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Pre-Workshop Activities

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Pre-Workshop Activities

Pre-workshop Webinar

Participants of the FED workshop were asked to attend one Pre-Workshop Webinar. The purpose of the webinar was to introduce the students to the topics that would be discussed during the workshop, allow them to meet and interact with the faculty, and to properly install the QGIS program and related datasets.

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Pre-workshop Assignment


IAN Conceptual Diagramming

As part of the Pre-Workshop Assignments, students were asked to create a diagram depicting a local environmental problem near their home. The students used the IAN Diagramming tool, provided by the Integration and Application Network through the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The students learned how diagramming can be used as an effective tool for communicating scientific information to the public. The tool can be accessed here:

(Note: The tool only works with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.)


QGIS is an Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) that was used by the participants of the FED Workshop. To learn more about QGIS, or to download the program, please visit the QGIS website:

The Assignment

  1. Install QGIS
  2. Download preparatory materials
  3. Familiarize yourself with QGIS
  4. Complete your reading assignment and a single 15 min recorded seminar
  5. Tell a story about a local environmental challenge

Please pose all questions to the ESA SEEDS social networking site.

  1. Install QGIS: Course software will include an open source (free) application called QGIS. Navigate your browser to the following URL to download the application files:
  2. Download preparatory materials: Download a ZIP files from: (20MB). Next, extract the ZIP file onto your hard disk. Make sure the files are extracted in a manner that preserves the directory structure given below:
  • GIS Data
    • Raster
      • Landcover
    • Vector
      • Boundary.PotomacWatershed
      • Census
      • Streams.NitrogenPhosphorusYields
  • Familiarize yourself with QGIS: Load the data layers (step 2) into QGIS, and try the zoom, information tool, symbology, and other tools demonstrated during the webinar.
  • Complete your reading assignment:
    • Read “Nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay: A Retrospective: (
    • Watch Walter Boynton’s 15 minute seminar on “Where has all the nitrogen gone?” (
    • Browse through the Rock Creek Park Natural Resources Condition Assessment report (
    • Read through the “Workshop Challenge Questions” (below). You will be working with your fellow participants and facilitator at the workshop to craft questions that your group will work on during the workshop. You will be presenting your findings at the end of the workshop.
  • Tell a story about a local environmental challenge: Use the IAN Conceptual Diagram Creator ( to tell a story about environmental challenges facing your local/regional ecosystem (wildfire, floods, drought, pink bark beetles, invasive plants, invasive aquatic species, etc) and how humans have been impacted. To do so, you must first create a free account at that will allow you to access the library images of landscapes, organisms, etc. If you have technical questions about the tool, post them to the discussion forum at,601.0html.

    The IAN tool works best on Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, do not use Internet Explorer. Remember to save your diagram to your local media before quitting the drawing tool. Images are saved by default in the SVG format (your files will have an “.SVG” extension) so that the objects from the image library (e.g. landscape cutaways, organisms, equipment, etc) within the diagram can be edited later.

    Bring your diagram to the workshop. You will be presenting it before your working group.

  • Workshop Challenge Questions
    1. Definitions

  • Structure of assignment question.

    There are two high-level questions. The first, Q1, is a larger-context structural question that focuses on the larger socio-economic landscape of the study area. The second, Q2, focuses more on the ecological processes that operate within the socio-economic landscape. Participants should pick multiple aspects of Q1 and combine it with multiple aspects of Q2.

    • Question 1. (STRUCTURE) How do people utilize rivers, streams, and estuaries?

    1. How do we partition net primary productivity between different uses of land, e.g. forest ecosystems and agriculture?
      1. What are some considerations in deciding on how a region partitions its resources towards food, water, fiber, and energy?
      2. How would different allocations affect the quality of the watershed, taking into account the need to transport in various goods if those are not available within the watershed?
      3. What would prevent the changing of this partitioning so that the ecological health of the watershed can be improved? What are some of the tradeoffs?
    2. How does the changing socio-economic landscape affect the watershed?
      1. What are some ways of quantifying the socio-economic landscape?
      2. Does the changing employment landscape affect the health of the watershed and how?
      3. Given the socio-economic landscape, how would you recommend engaging target communities to be more cognizant about how their actions impact the quality of the watershed?
  • Question 2. (PROCESS) What is the effect of LU on the Watershed?

    1. What’s the difference of water quality between and LU type 1 watershed and a LU type 2 watershed?
      1. How is LU measured?
      2. How is water quality measured?
      3. What are the main drivers of water quality in LU?
        1. What is the effect of different agriculture practices on water quality over time?
    2. How would you measure water quality?
      1. How have these conditions changed over time?
      2. Is the trend upward or downward?
        1. How are changes to the watershed in the urban environment different from changes in other LU types?
    3. How do you measure the impact of urban environments? Is this different from measuring the impacts in other LU types?
      1. How do transport, retention, removal, and transformation of nutrients vary among urban streams and how do they compare to less disturbed streams?
        1. How do transport, retention, removal, and transformation of nutrients vary among urban streams and how do they compare to less disturbed streams?
    4. How does stream temperature vary with LULC?
      1. How will climate change affect the functions of stream systems?
      2. Will responses to climate change be similar between regions with differing LULC?
      3. Does alteration of terrestrial or atmospheric inputs have effects on streams? Does this vary with regional LULC or percent impervious surface?
      4. How have these conditions changed over time? Is the trend upward or downward?

    End of Assignment

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