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:

  • Digital agriculture, crop production and yield analysis
  • Environmental management, drought and flood plain analysis
  • Land use, energy and resource management
  • Wildlife conservation
  • City and regional planning
  • Government and law enforcement
  • Climate change monitoring and analysis
  • Transportation planning and logistics
  • Surveying and digital cartography
  • Image processing and analysis

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


  • PLSCS 4110: Applied Remote Sensing and GIS for Environmental Resource Inventory and Analysis
  • PLSCS 4290: Remote Sensing and Modeling for Ecosystems
  • PLSCS 6600: Remote Sensing Fundamentals
  • BTRY 6010: Statistical Methods
  • ALS 5211: Career Readiness for CALS Professional Master's Students
  • PLSCI 5900: MPS Project


  • PLSCS 4200: Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Concepts and Applications
  • PLSCS 6200: Spatial Modeling and Analysis
  • PLSCS 4650: Global Navigation Satellite Systems
  • CEE 6150: Digital Image Processing
  • LEAD 5100: Leadership Skills for Graduate Students
  • COMM 4660: Public Communication of Science and Technology                                                               
  • PLSCI 5900: MPS Project

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
  • Three 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 24 credits must be in courses numbered 5000 or 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 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 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

Fall 2021 application deadline: February 1 (priority), March 15 (general)

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

Louis Longchamps
Louis Longchamps

Assistant Professor

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

School of Integrative Plant Science

Louis Longchamps
  • ll928 [at]
Precision agriculture
Site-specific weed management and variable rate nitrogen management
On-farm research
David Rossiter
David Rossiter

Adjunct Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

David Rossiter
  • dgr2 [at]
Soil Survey
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]
Geographic information science and systems
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
Justine Vanden Heuvel
Justine Vanden Heuvel


School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture Section

Justine Vanden Heuvel
  • jev32 [at]
Sustainable viticulture production
Ecophysiological factors and their impact on fruit and wine composition
Computational tools for vineyard management