Andrew Horan, outdoor education major from Windsor, Conn., and Thawney Stottler, outdoor education and biology major from Yankton, compare the orienteering map Stottler created with the one currently used in the outdoor education class.
Black Hills State University students spent the semester creating geographic information systems (GIS) maps that will be used by the University and other Spearfish organizations.

The mapping was part of Dr. Abigail Domagall’s final project for a GIS/GPS course. This is the second year Domagall, BHSU assistant professor of geology, has incorporated outside clients in the mapping assignment.

The program used for the classroom project, ArcGIS, is widely used around the world for working with maps and geographic information, Domagall said noting that the students’ knowledge of the program will add to their qualifications when searching for a job after graduation.

“The program, although frustrating to learn, provided the students with an increased self confidence,” Domagall said. “To see them go from frustrated to their professional final product – I think it gives them a sense of achievement.”

“I think doing it for a client and realizing that what they have created is actually going to be used…that is a really nice feeling for the students,” she said. “I think it motivated them a little more because they knew they were doing it for someone else, not just me.”

Final projects included maps for the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, potential new bike routes through Spearfish, and orienteering for the BHSU Outdoor Education program. 

Chris McCart, assistant professor and coordinator of the BHSU outdoor education program, said the GIS maps created by Domagall’s students are a vast improvement over what students had been using in her orienteering class.

 New orienteering map for area off of McGuigan Road in Spearfish.
 Visitor map for Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Spearfish.
“Many of the maps we had been using were based on 1951 data – so they were out of date, as logging roads, access roads, structures, fences and other items had changed,” she said. “There were also some new areas that we wanted to be able to use for field experience.”

Thawney Stottler, outdoor education and biology major from Yankton, said she is excited to know that McCart will be using her map in the orienteering class for years to come. Stottler, who took the orienteering class using the old map, hiked the area near McGuigan Road for several hours using GPS equipment to map out the exact boundary of the area.

She plotted trees, a cell tower – anything that she thought would stick out as landmarks and make the area more identifiable.

“She did a great job,” McCart said. “She was able to apply her knowledge from (the orienteering) class to really improve the map for future students in the class. And it was well designed and professional looking. “

Other students, including Andrew Horan, outdoor education major from Windsor, Conn., also mapped out areas around Spearfish for McCart’s orienteering class.

McCart said the project helped the students learn project management and how to work with clients, such as setting up initial meetings, keeping in contact throughout the project, and soliciting feedback.

“It really mirrored ‘the real world’ and what would be expected if one were providing a mapping service in an agency or organization,”McCart said.

Jake Fritz, environmental physical science major from Black Hawk, took Domagall’s course last fall and created a map of the sanitary sewers on the BHSU campus for facility services. He continued working for the department over the summer and fall to expand on the map. He has added all the exterior lighting on campus as well as irrigation control valves.

“They don’t currently have a map with all those utilities,” Fritz said. “This combines them into one map.”