Sac State Geography Labs

SignThe Sac State Geography Department hosts two laboratories to help students develop and refine geographic skills and knowledge. Thereare two primary labs in the Geography Department, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Lab and the Paleoecology Lab.

The Geography Department is the home of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Sacramento State.  The focus of the focus is to help students develop both a theoretical understanding of and practical experience using GIS that prepares them for the job market or graduate work.  Our students have opportunities to develop these knowledge and skills in traditional lecture and lab courses in GIS, Remote Sensing, Cartography, and Spatial Analysis.  They also have the opportunity to participate in project-based courses, where they are able to apply their 

Joelunderstanding by designing and implementing solutions to real world problems.  Sacramento State students learn not only how to do GIS, but also when and why. FACILITIES The GIS facilities at Sacramento State give students exposure to industry standard GIS, Remote Sensing, and GPS hardware and software.  The Geography Departments GIS lab has 30 PC workstations (12 with dual monitors) divided between instructional and student research labs, color scanners and printers, a large format color plotter, and 20 Trimble Juno SB GPS receivers.  Software includes a campus site license for ESRI’s ArcGIS products, ERDAS IMAGINE, Trimble’s GPS Pathfinder Office, and other data analysis and productivity software such as SPSS/PASW, GeoDa, Adobe Creative Suite, and Microsoft Office.

The Sac State Geography Department also hosts the Paleoecology Laboratory. The lab is located on the 3rd floor of Amador Hall and was established in 2004. The mission of the laboratory is to conduct environmental research to further our understanding of past and present physical landscapes and to promote student education and research. The lab emphasizes sediment research and tree-ring research.

The Paleoecology Lab allows motivated students hands-on experience in field sampling techniques and laboratory processing and analysis of various environmental data. The Paleoecology's primary focus is on tree ring and pollen analysis with the goal of examining climate and environmental change over centuries to thousands of years.


Field Work

Sedimentology Equipment

  • Livingstone-type piston corer with 50of extension rods
  • 1.6 cubic ft lab oven 127.5 cubic in muffle furnace
  • Analytical balance with 0.1 mg readability
  • 10-45X stereo microscope
  • Compound microscope with 10X, 40X, and 100X objectives
  • Bartington MS2 magnetic susceptiblity meter


Dendrochronology Equipment

  • 10", 14”, 16”, and 20” Haglof tree increment borers
  • 24” Travel Velmex Measurement System with 0.001 mm Accu-Rite readout
  • 10-40X Stereozoom binocular microscope with boom-arm and fiber optic illuminator
  • Voortech Measurement Software
  • Bosch 3" X 21" belt sander
  • Bosch oscillating sander


Sedimentology is concerned with the use of lake and marsh deposits in reconstructing past environments. Layers of lake sediment can accumulate undisturbed over long periods of time, forming a repository of information about changing environmental conditions. When carefully collected and examined, these layers can be read like pages in a book describing the environmental history of a region. Sediment characteristics such as grain size, organic content, magnetic susceptiblity, and elemental composition give insight into past climate and erosion in a watershed. The study of microfossils in lake sediments, such as pollen and charcoal, allows for the reconstruction of regional vegetation patterns and fire frequencies. Continuous sediment records spanning time periods from decades to hundreds of thousands of years have been used to study changing environments around the world.


The science of dendrochronology is based on the doctrine that the "the past is the key to the future." By evaluating annual growth rings of suitable tree species we are given a glimpse of past environmental conditions. Knowledge of past environments helps us to better understand the environments in which we currently live and how these environments may change in the future. By evaluating changes in annual growth rings dendrochronologists are able to create records of environmental change that may extend back hundreds or even thousands of years. Tree rings have been used to study population dynamics of forests, volcanic eruptions, the rise and fall of ancient cultures, changes in insect and fish populations, earthquakes, tsunamis, river flow, atmospheric and soil pollution, deception in art masterpieces, radiocarbon dating, sunspots, and more. To learn more about the intriguing art and science of dendrochronology go to the Ultimate Tree Ring Pages.


Sac State is one of the 23 campuses of the California State University System. Student enrollment is approximately 30,000. Collectively, the California State University System comprises one of the largest universities in the country.

Lab DirectorsBruce Gervais and James Wanket Department of Geography; California State University, Sacramento; 6000 J Street Sacramento, California 95819-6003; phone 916.278.6109; fax 916.278.7584