ENV 603b () / 2022-2023

Environmental Data Visualization for Communication

Credits: 3

Spring 2023: M,W, 9:00-10:20, Kroon 319

Application Instructions: Spring 2023, ENV 60, Environmental Data Visualization for Communication:

This is a combination lecture and hands-on course designed to explore principles of visual communication and apply them to the design and construction of effective graphics. Students will build skills in working with data, programming in R, and data visualization using a variety of tools and methods. Although no prior experience with R is required, if you have not encountered programming languages before, then you will need to invest at least an extra six hours of time before February 1, when we start using R in class assignments. We will provide at least one extra 2-hour session before February 1 to help get non-R users up to speed but additional independent study will be required.
There is a strong emphasis on active participation through learning new skills, helping others acquire skills and troubleshoot problems, and critiquing other’s work. Effective graphics are informed by design principles and more complex displays are improved through an iterative process that requires dialog, feedback, and testing.
Enrollment in the class is limited to 20 students. We will meet 25 times from January 18 through April 26, twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 to 10:20am. There will be weekly assignments and a final project that will be developed throughout the course, and there will be ample support offered through regular office hours. If you are new to programming, we recommend that you reserve extra time in your schedule to regularly attend office hours for help on assignments.
Given the limited class time, it is critical that students complete TWO tasks BEFORE the first meeting. Please do not apply if you will be unable to do this:
  1. Install R and RStudio on your personal laptop. These are two different programs that work together. Both programs are free and can be downloaded online. Follow the instructions here:
  1. Complete this reading—the Preface from Kieran Healy’s book “Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction” for the first class before the start of that class:
Completing these two steps successfully will mean that you have properly installed R and RStudio as well as several code “libraries” or “packages” that we will use in class to explore datasets in R.
Note: You will also be asked to install Tableau Desktop for Students later in the term, so you must have a working laptop with at least 500MB of available disk space to install extra software and datasets.
To apply for this course, please provide short answers to the following questions. This will allow us to tailor the course more closely to your needs. Please email your responses to jennifer.marlon@yale.eduand simon.queenborough@yale.eduno later than 5:00 pm EST on Friday, December 16th. Thank you!
You will be notified by Close of Business (COB) on Friday, January 6th.
  1. Why are you interested in taking this class?
  1. What is your area of interest/research?
  1. Have you recently taken any classes that required you to explore or analyze data, such as statistics, GIS courses, etc.? If so, please list them.
  1. Would you like to attend the extra R session for beginners that will be held either on Friday January 13, 20, or 27? If yes, do you have a date preference?
  1. Do you have an existing project or dataset in mind that you would like to explore and visualize? If so, please describe it and state whether you already have access to the data, or not yet. (This is not required – you will have the opportunity to explore existing datasets.)
  1. What previous experience do you have, if any, with communication and/or design?
  1. When do you expect to graduate?

Welcome to the Information Age! It is now much easier to generate and access more data than ever before. Yet, our ability to manage, analyze, understand, and communicate all this data is extremely limited. Visualization is a powerful means of enhancing our abilities to learn from data and to communicate results to others, especially when informed by insights into human behavior and social systems. Developing the quantitative skills necessary for analyzing data is important, but for addressing complex and often urgent environmental problems that involve diverse audiences – understanding how to effectively communicate with data is equally essential for researchers, policymakers, and the public alike.This course is for students who wish to gain an understanding of the principles, tools, and techniques needed to communicate effectively with data. Classes will consist of short lectures about principles of design, data preparation, and visual communication, discussions about examples from the news and scientific literature, guest lectures, peer critiques, and hands-on individual and collaborative group activities. Throughout the semester, we will use Excel, PowerPoint, R, Tableau, and other tools to develop visualizations using diverse datasets. Students will also work with a dataset of their own choice or from a partner organization to develop a final project consisting of a poster, infographic, report, dashboard, story map, or related product. Enrollment is limited and application is required.

Limited to 20