would be shown as, this created a Web Map Application. I chose to use the Map Tour because it creates a storybook where you can add pictures to help convey your message. After choosing the template, I was able to again edit how the storybook would look as well as add photos of the different soil classification that I was displaying. After the Web Map Application was finished and I shared it with everyone, I was able to copy the URL and share it with anyone, even if they didn’t have an ArcGIS account.


My ArcMap that I created in ArcGIS can bee seen below which was has all the attributes and features that I wanted in my online map.

ArcMap soils






The following map is what my Web Map looked like after I had adjusted my feature colors and adjusted the pop-up layout. The pop-up seen in this figure is an example of the layout of all pop-ups.

Web Map







The final figure is a screenshots of what my Web Map Application looks like. It is an interactive map that can be seen at:

Web Map Application








      The ArcGIS online is a great tool for allowing everyone to see you’re work and see the story you’re telling. The variety of templates are useful, in they allow you to customize how you want to tell your story. You can use photos, pop-ups, or hyperlinks within your online map. However, there are a few kinks in the process that does make it hard to include everything you want to. It was difficult figuring out what worked and how they worked. It was also not possible to include labels on the map, which meant you needed the pop-up or photos to provide enough information. You also couldn’t have pop-ups with photos which is something that I hope will be an added feature soon.




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