Fundamentals of GIS for Conservation

A geographic information system (GIS) is a very important mapping, data management, and analysis tool. A GIS is particularly important in conservation, as it helps us to answer the important questions and meet the many challenges facing our planet and world. The Nature Conservancy and our partners are aware of the importance of using GIS in conservation projects, and therefore have created this curriculum to spread GIS knowledge worldwide.

The Fundamentals of GIS for Conservation is comprised of six self-paced courses focusing on the fundamentals of GIS for conservation. Each course has several learning components, ranging from podcasts to web-based trainings, to help students gain knowledge on a specific topic. At the end of each course please take the course survey, and with a successful completion you will receive a course certificate. Note: Courses will highlight both ArcGIS 10.1 and ArcGIS 9.3.

If your are a member of the TNC-Esri Affiliate Program you also have access to Esri training. Scroll to the bottom to learn more.

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This is the first course of a six course series designed to teach you the principles of GIS. This course focuses on the five GIS functions, a working definition of GIS, and the key differences between paper and digital maps.

3 hours

This is the second course of a six course series designed to teach you the principles of GIS. In this course, you will focus on exploring the relationship between features on a map and their associated information. You will learn about feature attribute values and how to work with GIS attribute data.

Duration: 2 hours

This course focuses on how you define the locations of geographic data, as this is one of the most important aspects of GIS.

Duration: 2 hours

This course focuses on the different types of spatial data – vector and raster – and explores how you use them to represent geographic reality.

Duration: 2 hours

This course focuses on the concept of GIS databases, managing your spatial data, and how to find conservation GIS data.

Duration: 2 hours

This course focuses on how you ask questions of your spatial data and how to present your results.

Duration: 3 hours

Access to ESRI Virtual Campus training

As of the Esri International User Conference in June 2016, all the Esri Virtual Campus Training will be free to all people and organizations that are currently under maintenance. This includes The Nature Conservancy employees and our signed affiliates (see list below).

Enter the course room to learn more.

As of Aug 15, 2016 affiliates who have signed include:

African Parks Network

African Wildlife

Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission

Big Hole Watershed Committee


Center for Natural Lands Management


Conservation Society of Pohnpei

Frankfurt Zoological Society

Green Belt Movement

Island Conservation Society

Jane Goodall Institute

Mar Viva

Nature Conservancy of Canada


Northern Rangelands Trust


Partners with Melanesians

Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV)

PRONATURA – Caribbean

Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE)

Rainforest Trust


Resources for the Future

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

Rocky Mountain Front Weed Roundtable

Snow Leopard Trust

The Nature Conservancy

Wildlife Conservation Society