Environmental Studies

M. Anwar Sounny-Slitine

Instructor of Environmental Studies and GIS Lab Mgr

Areas of expertise

GIScience, Geomorphology, Geomorphometry, LiDAR, Remote Sensing, Ecological Modeling, Hydrology, Water Resources, Sustainability Science, Climate Change, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Development

M. Anwar Sounny-Slitine is a geographer, civil engineer, and information technologist. Sounny-Slitine focuses his research and course offerings on the integration of physical and social sciences towards advancing sustainability. He is interested in how science can inform policy and applying what is learned in a GIS laboratory to the field.


GIS Instructor of Environmental Studies
Southwestern University
October 01, 2011 - present

Associate Director, GIScience Center
The University of Texas at Austin
April 01, 2009 - December 01, 2011

GIS Analyst
GDM International Services Inc.
January 01, 2004 - March 01, 2008

Environmental Research Assistant
Texas Natural Resources Information System (TNRIS)
January 01, 2001 - January 01, 2008

Teaching Philosophy

The study of the environment is inherently spatial and in the age of technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provides the approach, framework, and tools to understand the world.   Teaching, learning, and applying GIS takes patience with the technology and an understanding of the geographic concepts that are at the heart of the system.  GIS is a powerful tool because it fundamentally integrates the question of "Where?" into information technology. However the flexibility and power of GIS causes it to have high complexity and difficulty of use.  This can be the pitfall for some students, but with a good attitude and determination the difficulty can be a pleasurable challenge to overcome. The key to teaching GIS is keeping students engaged, and this is at the heart of my teaching philosophy.  The formula I would use in any GIS class is simple: Inspire, Teach, Demonstrate, Exercise, Perform, and finally Evaluate.

Inspire: This is usually the hardest part of the teaching, but once accomplished it pays off throughout the semester.  To inspire students I use a variety of means, but I have found it most effective to relate the lesson at hand to a real world experience or application.  GIS and Environmental Studies are growing fields with much contemporary news about advancements or novel applications.   Introducing a news article or an exciting journal publication often inspires students.  For example when teaching a classroom of students about digitizing error and geographic scale (e.g. how creating lines on a map at various scales induces errors of where the lines actually get placed), I used the example of Nicaragua citing Google Earth to justifying the invasion of Costa Rica: http://bit.ly/rgw0cc This gives the students something amusing to ground the importance of the concept. 

Teach: Clearly communicating principles and concepts in a short period of time is my goal when teaching.  To learn GIS, a student must use it.  So concepts and lessons have to be short enough to allow for demonstrations.   I use lecturing as an introductory portion to the concepts that will be cemented later in the lessons.

Demonstrate:  Students have to see the program at work to know what to expect when applying it.  Short demonstrations help students know what to expect.  I also like to record demonstrations as screencasts so students can go back and see what happens.  For examples of this you can look at my courses Blog I created for teaching Environmental GIS. http://southwesterngis.blogspot.com

Exercise: I do not believe in "cook-book" exercise for GIS.  These lists of detailed steps and screenshot do not teach flexibility or thinking "out of the box".  GIS software is very bug prone, and often step-by-step exercises prevent students from being creative in troubleshooting the problems.  Exercises that I assign have a clear starting point laying out the objectives and final products expected.  Hints will be provided, but how to get from point A to point B is completely up to the student.

Perform: When techniques are learned, students must do something advance and to their interests to master them.  Ways I have accomplished this in the past is by allowing students to customize homework assignments to their interests.   After each assignment, I would highlight some papers to show to the rest of the class for general discussion and critiques. GIS is part map-making, which is an Art. These review sessions would allow students to show off their creativity.   Nothing though compares to the final project for showing performance.  Having a completely rule free final project that can later be built upon for advance research.   For example in one of my classes a student did a research about vernacular geographies of the Southwest.  Her work was very innovative in the way she measured the degree of southwest identity through mental mapping.  Later after this class we continued working on this project and improved it by making it work through Google Maps.  Now we are in the final stages of evaluating the results and submitting the article for publication.

Evaluate: Finally evaluation of the students.  I believe that in a course with a GIS base that students must be constantly evaluated in order to fully grasp all concepts.  GIS lessons often build upon each other, and not mastering earlier works make subsequently work harder.  Quick turnaround times on grading with comments are important.  Additionally giving students a way to correct their mistakes is important to know they understood what went wrong. 

Overall my approach is to emulate the real world applications of GIS as much as possible.  I have students learn about research, presentations, poster creation, research papers, mapping, and data management. These skillsets have directly helped my students in the past get jobs, admission into graduate schools, and success in other classes. 

Previous Courses

Environmental GIS, Advanced GIS, Independent Studies in GIS


Sounny-Slitine's research is aimed at understanding our world in order to develop better planning tools for conservation, sustainable development, and floodplain management. He has multiple research projects in progress investigating the development of Alluvial Megafans, developing geographic tools for renewable energy development, and applying geomorphometry to studying lateral connections between rivers and their floodplains.

