Program Overview

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences focus area in Geospatial Applications is the use of modern tools to geographically map and analyze the Earth and human societies. This focus area provides education in geospatial applications, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), to develop data management and decision-making skills for a wide range of geographical data. 

Geospatial applications have many relevant and useful applications, such as:

  • Effective collection of data – such as soil data and seasonality of topography – can  help take the guess work out of agricultural planning
  • Mapping of areas, especially areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters, can help protect food supplies
  • Urban and regional planning

At Cornell, students have used geospatial applications to study a wide breadth of topics, such as:

  • Vegetation responses to drought conditions
  • Analyzing the influence of landscape context on the efficacy of sustainable agricultural practices in Kenya
  • Flood exposure due to poor infrastructure, and its relation to social vulnerability in Kolkata
  • Understanding bike sharing activity patterns of NYC Citi Bike

Focus Area details

There is growing demand for students with advanced geospatial modeling and analysis skills to manage and interpret vast quantities of information. Graduates seek employment in a wide range of sectors. You can apply the geospatial skills you develop to numerous emerging applications and careers, in fields such as:

  • Geospatial analytics scientist
  • Precision agriculture specialist
  • Digital agriculture specialist
  • Environmental management
  • Land use management
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Regional planning
  • Climate change monitoring and analysis
  • Surveying and digital cartography
  • Image processing and analysis
  • Data applications specialist

Yu Jiang   

  • Agricultural robotics and artificial Intelligence
  • High throughput plant phenotyping
  • Image processing

Johannes Lehmann   

  • Soil biogeochemistry, fertility management, organic matter, and carbon and nutrient cycling from wastes
  • Soil carbon sequestration and biochar systems
  • Sustainable agriculture in the tropics

Louis Longchamps   

  • On-farm research
  • Precision agriculture
  • Site-specific weed management and variable rate nitrogen management

Andrew McDonald   

  • Agricultural sustainability, food security, water resources and climate
  • Cropping systems ecology
  • International agriculture, policy, and applied social sciences

D G. Rossiter   

  • Geostatistics
  • Soil Survey
  • Spatial modeling of the environment

Diana Sinton  

  • Geographic information science and systems and natural resources management
  • Geospatial literacy and spatial thinking, GIS in Higher Education
  • Integration of in social and cultural data in GIS and humanitarian mapping projects

Ying Sun

  • Canopy- to global-scale modeling
  • Geospatial analysis and big data synthesis
  • Remote sensing

Harold Van Es   

  • Digital agriculture
  • Precision nitrogen management (Adapt-N)
  • Soil health

Justine Vanden Heuvel   

  • Computational tools for vineyard management
  • Ecophysiological factors and their impact on fruit and wine composition
  • Sustainable viticulture production

Peter Woodbury   

  • Agricultural and forest ecosystems
  • Geospatial modeling, land use and environmental quality
  • Greenhouse gas emissions

Dominic Woolf  

  • Biochar
  • Soil carbon sequestration and climate-smart agriculture
  • Sustainable landscape management, agroforestry reforestration and restoration of degraded land

 

View all Integrative Plant Science MPS faculty | Explore all faculty interests and focus area careers

To learn more about these courses,  visit the Courses of Study website.

Coursework is specifically designed to meet the needs of each student. A minimum of 30 credit hours related to the candidate's professional interest is required to graduate.  The student and their faculty advisor decide on a plan of study. Here are some of the classes that are available; there are several more from which to choose:

Integrative Plant Science Core:

Required:

  • PLSCI 5500 Let Your Life Speak: Selfhood, Community, Change
  • ALS 5900 Master of Professional Studies Project Development
  • ALS 5910 Master of Professional Studies Project Completion

Recommended:

  • ALS 5211 Career Readiness: Engaged Learning for CALS Professional Master’s Students
  • LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students

Geospatial Courses (recommended):

  • PLSCS 5200 Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Application
  • PLSCS 5290 Remote Sensing and Modeling for Ecosystems
  • BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I
  • PLSCS 6200 Spatial Modeling and Analysis
  • PLSCS 6600 Remote Sensing Fundamentals
  • COMM 6660 Public Communication of Science and Technology
  • CRP 5080 Introduction to GIS for Planners
  • CRP 6290 Advanced Topics in GIS

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for working with plants and data, competency in undergraduate science coursework, and interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career. Admission requirements include:

  • Online application through Cornell Graduate School
  • Bachelor’s degree in scientific field
  • For non-science background, at least 15 credit hours of introductory college-level science courses, including general chemistry, general biology, and corresponding labs
  • Current résumé or CV
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL/IELTS for international applicants, per Graduate School guidelines

CALS MPS program details

Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program is an accredited, course-based, one-year Master’s degree program that emphasizes professional development and intellectual investigation in the areas of agriculture, life sciences and global development.

Though similar to a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in its academic rigor, the MPS degree differs from a traditional M.S. degree in its structure and focus. An M.S. is research-based, with students building a thesis over the course of two or three years. In contrast, the MPS degree is a one-year, course-based program where students study the intricacies and in-depth questions of their field of study. Instead of a thesis or research project, MPS students complete a capstone project during their final semester. To understand this difference in greater detail, please visit our FAQ page.

