URPL 969
Applied GIS Workshop:
Rethinking New Orleans
After Hurricane Katrina

Source: SSEC, UW-Madison

Department of Urban and Regional Planning,
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Spring 2006 -- 3 credits

David Hart, Coastal GIS Specialist,
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute,
Email: dhart *at* aqua.wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-6515

Lecture - Wednesdays, 1:00 to 2:15 p.m. - 208 Old Music Hall
Lab - Fridays, 1:00 to 2:15 p.m. - URPL Computer Lab

Quick Links

Course Resources
* Katrina Library * NEW
Course Schedule
Course Products
* Group Projects *
* GIS Application Papers *
* Katrina GIS Resources *
* Planning and Rebuilding *
Map of New Orleans

On August 29th, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the central Gulf Coast. The storm killed over one thousand people in Louisiana and flooded 80% of the structures in New Orleans. A mandatory evacuation was ordered while governments drained the city, repaired levees, and restored critical infrastructure. The long-term human impacts of the catastrophe will be harder to assess. Local officials fear that many of the nearly half-million city residents may not return. The planning profession has a critical role in rethinking and rebuilding the city and region. The creative thinking of planners working in collaboration with other disciplines from engineering to sociology is needed to shape the future of New Orleans. An opportunity exists to rebuild the city in a sustainable and more socially equitable manner. This workshop allows students to use GIS to offer ideas and recommendations on how to rebuild New Orleans. It provides opportunities to learn about the environmental setting and culture of New Orleans; review the literature on coastal hazards, disaster recovery, and sustainable development; plan and design GIS applications, acquire and integrate spatial data; conduct sophisticated GIS analyses; and communicate ideas in a forum that will help decision-makers as they shape the future of one of America’s greatest and beloved cities.

Course Resources

Course Flyer (pdf file 91K)
Syllabus (pdf file 43K)
Ties to New Orleans helps professor chart new UW course, Wisconsin Week, May 3, 2006

Wheeler, Stephen M. 2004. Planning for Sustainability: Creating Livable, Equitable, and Ecological Communities. Routledge Press.
Colten, Craig E. 2005. An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature. LSU Press.
Piazza, Tom. 2005. Why New Orleans Matters. RegenBooks.

Web Collaboration
Course Weblog (at blogger.com)

GIS Training
As part of the Univerisity of Wisconsin System-ESRI site license, students, faculty, and staff have access to many of the courses offered as part of the "ESRI Virtual Campus" for free. Contact Math Heinzel at LICGF (5-8536) for the "key" that will allow you to take the course.

Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Library


Journal Articles Magazine Articles Other Lists of Katrina Books/Articles

Course Schedule

Week 1

Wednesday, January 18
Course Outline/Introductions

Friday, January 20
Overview of Hurricane Katrina and Its Impacts on New Orleans
We will watch the NOVA special on Hurricane Katrina and discuss the implications of trends in subsidence, sea level rise, and wetland loss.

Week 2

Wednesday, January 25
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? An Exploration of New Orleans Culture
Any discussion of the future of New Orleans must recognize its unique culture. Short of having lived there to experience it first hand, I recommend reading some classic New Orleans literature. Here are a couple of my favorites. Listmania is a service of amazon.com that allows people to create custom lists of their favorite books, music, films, etc. by topic. Here are some New Orleans lists: Great New Orleans Reading, The Best in New Orleans Music, Literature, and Film, and New Orleans Rythym and Blues.


Friday, January 27
Collaboration Resources
Guest Lecture. Jeff Bohrer and Cathy Riley, DoIT Academic Computing

Explore some of the web-based collaboration technologies and tools available on the UW-Madison campus and beyond and how they can be used to present ideas and share data.

UW Resources: General Resources:

Week 3

Wednesday, February 1
Coastal Hazards
Guest Lecture. Phil Keillor, Coastal Engineer and Alan Lulloff, Association of State Floodplain Managers

Friday, February 3
New Orleans GIS Data Acquisition and Integration
We will develop a list of the GIS data needed to analyze the future of New Orleans and how to acquire it.

Week 4

Wednesday, February 8
Coastal Hazards

Readings: Supplemental Materials - Coastal Hazards

Books: Websites:

Friday, February 10
Working with Elevation Data
We will explore Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) data for New Orleans collected as part of a statewide project in Louisiana. Louisiana LiDAR data can be downloaded from Atlas: The Louisiana Statewide GIS

Elevation Data Lab Exercise (Unfinished rough draft dated 2/10/06)


Week 5

Wednesday, February 15
Working with Geodetic Control Data
We will explore vertical control data for southern Louisiana from the National Geodetic Survey and the Louisiana Spatial Reference Center.

