Accessing GIS Tools

The GIS Lab and SciVis Lab

Vassar maintains two computer laboratories (the GIS Lab in Ely Hall and the SciVis Lab in the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences building) equipped with the latest versions of Esri ArcGIS Desktop, Quantum GIS (or “QGIS”), and Google Earth Pro for geospatial mapping lessons and applications.


The Earth Science and Geography Department maintains a set of tablet computers with desktop GIS software that can be loaned temporarily for individual use or taken on-site to perform mapping and analysis in the field, iPads with GPS receivers for mobile mapping applications, and recreational GPS units for coordinate mapping.


Esri ArcGIS is the industry standard commercial software for geospatial mapping applications ranging from academic research in the sciences and humanities to facilities mapping and management to marketing research and crime analysis. Quantum GIS is an open-source geospatial mapping application and alternative to ArcGIS Desktop; it has many of the same features and functions and is available for no cost under the GNU General Public License. Google Earth is a free virtual globe, map and geographical information program.

Interested faculty can request ArcGIS Desktop for their computers from the available seats included in Vassar College’s academic license. Enrolled students can also request ArcGIS Desktop for their computers; student licenses are valid for one year and are fully functional. Quantum GIS and Google Earth Pro are available for download from their respective websites.

Recently, Vassar faculty and students began using Esri’s web mapping platform (ArcGIS Online) for teaching and research. ArcGIS Online allows students and faculty to create interactive web maps and apps that can be shared with others. ArcGIS Online can be accessed from any computer using a web browser, and mobile versions are available for viewing maps and collecting data using the GPS receiver embedded into many mobile devices. Contact the GIS Academic Computing Consultant ( to request a login.