MPS students are part of a community of diverse students and faculty who share common goals, connecting research and practice to solve complex problems. 

 

The Master of Professional Studies program has two main components:

  • Coursework: Students work with a faculty advisor to map out their individualized course of study based on their areas of interest. The majority of courses (20 credits) will be within CALS; however, students have the opportunity to take courses across Cornell.
  • Capstone project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students work on solving a real-world problem.
  • Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 30 credit hours related to the candidate's professional interest, as agreed upon with the faculty advisor.
    (a)   Twenty credit hours must be taken within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and at least 30 credits must be in graduate-level courses (5000-level and higher).
    (b)   A maximum of 6 of the required 30 credit hours may be earned through the student's problem-solving project (see third bullet).
    (c)   A maximum of 6 graduate-level credit hours earned outside the program, at Cornell University or elsewhere, may be counted toward these requirements at the discretion of the student's faculty advisor. These credits must be appropriate to the subject of study and completed not more than five years before admission.
  • Completion of a minimum of two semesters. One semester must be earned by carrying a minimum of 12 credit hours. In certain circumstances, the second semester credit may be earned by accumulating the remaining credit hours in the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions at Cornell University or through transfer of credit (see item c above).
  • Satisfactory completion of a problem-solving project under the supervision of the faculty advisor. This project may be an action program, the development of a plan to address a pertinent problem, the development of materials or methodology suited to the student's situation, or the development and execution of research appropriate to the profession. A formal project report must be submitted to and approved by the candidate's faculty advisor. 
  • A minimum semester grade point average of 2.5 (minimum of 18 credit hours with letter grades at Cornell).
  • Completion of the degree within four years of admission. Some fields of study may have special requirements, so students should check with the field's director of graduate studies for specific details.

Students work with top-ranked faculty who are leaders in their field on an experiential project that fosters professional skill development through the creation of solutions to real-world problems.

Next steps

Deadline to apply: February 15*

*For regular Fall Semester start. Late applications may be accepted under exceptional circumstances.  Contact Tara Reed for more information: tln2 [at] cornell.edu.

Students and technician prepare a drone for info gathering flight

Faculty spotlight

Ying Sun

Ying's research focuses on understanding fundamental processes governing interactions between agroecosystems and climate at various scales. She is working with a team of researchers using NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) to more accurately measure photosynthesis – with implications for creating more reliable estimation of crop productivity and global carbon uptake in the face of increasing climate change. “Our population and food demand growing. But we only have limited land and water resources. My goal is to provide sustainable solutions to increase food productivity while reducing negative impacts on the environment. Using this novel data set and state-of-the-art modeling tools, I feel confident about being able to help solve these systemic agricultural problems.”

Portrait of geospatial expert Ying Sun

Meet some of our Geospatial Applications faculty

Yu Jiang
Yu Jiang

Assistant Research Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Cornell AgriTech

Yu Jiang
Agricultural robotics and artificial intelligence
Image processing
High throughput plant phenotyping
Johannes Lehmann
Johannes Lehmann

Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor

Department of Global Development

Johannes Lehmann
Soil biogeochemistry, fertility management, organic matter, and carbon and nutrient cycling from wastes
Soil carbon sequestration and biochar systems
Sustainable agriculture in the tropics
Louis Longchamps
Louis Longchamps

Assistant Professor

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

School of Integrative Plant Science

Louis Longchamps
  • ll928 [at] cornell.edu
Precision agriculture
Site-specific weed management and variable rate nitrogen management
On-farm research
Andy McDonald
Andrew McDonald

Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Associate Professor

Department of Global Development

Andrew McDonald
  • ajm9 [at] cornell.edu
Cropping systems ecology
Agricultural sustainability, food security, water resources and climate
International agriculture, policy, and applied social sciences
David Rossiter
David Rossiter

Adjunct Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

David Rossiter
  • dgr2 [at] cornell.edu
Soil Survey
Geostatistics
Spatial modeling of the environment
Diana Sinton
Diana Sinton

Adjunct Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Diana Sinton
  • dss326 [at] cornell.edu
Geographic information science and systems and natural resources management
Integration of in social and cultural data in GIS and humanitarian mapping projects
Geospatial literacy and spatial thinking, GIS in Higher Education
Ying Sun
Ying Sun

Assistant Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Ying Sun
Geospatial analysis and big data synthesis
Remote sensing
Canopy- to global-scale modeling
Harold van Es
Harold van Es

Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Harold van Es
Soil health
Precision nitrogen management (Adapt-N)
Digital agriculture
Justine Vanden Heuvel
Justine Vanden Heuvel

Professor and Chair

Horticulture Section

School of Integrative Plant Science

Justine Vanden Heuvel
  • justine [at] cornell.edu
Sustainable viticulture production
Ecophysiological factors and their impact on fruit and wine composition
Computational tools for vineyard management
Peter Woodbury
Peter Woodbury

Senior Research Associate

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Peter Woodbury
Agricultural and forest ecosystems
Greenhouse gas emissions
Geospatial modeling, land use and environmental quality
Dominic Woolf
Dominic Woolf

Senior Research Associate

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Dominic Woolf
  • dw433 [at] cornell.edu
Soil carbon sequestration and climate-smart agriculture
Sustainable landscape management, agroforestry reforestration and restoration of degraded land
Biochar