Geodetic Control Data Lab Exercise (Unfinished rough draft dated 2/15/06)

Friday, February 17
Disaster Response and Recovery
Guest Lecture. Chris Diller, GIS Manager, Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs and Larry Reed, Southwest Region Director, Wisconsin Emergency Management

Week 6

Wednesday, February 22
Disaster Response and Recovery

Readings: Supplemental Materials - Disaster Response and Recovery

Books: Websites:

Friday, February 24
Working with Parcel Data
We will explore digital parcel mapping for the New Orleans, as well as the New Orleans Property Database.

New Orleans Parcel Data Lab Exercise (Unfinished rough draft dated 2/23/06)

Week 7

Wednesday, March 1
Sustainable Development
Guest Lecture. James Schwab, American Planning Association

Friday, March 3
Working with TIGER/Line Files
We will explore street network data for New Orleans and the address geocoding process. Census 2000 TIGER/Line files for any county in the country can be downloaded from ESRI.

New Orleans TIGER/Line File Lab Exercise (Unfinished rough draft dated 3/3/06)

Week 8

Wednesday, March 8
Sustainable Development

Readings: Supplemental Materials - Sustainable Development

Books: Websites:

Friday, March 10
Public Participation GIS
Guest Lecture. Michael Barndt, Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee, Inc.


Supplemental Materials - Sustainable Development


Assignment Due:

Week 9


Week 10

Wednesday, March 22
Discussion on Class GIS Project #1: Greater New Orleans Community Data Center
Web Collaboration (via WisLineWeb). Class meets in Room 227, Pyle Center
-Joy Bonaguro, Greater New Orleans Nonprofit Knowledge Works

Friday, March 24
Discussion on Class GIS Project #2: New Orleans GIS Analysis
Web Collaboration (via WisLineWeb). Class meets in Room 227, Pyle Center
-Virginia Burkett, USGS National Wetlands Research Center
-Patrick Haughey and Isabelle Maret, University of New Orleans - College of Urban and Public Affairs
-John Davis, Louisiana Sea Grant
-Kathrine Cargo, Orleans Parish Communications District
-Dubravka Gilic, New Orleans City Planning Commission
-Joy Bonaguro, Greater New Orleans Nonprofit Knowledge Works

Week 11

Wednesday, March 29
Creating a Community Vision for the Pontilly Neighborhood in New Orleans
Guest Lecture. Linda and Bert Stitt, Stitt Facilitations

Friday, March 31
Project Work Time

Week 12

Wednesday, April 5
Project Work Time

Friday, April 7
Project Work Time

Week 13

Wednesday, April 12
Project Work Time

Friday, April 14
Project Work Time

Week 14

Wednesday, April 19
Project Work Time

Friday, April 21
Project Work Time

Week 15

Wednesday, April 26
Project Work Time

Friday, April 28
Project Presentations: Campus Class meets in Room 208, Music Hall

Week 16

Wednesday, May 3
Project Presentations: New Orleans (via WisLineWeb).
Class meets in Room 227, Pyle Center

Friday, May 5
Gone to JazzFest!!

Course Products

Group Projects

Two GIS group projects were completed as part of the course. The first project (Group 1) was the development of a neighborhood planning GIS template. The students discovered well-designed web mapping sites from around the country that support neighborhood planning and reviewed them to make recommendations for such a site in New Orleans. They also completed a matrix of GIS data needed to support neighborhood planning post-Katrina, whether these data exist in digital format, whether they are accessible, and how to acquire them. Finally, they bundled these data sets for the Pontilly neighborhood and began to conduct some analyses to test out the neighborhood planning GIS template idea. The second project (Group 2) looked at subsidence and elevation data in Orleans Parish and began to explore methods to relate subsidence trends to an elevation surface to get an idea of what the elevation of New Orleans will be in the future. This is very exploratory in nature and will serve as a starting point for other researchers who are interested and continuing and expanding this work. If you are interested in more information about these projects, please contact David Hart by email at dhart *at* wisc.edu.

Overview of the URPL 969 Course (Powerpoint Slides - Adobe pdf file - 760KB)

Group 1. Neighborhood Planning GIS Template

Group 2. Subsidence and Elevation in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina Response/Recovery GIS Application Papers

Students, in teams of two or three, prepared a paper that reviewed a GIS application related to response or recovery efforts associated with Hurricane Katrina and discussed how the application influenced decision-making and benefited society. Each team was assigned a government agency and/or specific GIS application that had a role in addressing the impacts of Hurricane Katrina. They researched the agency and contacted staff to discuss the response/recovery GIS application. The papers include sections that address the following topics: background/context, nature of the application/functionality/analysis, application impacts/benefits to society, and future directions/needs/changes to the application.

Assignment -
Review of Hurricane Katrina Response/Recovery GIS Application (Adobe pdf file - 20 KB)


GIS Resources Planning and Rebuilding Media


Multimedia Exhibits



Volunteer Opportunities


Last modified on March 15, 2007