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Exploring Africa's Physical and Cultural Geography Using ArcView

Activity 1: Physical Geography

Instructions for Students

Goal: In this lesson, you will create 4 maps in ArcView using relief, climate, precipitation, and vegetation data. These maps will be used to answer questions about the characteristics of the physical environment of Africa.

GIS Skills Involved: Adding, displaying, and labeling data layers, and creating maps within a GIS.

Materials: To complete this lesson you will need ArcView software and the Africa Lesson data (Download the Data for Activities 1-3).

Africa map

Step 1. Let’s begin by making a map in ArcView and analyzing it using relief data. Open ArcView and click "OK" in the pop up window (this will create a new project with a new view). The next screen will ask if you would like to add data to the view. Click "Yes" and add the following shapefiles (navigate to the folder where you saved the Africa Lesson data and hold down the shift key to add more than one shapefile at a time): lakes.shp, country.shp, relief.shp, and rivers.shp.

Step 2. Put check marks in the boxes next to the themes to display them. Some of your themes might be hidden underneath other themes. To move the themes click and drag them up or down so they are in the following order – lakes, rivers, country, and relief.

Step 3. Make the country theme transparent so the relief theme is visible underneath. Access the Legend Editor by double-clicking on the Country.shp theme on the left hand side of your screen. Double-click on colored box under "Symbol" to access the Fill Palette and click on the blank box in the upper left-hand (see image on right). Click the x in the upper right to close the Fill Palette. Click "Apply" and close the Legend Editor.
Image of Fill Palette window

Step 4. We will now display the relief values. Double-click on the relief.shp theme to access the Legend Editor. Click the drop down arrow next to "Legend Type" and select "Unique Value." Click the drop down arrow next to "Values Field" and select "Relief" (not "Relief_"). Click "Apply" and close the Legend Editor. Notice the colors on the map have changed and now represent the different relief types (high mountains, low plains, etc).

Step 5. The Rivers are hard to see so let’s make them bright blue with thicker lines. Double-click Rivers.shp to access the Legend Editor and double-click on the symbol box to access the Color Pallette. Select the paint brush icon at the top of the Color Palette window and choose a light shade of blue. Select the line icon, change the size field to 2 and close the Color Palette window. Click "Apply" and close the Legend Editor.

Step 6. The Lakes are also hard to see. Double-click on Lakes.shp to access the Legend Editor. Change the lakes to blue the same way you did with the rivers. If the lakes do not show up with solid color, you may need to go to the paint options in the Fill Palette and click on the all black box to make them solid blue.

Step 7. Answer the following questions using this map setup.

A) In which countries are the high mountains of the African continent located? To see the country name make sure the Country.shp theme is selected (click on it and it should appear raised). Use the Identify tool to click on the country and a box will appear with the name.

 

B) Describe the path the following rivers take to their ocean outlet (north, southwest, etc). For this step you will need to turn the river labels on. Make sure the Rivers.shp is selected, and go to Theme —>Auto Label —> make sure the label field says "name" and say OK. Use your Zoom tools zoom icon to zoom in and out of the map to see the rivers better.

   1. Zambezi

   2. Nile

Step 8. Save this map and name it "Relief". Go to the View menu and click Properties. Name your map Relief and click "OK". Close the Relief map by clicking on the x in upper right hand corner.

Step 9. Now let’s make a map and analyze it using Climate belt data. Click "New" to open a new view. Use the Add Theme tool to add the following shapefiles: belt.shp, lakes.shp, rivers.shp, and country.shp.

Step 10. Repeat Steps 2-6 (using belt instead of relief).

Step 11. Answer the following questions using this map setup:

C) In which belt do the fewest rivers begin (ex: equatorial, intrazonal, etc)?

D) In which belt do the most rivers begin?

Step 12. Save this map and name it "Climate". Go to the View menu and click Properties. Name your map Climate and click "OK". Close the map by clicking on the x in upper right hand corner.

Step 13. Now let’s make a map and analyze it using Precipiation data. Click "New" to open a new view. Use the Add Theme tool to add the following shapefiles: precipyr.shp, lakes.shp, rivers.shp, and country.shp.

Step 14. Repeat Steps 2, 4, 5 and 6 (using precipyr instead of relief).

Step 15. To display the precipitation data, double-click on precipyr.shp to access the Legend Editor. Click the drop down arrow next to "Legend Type" and select "Graduated Color." Click the drop down arrow next to "Classification Field" and select "low_p." Click "Apply" and close Legend Editor.

Step 16. Answer the following questions using this map setup.

E) Using the parameters detailed below, list countries with low precipitation (desert areas). For this step you will either need to use the Identify tool (see Step 7, Question B) or turn the country labels on (see Step 7, Question C).

   1. List 2 countries in the northern section of the continent.

   2. List 2 countries in the eastern section of the continent.

F) In which precipitation belt do most rivers begin (ex: 0-200, 201-600, etc)?

 

Step 17. Save this map and name it "Precipitation". Go to the View menu and click Properties. Name your map Precipitation and click "OK". Close the map by clicking on the "x" in upper right hand corner.

Step 18. Now let’s make a map using Vegetation data. Create a new view and add veget.shp using the Add Theme tool add theme icon.

Step 19. To display the vegetation data, double-click on veget.shp to access the Legend Editor. Click the drop down arrow next to "Legend Type" and select "Unique Value". Click the drop down arrow next to "Values" Field and select "vegtype." Click "Apply" and close Legend Editor.

Step 20. Save this map and name it "Vegetation". Go to the View menu and click Properties. Name your map Vegetation and click "OK". Close the map by clicking on the x in upper right hand corner.

Step 21. You should now have 4 maps – Climate, Precipitation, Relief, and Vegetation. Open the Relief and Vegetation maps and use them to answer the questions below (you will either need to resize the views so both maps are visible on the screen or click back and forth between the maps):

G) Use the Zoom tools to zoom in on North Africa. What are the vegetation types in the northern most section of the country (Algeria and Morocco)? Hint – turn the country labels on in the Relief map and compare that to the Vegetation map (see Step 7 Question C for instructions on how to turn labels on).

 

H) What is the dominant relief feature of the grasslands?

 

Step 22. Save these maps as a project. Go to the File menu, click "Save Project As" and name your project "Activity1". Exit ArcView.

*** End of Africa Activity 1 for ArcView ***

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