Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to things I get asked a lot, and I’ll keep adding to it as people ask me questions. Can’t find the answer to your question? Feel free to ask it via the contact me form!

1) What classes should I take?

It depends on what you want to learn and what institution you’re at. I always recommend starting with a basic statistics course. If your department offers an applied stats course, try that one! If you end up wanting more stats theory, then you can go over to the statistics department and take one there. A lot of departments offer GIS courses– check out listings in Geography, Natural Resources, and Agriculture/ Ag Engineering. Sometimes you’ll see applied GIS courses in social sciences, city and regional planning, and meteorology. A lot of the GIS content/ computer skills translate across all these disciplines, so don’t worry too much if it seems like the labs are on topics you’re not familiar with.

At OSU, I recommend Geography 5100 as a great intro to statistics and R including non-parametric alternatives to common procedures like ANOVA. Horticulture and Crop Sciences offers a basic experimental design course (HCS 5887) that covers basic SAS or R. HCS 8887 is great if you’ll be using lots of ANOVAs and pairwise comparisons/contrasts. SENR (School of Environment and Natural Resources) has an undergraduate stats course and a grad level course, both of which work with real data sets and include lab write ups.

If you’re looking for a more spatial stats focused class, GEOG 8102 is truly fantastic. It doesn’t expect GIS knowledge going in and covers R, GeoDa, and SatScan. This class spends a lot of time on generalized linear models and other regression techniques before jumping into spatial error models and geographically weighted regression I still rely on the example codes from that class.

If you’re looking for a GIS class, SENR 3700 is great. It has clear step-by-step activities that even people who aren’t confident in their computer skills can complete successfully. Most of the class is in QGIS, but some of it is in Google Earth or ArcGIS. The Geography department has some other basic GIS classes, mostly in Esri softwares (ArcMap, etc.) that I’ve heard good things about but haven’t personally taken. Also keep your eye out for library courses or webinars from software manufacturers.


2) Spatial stats is cool. What should I read?

Statistical Methods for Geography: a Student’s Guide by Peter A. Rogerson is pretty great. It’s also the textbook for GEOG 5100, but it’s shockingly readable for a stats textbook.


3) What software should I learn?

Free stuff: R is fantastic for analyzing spatial data. QGIS is great for making maps. SAGA GIS is good for terrain analysis and other raster data manipulation. There’s a SAGA plug-in for QGIS, but sometimes it’s nice to just use SAGA itself. GeoDa is a nice point and click software that makes Moran’s I and LISA maps really easily. It does some spatial regression things and basic maps too.

Not free: MatLab is my favorite place to make graphs. R, specifically ggplot2, can make gorgeous graphs, but you have to fuss a bit. The defaults for graphs in MatLab are gorgeous. Maybe not worth learning a new software for some people, but consider it if you’ll be making lots of graphs with many colors or any 3D graphs. Most of Esri’s programs cost money, although they have some web-based GIS tools available for free these days. Many people use ArcMap for map making and spatial analysis. I like their mobile platform a lot, especially Survey123. SAS is a common statistics software, especially in natural sciences. I don’t use it much but I should probably get better at it.

Agriculture specific: There are tons of options. A lot of people use SMS, but it’s pricey. If you want to go into crop consulting, it’s probably worth learning. If you’re looking for personal use, shop around and try the free trials of lots of different software programs.

4) Why do your screen shots look pink?

I have a filter on my phone to reduce the blue light output. It looks light pink during the day and is darker after the sun sets. If you look at my phone, you can’t really tell because the whole screen looks like the same. My screenshots also look pretty normal on other screens with a filter, but if you are looking at this site on a device with no filter they will be noticeably pink.