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University of Bologna, Italy - April 2017

Workshop: Quantifying Geomorphic Change in the Environment

University of Bologna, Italy

Department of Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences

Local Host:  Francesco Brardinoni
April 3-6 (4 days) from 14:00 to 18:00(ish)


Over the last decade, the advent of airborne and terrestrial laser scanning, structure-from-motion photogrammetry, RTK-GPS and multi-beam sonar have enabled the development of very high-resolution topographic models of river systems and their catchments. These next-generation Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) capture the fine, particle-scale detail of the Earth’s surface and provide the ideal tool to quantify how landscapes evolve by comparing DEMs derived from repeat surveys. The development of these so-called DEMs of Difference (DoDs), offers a means to measure precisely patterns of erosion and deposition, surface deformation, derive landscape sediment budgets and estimate sediment transport rates in rivers indirectly. 

As the availability, size and complexity of DEMs continues to grow, it is increasingly important to understand and master new data processing workflows that can facilitate DEM change detection and also account for DEM uncertainty. To this end, the Geomorphic Change Detection (GCD) software suite  allows streamlining the process of evaluating topographic change in a user friendly GIS environment. 


This four-day course will be led by Dr. Joe Wheaton (Utah State University) and Dr. Francesco Brardinoni. Dr. Wheaton and colleagues have developed the GCD software over the last 10 years and have worked extensively on change detection and fluvial dynamics projects in NZ, the USA, and Europe. The course will introduce the principles of geomorphic change detection, and help participants implement change detection analyses using an ArcGIS Add-In version of the GCD software. The GCD tool is an open-source, free piece of software, but the GCD Add-In requires ArcGIS 10. We will provide all participants with a complimentary, one year education license for ArcGIS and all the toolboxes.We will use a range of relevant examples from river systems in Spain, New Zealand, the USA and the UK describe how this tool can be used to support: 

  • Background on production of DEMs, quantification of DEM quality and derivation of appropriate spatial error models 
  • Estimation geomorphic change while accounting for significance of uncertainties in DEMs 
  • Derive statistical and graphical outputs for easy reporting 
  • Use of spatial masks to segregate changes within different landscape units


2017 Bologna GCD Workshop Syllabus - Handout

Provisional syllabus, subject to change.


Participants are required to bring a laptop; the necessary software and datasets will be provided. Participants are expected to have some GIS experience, and familiarity with ArcGIS. 

See for pre-requisites and computer requirements. 

Please also read the background reading.

Instruction will be in English. 

Lecture Slides and Tutorials

For help on specific topics, see 3 Day Workshop and workshop tutorials. Below you can find PDFs of slides and zip files of the exercises. Note the exercises will be distributed at the workshop on a pen drive, so no need to download ahead of time. PDFs of slides and zip files of exercises will be updated below on the day of the workshop.

Monday - Prerequisites to Effective Change Detection

Tuesday - Basic Components of Effective Change Detection

Wednesday - Advanced Change Detection & Interpretation

Prepare a complete change detection analysis using CHaMP data provided here:
  •  Homework: Intro to Budget Segregation (tutorial)

  • Using site CHaMP_CBW05583_481459 from the CHaMP program (
  • Build a GCD project with all 4 survey visits (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) loaded as surveys 
  • Build a 2 Input FIS (slope & point density -> CHaMP_TS_ZError_SLPdeg_PD_2013.fis) for each survey 
  • Build one 3 Input FIS (slope, point density and interpolation error) and run for 2011 visit only (you will need to use Analysis -> Uncertainty Analysis -> Raster Analysis -> Interpolation Error Tool) If you want to load this, here is the interpolation error raster (if you're machine crashed):
  • Perform a probabilistic change detection analysis (@ 0.80 CI) for 
    • –2014 – 2011; 2014-2013, 2013-2012, 2012-2011
Prepare a short write up (print out) and bring your *.gcd GCD project to class on USB for Thursday. 

Thursday - Geomorphic Interpretation

You can download all the exercises in one go here (warning over 618 MB)