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Frequently Asked Questions

Why use the Geospatial Consulting?

Access to multiple experts - we work as a team, discussing issues to find the best solution.

No software to buy - we already have the software ready to go, why buy something if you're not sure you need it or don't plan to use it again? If you do want to buy, we can recommend what tools would be best for you.

Geospatial Analysis - It's more complicated than a lot of people realize. We can help you design a workflow up front, untangle a workflow gone wrong, or just handle the analysis for you.

Map Making – You may have finished your analysis and have your final data, but you want to make sure your maps looks good. Will color blind people be able to read your map? Will it print the way I want it to? How do I make my map look good in my dissertation or journal article? We can assist you with cartography.


Why not just hire my own GIS expert?

We make it easier for you to make sure you're hiring the right person.

We've heard from professors that it is hard to hire a GSR with geospatial skills because they all already have jobs. We are trying to alleviate that problem by pooling the geospatial knowledge on campus to make it more widely available, especially for smaller projects.

If it's a small or short term project, we already have the people, software and expertise saving you time and money.

For projects with a larger scope or require longer amounts of time, we may provide you with the names and contact information of people with the appropriate skills for the position outside of the consulting service.


Who can use the Geospatial Consulting?

Faculty, staff, and students, as well as non-university affiliated people are welcome to submit requests.


How much will the work cost?

The cost of the work depends on how long the work takes (see below) and if you are affiliated with the university. University affiliates and non-university clients pay different rates.  Non-university clients have a slightly higher cost that takes into account our overhead cost of paying for things like support staffing.  University affiliates pay $46/hour and non-university clients pay $75/hour.  Projects requiring the expertise of a programmer or senior research scientist may be charged at a higher rate.  All clients receive a cost estimate before work begins and our staff can advise clients on how to minimize project costs.  Also, if you have a budget you need to work within, please tell us and we will help you stay within your budget.


How long will the work take?

How long the work takes and when the finished products will be delivered depend on a number of factors, including the number of projects currently being addressed by consultants, and the scope of the work being proposed. The staff will work with you at the beginning of your projects to assign a completion date. Projects take time and those with unreasonably short deadlines given the scope of work will be turned down or may be referred to another source.


How do I submit a project?

If you are affiliated with UCD, click the "UCD Log-in" link in the top right corner of the page.  Log in with your UCD Kerberos information.  Go to the "Services" tab and click the "Project Request" link in the navigation bar on the left side of the page.  Fill in as much detail as you can.  If you are unsure about something, that's ok.  Just let us know that.

If you are not affiliated with UCD, send us an email.  We'll follow up with a list of questions for you to answer.


How does the consulting process work?

The process generally follows these steps:

1. UCD-affiliated clients submit an project request (non-UCD clients, send us an email).

2. The service coordinator contacts the clients to set up an appointment.

3. Clients meet with a consultant to discuss their project.

4. Consultants generate a project agreement that outlines the work to be completed, deadlines, and the projected cost, which, if agreeable to the client, the work will move forward.

5. Consultants complete the work, asking the client questions as needed.


Who will work on my project?

The consulting service has access to a number of experts in a range of geospatial skills. The service coordinator will assess the needs of your project and assign one person to focus on your project, however, all the people associated with the consulting service are available to assist your assigned staff member with completing the project should the need arise. Consultants are skilled undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral scholars.


I need to learn GIS. Can you teach me?

While the consulting service occasionally offers workshops on special topics and can also assist you in designing GIS course content, we do not teach the fundamentals of GIS. The campus has a number of resources to help you learn GIS including courses and free tutorials for ESRI's ArcMap software and open source software. We'll be happy to help you figure out which courses will get you the skills you need, whether it is a course at UCD, another school, or tutorials.


I learned to use a particular set of software in a class, but now I don't have access to it. Are there other GIS software options to let me continue working with geospatial software?

Yes. There are many options. GIS software comes in several forms. One is Proprietary software that requires a fee for use (sometimes the fee provides unlimited use, and sometimes the fee provides access for a limited amount of time, such as a year). Another is Free and Open Source software that does not require a fee and allows you to access the underlying code. Both kinds of software have programs that can provide a good number of tools for geospatial analysis. The consulting service has consultants who are experts with many of the tools available, both open source and proprietary. We can help you decide which tools might work best for you.

What software do you use?

We don't rely on any one particular software - we will use whichever product will produce a quality product in a timely manner.  We have expertise with a number of programs, including but not limited to, ArcGIS, QGIS, PostGIS, GRASS, SAGA, and ENVI.  Our consultants are also willing to learn to use new tools as necessary to complete a project.

What hardware to you have?

As a division of the Information Center for the Environment, Geospatial Consulting has access to powerful computing tools including desktop computers, servers, and a variety of GPS units.  This means we can handle intensive computing with large datasets, design and host web maps, and provide in-field data collection.

Is there anything you can't help me with?

Yes.  There are a few categories of requests that we will turn down.

We will not answer questions relating to your class homework.  If you need more help than your Teaching Assistant can offer, we may be able to suggest a tutor.

We will turn down projects that encompass the majority of the work outlined in a graduate student's thesis or dissertation proposal. For example, if you propose to develop a new remote sensing platform, you need to do that work yourself. We are happy to discuss the project with you, including ideas for how to do it or how to analyze the data, but we will not produce the platform for you. For another example, if you propose to develop a new algorithm for classifying satellite data, you need to do that work yourself.

Projects with a scope and time frame requiring the work of a graduate student 25% time or more over the course of a quarter will be turned down with the understanding that the investigator should hire a GSR. If you propose such a project to the consulting service, we will be happy to help identify a student with the appropriate skills to work as a GSR on your project.

Projects with unreasonably short deadlines given the scope of work will be turned down, likely with a referral to an outside source who may be able to help meet your needs.


How do I work for the Geospatial Consulting Service?

The Geospatial Consulting Service anticipates hiring graduate and undergraduate students as the need arises for more staff. Prospective consultants should fill out a self-assessment form.  Job openings will be announced on the geospatial email list.  To add yourself to this email list, please visit, log-in, and search for "geospatial".