Professional Work

FEMA Map Modernization Project (dFRIM) - GIS Analyst, GDM International Services Inc,  2004-2006
USGS National Map - GIS Analyst, GDM International Services Inc,  2004-2006
Texas Digital Aerial Photo Archive (TxDAPA) - Lead Researcher, TNRIS, 2002-2008
Texas Map Archival Project (TxMAP) - Lead Researcher, TNRIS, 2003-2008


Sounny-Slitine, M. A., Tasker, K. A., Doubleday, K. F., Polk, M.F., Knight, B.R., & Schneider C. (2015) On Making and Becoming a Graduate. The Southwestern Geographer (18) C1-C3

Rudow, J. and Sounny -Slitine, M.A. (2014) The use of video blogs for instruction of GIS and other digital geographic methods. Journal of Geography

Hudson, P.F., Sounny -Slitine, M.A., & LaFevor, M. (2013) Geomorphic controls on hydrologic connectivity along the Lower Mississippi River. Hydrological Processes 27 (15), 2187-2196

Long, J., Sounny-Slitine, M. A., Castles, K., Curran, J., Glaser, H., Hoyer, E., Moore, W., Morse, L., O'Hara, M., & Parafina, B. (2013). Toward an applied methodology for price comparison studies of farmers' markets and competing retailers at the local scale. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

Tretter, E.,  Sounny -Slitine, M.A. (2013) Austin Restricted: Progressivism, Zoning, Private Racial Covenants, and the Making of a Segregated City. Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis - Special Report - The University of Texas at Austin

Sounny-Slitine, M.A. (2012) Green Power. Encyclopedia of Energy, Edited by Morris A Pierce, Salem Press: Pasadena, CA.

Sounny-Slitine, M.A. and Bensalem, S. (2012) Energy Geography of Morocco. Encyclopedia of Energy, Edited by Morris A Pierce, Salem Press: Pasadena, CA.

Sounny-Slitine,M.A. (2011), "Solar Power Potential on the University of Texas Campus" 2nd Annual UT Campus Sustainability Symposium, the President's Sustainability Steering Committee, The University of Texas at Austin

Sounny-Slitine, M.A. Editor (2011) Energy/Climate Change - Challenges and Opportunities. São Paulo: Secretaria do Meio Ambiente

Sounny-Slitine, M. A., Alexander, J., Twomey, K., O'Rourke, J., Hershaw, E., & Moorhead, S. (2011). Adaptation to Climate Change: A prospective Collaboration in Flood Control. Portal6, 26.

Sounny-Slitine, M. A., & Bensalem, S. (2011). Morocco: Energy dependent today, energy leader tomorrow. Energy/Climate Change1(1), 57.

Seminars & Presentations

2015    Paul Hudson, Dax Boot, M. Anwar Sounny-Slitine, and Kristiaan Kristensen, "A Geomorphic Analysis of Floodplain Lakes along the Embanked Lower Mississippi River for Managing Hydrologic Connectivity" EGU General Assembly 2015, Vienna, Austria

2014    Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine and Edgardo M. Latrubesse, "Defining Fluvial Megafans through Geomorphic Mapping and Metrics" AGU Annual Meeting, Multiscale and Multidisciplinary Fluvial Research in Tropical Regions I Posters, San Francisco, California

2014    Joshua M. Rudow and Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "The use of video blogs for instruction of GIS and other digital geographic methods." AAG Annual Meeting, Research in Geographic Education, Tampa, Florida.

2013                Eliot Tretter and Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Austin Restricted: Progressivism, Zoning, Private Racial Covenants, and the Making of a Segregated City" Geography and the Environment Colloquium, Department of Geography and The Environment, The University of Texas at Austin

2011    Paul F. Hudson, Matthew C. LaFevor, and Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Land Degradation And Change In Floodplain Water Bodies Along The Lower Mississippi River In Response To Flood Control" International Geographical Union Regional Conference , Santiago, Chile 

2011    Parafina, Ben and Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Southwestern University  Rooftop Solar Potential of Southwestern Univeristy: LiDAR application to Solar Mapping", Southwestern Devision of the Assocation of American Geographers (SWAAG), Austin, Texas 

2011    Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Where is the Southwest: Neogeographic Applications to Vernacular Geography", Southwestern Devision of the Assocation of American Geographers (SWAAG), Austin, Texas 

2011    Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Solar Power Potential on the University of Texas Campus", 2nd Annual UT Campus Sustainability Symposium, the President's Sustainability Steering Committee, The University of Texas at Austin

2011    Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Are solar photovoltaic panels enough? Applications of LiDAR to Renewable energy study for Austin, Texas"  Graduate Portfolio Program in Sustainability Symposium, Center for Sustainable Development, School of Architechture, The University of Texas at Austin

2011    Paul F. Hudson and Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Complex Inundation along the Lower Mississippi River", International Conference on the Status and Future of the World's Large Rivers, Hydrology & Hydraulics, Vienna, Austria

2010    Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, Maraigh B. Leitch, and Paul F. Hudson,  "Avulsions of Texas Coastal Rivers: LiDAR Application in Geomorphology",  Texas GIS Forum, Elevation Modeling, co-authored with Maraigh B. Lietch and Paul F. Hudson,  Austin, Texas

2010    Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine, "Carbon Outsourcing: How non-uniform regulations of carbon dioxide will result in eco-colonialism",  Emerging Trends in Globalization and Environment, 33rd Annual Conference of the Society of Educators and Scholars, San Antonio, Texas

2004    Thomas Brown  and Moulay Anwar Sounny-Slitine,  "TXDAPA: Geo-Referencing Historical Aerial Photography of Texas", ESRI User Conference, San Diego, California

Honors & Awards

2011    Second Runner up Student Paper Competition. - Annual Meeting, SWAAG, Austin, Texas

2011    Second Runner up Student Poster Competition - Annual Meeting, SWAAG, Austin, Texas

2010    Award of Appreciation, Society of Educators and Scholars

2009    Delegate of AAG to the UNFCCC COP15

2007    UT Geography Departmental Honors for Graduation

Groups & Affiliations

Association of American Geographers (AAG)

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)

The Society of Educators and Scholars (SES)

Southwestern Division of Association of American Geographers (SWAAG)

The University of Texas - Graduate Association of Geography and the Environment (GAGE)

International Society for Geomorphometry (ISG)