About The Book

The training provided on this site is based around a book titled GIS For Biologists: A Practical Introduction For Undergraduates by Colin D. MacLeod (ISBN: 978-0-909832-17-6, RRP: US$39.99; £24.99), and it is available as a paperback and as a Kindle eBook. It can be purchased from Amazon.com, any of its regional subsidiaries, such as Amazon.co.uk, or ordered through any good bookshop. If you have trouble purchasing this book, or if you wish to discuss a bulk order, then click here to find out how to order it directly from GIS In Ecology (our sister site). Below you will find more information about this book.


This book provides a basic introduction to using GIS in biological research for undergraduates, and other novice biological GIS users. It provides both background information and practical exercises, which together will help the reader to get to started using GIS. The instructions for the practical exercises are provided for both ArcGIS 10.3, the leading commercial GIS software package, and QGIS 2.8.3, a free, open source GIS software package which is rapidly becoming the standard GIS software in many areas of biology.

Detailed Description:

This book provides a user-friendly and practical introduction for undergraduates to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in biological research. Unlike most other books about using GIS, this information is specifically presented in an biological context and it is divided into two sections.

The first section provides just enough background information to allow the novice biological GIS user to get started with GIS without getting too bogged down in the theory behind it or making some of the most common mistakes made by beginners. It covers areas such as what GIS is, why GIS is useful in biology, the basics of GIS, common concepts and terms in GIS, how data are contained in a GIS, useful information about what to think about before starting a GIS project and how to break down and translate biological tasks into the language of GIS. This information is all provided in easy-to-read and non-technical language, with specific reference to its application in biological research.

The second section, which constitutes the main body of the book, consists of six practical exercises accompanied by detailed instruction sets. The first four exercises introduce the novice biological GIS user to basic, but important, GIS skills, such as making a map, creating new feature data layers, creating raster data layers and joining together data from different data layers. The final two consist of case studies of how GIS can be used to answer real biological research questions. Each of these exercises represents a stand-alone GIS lesson which can be completed either on its own or as part of a practical session for an undergraduate class. In addition, each exercise focuses on a different area of biology, such as tropical ornithology, epidemiology, marine biology and rainforest ecology, and on a different part of the world, including the Amazon rainforest, a Scottish field station, Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique, the North Atlantic Ocean and the USA. Instructions for each exercise are provided for both the leading commercial GIS package (ESRI’s ArcGIS 10.3 software) and the leading freely available open-source GIS software (QGIS 2.8.3, also known as Quantum GIS), meaning that this book can be used to learn, or teach, how to use GIS in biological research, regardless of the availability of commercial software licences. However, only QGIS can be used to complete the exercises hosted on this website.

Taken together, the two sections of this book provide the perfect primer to show undergraduates, and other novice GIS users, how useful GIS can be in biological research, why it is rapidly becoming a key skill in many areas of biology, and how to start using it.

A webpage to accompany this book can be found here.


The following previews from this book can be viewed by clicking on the links below (Note: These previews are hosted on our sister site GISinEcology.com):

Table Of Contents and Preface

Introduction and Chapter 2 (The Basics of GIS)

Beginning Of Chapter 12 (Exercise One: How To Make Your First Map)

If these PDFs do not open in your browser, you can right-click on the link and select SAVE TARGET AS, and save it to your computer. You will need Adobe Reader to open and view these files. You can download the latest version of this program here.