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Geospatial Lab

Mission of the USU Spatial Data Collection, Analysis, and Visualization Lab

Our interest, in geospatial data technologies, hinge on the fact that all human behavior occurs in a spatial arena and results in quantifiable spatial patterning indicative of these behaviors. Such patterning ranges from the microscopic (e.g., cut marks on bone) to the macroscopic (e.g., continent-wide demographic patterns). Multi-scalar spatial data thus provide powerful analytic tools for scientifically characterizing virtually all aspects of human behavior and are consequently essential to modern anthropological inquiry.

USU anthropologists have a shared and tightly integrated research focus and a long history of using myriad types of spatial data to answer questions about past and present human behavior. The precision and integration of the SDCAV Lab's instrumentation permits new types of robust quantitative analyses that result in sophisticated and statistically meaningful ways of interpreting humankind's utilization, manufacture, and conception of space and form. It also allows for 2-D and 3-D visualization, manipulation, and presentation of these data in new and cognitively engaging media. The SDCAV Lab will support increased analytical and visualization capabilities in order to create a synergy among lab users that will foster transformative anthropological research (including in the arena of CRM as conducted by consortium partner USUAS), grantsmanship, teaching opportunities, and dissemination of results in top-tier anthropological publications, journals, web-accessible data banks, and to the public via the USU Museum of Anthropology.

Lab Description

We are fully functioning geospatial laboratory with the goal of providing state of the art spatial analysis, modeling, and visualization services in cultural, social and behavioral studies. The lab provides multi-scalar precision mapping services from the artifact to landscape levels. We employ a full suite of survey instruments including robotic total station, survey grade GPS, geophysical prospection and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technologies. We aid in Geographic Information Science projects from project conception and design stages through development and completion. We are able to collect, compile, analyze and visualize spatial data through the use of:

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Surface Modeling
  • Predictive Modeling
  • Geostatistics
  • 3D Laser Scanning and Presentation
  • Geophysical Survey
  • Animated and Traditional Cartographic Presentations
  • Digital Databases

Our people work closely with the archaeological community to develop innovative strategies for documenting the archaeological record. We incorporate magnetometer and ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey with traditional archaeological site mapping to identify areas of potential interest that can be used for cultural resource management proposes.

GIS provides a tool to compile and manage spatial data generated from our various instruments. We have the capabilities of delivering GIS data in an array of presentation formats; including paper production, ESRI geodatabases, and ESRI ArcMap documents. We can tailor GIS construction for specific client needs and present deliverables for those who do not have access to ESRI ArcGIS products through the use of ArcReader. This freeware provides access to GIS data in an interactive environment where users are able to design queries and print documents from the compiled GIS data provided through our services.

Ongoing Work at the SDCAV Lab:

Integrating Participator GIS and Archaeological Research at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Multiple lines of evidence have supported various interpretations of the locations of specific events during the Sand Creek Massacre from November 29 to December 1, 1864. For example, the location of the Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment has been interpreted in various places by various scholars and descendants within about a two mile stretch of Big Sandy Creek, depending upon which line of evidence is given more weight. The result is that no conclusive map of the massacre site has been developed and in turn, interpretation at the site is lacking. To address this situation, the NPS is hosting a Mapping Workshop which will bring together about 40 scholars, tribal descendants and park managers to evaluate existing and new information, produce a map of agreed upon site feature locations, and provide a basis for new and expanded interpretation at the national historic site. An additional outcome of the workshop is preparation of a research design for future archaeological research to investigate gaps in existing knowledge. Our program has the unique opportunity to blend the methods of GIS, archaeology and ethnography to facilitate cultural resource management at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.

Our students and faculty members are developing an archaeological research design that utilizes multiple lines of evidence to reconstruct the cultural landscape at Sand Creek. Central themes and queries in our approach include:

  • Recording sense of place at Sand Creek
  • Exploring the relationship between place, place identity and historic events
  • How does the material culture reflect stakeholder's remembrances, experience and sense of place at Sand Creek

A suite of technologies will be used to capture and visualize the knowledge acquired through the Map Workshop's efforts. Our students will have firsthand experience in a range of anthropological and GIS tasks including:

  • Ethnographic Interviews
  • Integration of ethnographic data with traditional GIS data to produce a Participatory GIS
  • Surface, Predictive and Sensitivity Modeling

Continue to watch this site as the project develops. Contact the Principal Investigators Molly Boeka Cannon at or for further information.