Washington University in St. Louis

GIS: Geographic Information Systems


GIS Computer Laboratory

The GIS computer labs in Rudolph Hall house personal computers with specialized software packages including ArcGIS Desktop. For a complete software listing, see this page.

The teaching lab in room 308 can accommodate up to 22 students and is open on the same schedule as the EPSc Library. This lab is used extensively for classes and private training sessions; check the schedule posted by the entrance for availability.

The GIS Research Studio in room 183 contains 4 computers with large workspaces and a main system for presentation on the large monitor or projector. This lab is designed for use by smaller groups, individual project work and for consultation.

Faculty can reserve these spaces for classroom instruction or hands-on lab sessions. Short-term sessions can be arranged to provide individualized training to research or staff groups interested in learning how to apply GIS technologies in their work. Please contact Bill Winston to reserve the space or Aaron Addison to discuss training needs.

GIS Software

Washington University is making ArcGIS Desktop available to all students, faculty, and staff for educational and research purposes. Most university computer labs have the ArcGIS Desktop (Advanced) application installed for your use. Students can obtain the ArcGIS Desktop Educational Edition for installation on their personal computer; see the Student Installation Guide for details.

Faculty and staff who wish to run ArcGIS on a WU networked computer can install the ArcGIS Desktop suite, see the Network Installation Guide for details. If you need to install ArcGIS on a remote or laptop computer, please contact Bill Winston to obtain a single use license.

Printing and Scanning Policy

The Data & GIS Services Group has 2 HP Z6200ps 42" plotters and a Graphtec CS 510 Large Format Scanner available for use by the WU community. These resources are made available on a cost recovery basis. See this page for more information.

We also have Xerox color laser printers located in the GIS Research Studio (suite 183) on the first floor of Rudolph Hall (Earth & Planetary Sciences building), and in the GIS Teaching Lab (Rudolph Hall room 308). These printers are available to print material for GIS related projects.


Washington University offers daytime courses that include instruction in GIS concepts and techniques. Evening courses are available through University College. See our course listing for current offerings. Some courses focus on GIS applications in specific fields such as anthropology or Environmental Studies, while others are directed towards mastering the ArcGIS Desktop application. In addition to regular course offerings, specialized training sessions can be arranged for small groups. Contact Aaron Addison to discuss your specific needs.

Online courses are available from ESRI covering topics ranging from an introduction to the software to more complex data processing tasks. See the online course catalog to browse their complete listing. Some courses are offered for free, "Web Courses" are also available to the Washington University community for free as part of our license agreement, and "Instructor Led Courses" can be taken at a discount rate. Contact Bill Winston to request access to Web Courses.

For an introduction to the ArcGIS application try: Learning ArcGIS Desktop (for ArcGIS 10)


The Data and GIS Services group is available to help you plan all aspects of your GIS project. We are able to provide advice on equipment selection, software capabilities, data availability, spatial analysis, map production and application development. Coordination with state and local agencies is ongoing and in some cases we can facilitate data access. Please contact us early in your planning process to ensure that we can efficiently and effectively help you navigate the complex and rapidly advancing GIS landscape.

Data Visualization

Data visualization is one of the most important stages in almost any research project. Inspecting your data in various ways may reveal patterns or relationships that can be difficult to observe in a table or on paper. Visualization tools range from simple graphing tools commonly found in spreadsheet software to fully immersive 3D facilities. Novel visualizations can become powerful tools to communicate findings and explain complex concepts. Data and GIS Services (DGS) offer a wide variety of services, software, and hardware tools to facilitate data visualization. Contact us at gis@wustl.edu or dataservices@wustl.edu to discuss your project and find out how we can help you get the most out of your data.

DGS has experience with tools across the visualization spectrum and we seek out and evaluate new technologies as they develop with the goal of providing access to these tools for the WU community. The Fossett Lab for Virtual Planetary Exploration (formerly in Rudolph Hall) was inspired and funded by explorer Steve Fossett and was home to a 4-wall Cave Automated Virtual Environment. This "CAVE" facility was a state-of-the-art example of immersive display technology and provided users the ability to "stand inside" their data and view it from any perspective. Some of the more popular visualizations featured visits to the surface of Mars and to the Apollo 17 landing site, These examples went beyond simple "virtual tourism" and allowed mission planners to evaluate landing sites and driving paths for the Mars rovers. The Fossett Lab also enabled a rare educational experience when Dr. Harrison Schmidt spent an afternoon in the CAVE with faculty and graduate students relating his experience exploring and collecting samples during the Apollo 17 mission.

This year the CAVE reached the end of life for many of the critical components and the facility is no longer operational. We are currently working to bring new technologies online for use by faculty and students for data visualization. We have 2 Oculus Rift headsets and are working to develop a much more personal 3D immersive experience with that head mounted display (HMD) technology. We are also building an augmented reality sandbox to enable virtual hydrologic modeling.

This page will be updated to periodically to keep you informed of these and other data visualization technologies as they become available. If you have specific questions or technology that you would like to know more about, please contact us!

The Data & GIS Team