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Geospatial Modeling Environment (GME)

What is the Geospatial Modeling Environment (GME)?

The Geospatial Modeling Environment (GME) is a powerful suite of tools designed to augment the functionalities of GIS software. Developed with the purpose of bridging gaps in spatial analysis and modeling, GME offers a collection of specialized tools that extend beyond the core capabilities of typical GIS software. It is particularly renowned for its integration with the R programming language, which enables users to perform complex statistical analyses and create sophisticated spatial models.

Unlike the standard toolbox in ArcGIS, GME offers a unique approach to spatial data manipulation, making it an invaluable resource for researchers, environmental scientists, and GIS analysts who require advanced analytical capabilities.

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Supported Versions: GME was developed to work seamlessly with ArcGIS, but its compatibility is limited to versions up to 10.3. Users of more recent ArcGIS versions might encounter compatibility issues or may not be able to use GME at all.

Key Features of GME

Geospatial Modeling Environment (GME) is distinguished by a suite of features that enhance the capabilities of standard GIS software. Here’s a closer look at what makes GME a valuable tool in the GIS toolkit:

  • Toolbox Approach: GME operates on a toolbox approach, which is distinct from ArcGIS. It offers a collection of tools that are designed for specific tasks in spatial analysis and modeling. This modular structure allows users to select and apply tools that are most relevant to their project, providing a level of customization and flexibility.
  • Integration with R: One of the most significant features of GME is its integration with the R programming language. This allows users to leverage R’s powerful statistical and analytical capabilities within the GIS environment. Even those not proficient in R can benefit from this feature, as GME uses it in the background to enhance its analytical power.
  • Diverse Toolset: GME provides a range of tools with various functionalities. These tools cover aspects like spatial data manipulation, statistical analysis, and geospatial modeling. Users can perform operations that go beyond basic GIS capabilities, such as advanced raster analysis, landscape pattern analysis, and species distribution modeling.
  • Command Line Functionality: For advanced users, GME offers the ability to run tools via the command line. This feature is particularly useful for automating repetitive tasks, scripting complex workflows, and integrating GME operations into larger data processing pipelines.
  • User Interface and Documentation: GME’s user interface, though different from ArcGIS, is intuitive and user-friendly. Each tool comes with a detailed description and documentation, making it easier for new users to understand and utilize the tool effectively.

GME Compatibility and System Requirements

To effectively integrate GME into your GIS workflow, it’s important to understand its compatibility and system requirements:

  • ArcGIS Compatibility: GME is designed to work in conjunction with ArcGIS software. It is compatible with various versions of ArcGIS, but it’s crucial to check the specific version compatibility, especially with newer releases of ArcGIS. The GME website typically provides updated information on the latest compatible versions.
  • Version Updates and Compatibility: GME is regularly updated to ensure compatibility with the latest versions of ArcGIS. However, there may be a lag between the release of a new ArcGIS version and the corresponding update in GME. Users should plan accordingly and check for updates regularly.
  • R Programming Language Requirement: A unique aspect of GME is that it requires the installation of the R programming language. While users don’t need to be proficient in R, it must be installed for GME to function, as many of its tools rely on R’s analytical capabilities.
  • System Specifications: Since GME is an add-on to ArcGIS 10.3, your system should meet the requirements for running ArcGIS effectively. Additional resources might be required for running intensive models or analyses within GME.
  • Installation Process: The installation process of GME involves a few additional steps beyond the standard ArcGIS setup, primarily the installation of R. Detailed installation guides are available on the GME website to assist users in setting up their environment for optimal performance.

Understanding these compatibility and system requirements is essential for a smooth integration of GME into your GIS projects, ensuring that you can fully utilize its advanced features without technical hiccups.

Advantages of Using GME in GIS Projects

Implementing the Geospatial Modeling Environment (GME) in your GIS projects brings several key advantages, particularly for those seeking to expand their analytical capabilities:

  • Access to Advanced Tools: One of the primary benefits of GME is the access it provides to advanced spatial analysis tools. These tools might not be available in the standard ArcGIS suite, especially for users with lower-level licenses. GME fills this gap, offering tools for complex analyses such as landscape pattern metrics and species distribution modeling.
  • Enhanced Flexibility and Customization: With GME, users get a set of tools that offer more flexibility and customization options than those in standard ArcGIS. This includes different parameters and settings that can be tailored to specific project needs, providing a more refined control over spatial analyses.
  • Programming Capabilities: For those with some programming knowledge, GME’s integration with R opens up a realm of possibilities for custom scripting and automation of tasks. This is particularly beneficial for repetitive or complex workflows that require a level of automation beyond what ArcGIS offers.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: GME can be a cost-effective solution for organizations or individuals who cannot afford the higher-tier licenses of ArcGIS. By offering advanced tools without the need for expensive licenses, GME makes sophisticated spatial analysis more accessible.
  • Community and Support: The GME user community is a valuable resource for learning, troubleshooting, and sharing best practices. This community support, along with available documentation, makes it easier for users to get started and effectively use GME in their projects.

Practical Tips for Using GME

To maximize the benefits of GME in your GIS work, consider these practical tips:

  • File Type Compatibility: While GME supports most ArcGIS file types, it works best with certain formats. It’s recommended to use shapefiles when working with spatial data in GME, though other formats like file geodatabases are also supported.
  • Leveraging GME and ArcGIS Together: For a seamless experience, use GME in tandem with ArcGIS. This integration allows for an efficient workflow where you can utilize the strengths of both platforms.
  • Learning Curve: GME might have a steeper learning curve compared to standard ArcGIS tools, especially for those unfamiliar with R. Invest time in exploring the documentation and tutorials to become proficient in using its tools.
  • Performance Optimization: Be mindful of your system’s capabilities when running complex models or analyses in GME. Optimizing data size and format can lead to better performance and faster processing times.
  • Community Forums and Resources: Engage with the GME community through forums and online resources. These platforms are invaluable for getting help, learning new tips, and staying updated on the latest developments.

By following these tips, you can effectively integrate GME into your GIS projects, making the most of its advanced capabilities and enhancing your overall spatial analysis workflow.

Alternatives to the Geospatial Modeling Environment (GME) for those working in the field of geographic information systems (GIS).

These alternatives offer various capabilities and are suited to different types of GIS tasks:

  1. QGIS: An open-source GIS software providing a wide range of tools for spatial analysis, data visualization, and map creation. It supports various plugins to extend functionality, similar to GME’s role with ArcGIS.
  2. GRASS GIS: Known for its powerful raster, topological vector, image processing, and spatial modeling capabilities, GRASS GIS is another robust open-source platform suitable for advanced GIS needs.
  3. SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses): This open-source GIS software focuses on spatial modeling and analysis, particularly in terrain analysis, offering a comprehensive set of tools.
  4. gvSIG: An open-source GIS application that offers tools for both vector and raster data, known for its user-friendly interface.
  5. ERDAS IMAGINE: A proprietary software specializing in remote sensing, offering extensive tools for raster data analysis and image processing.
  6. ENVI: A proprietary software focused on image processing and analysis, particularly useful in remote sensing applications, known for advanced spectral analysis capabilities.
  7. MapInfo Professional: A commercial GIS software offering mapping and spatial analysis tools, known for its data visualization and location analytics capabilities.
  8. ArcGIS Pro: The next-generation suite of tools from ESRI, offering advanced capabilities in 3D visualization, spatial analysis, and more.
  9. R Spatial Packages: For users comfortable with programming, the R language offers numerous packages for spatial data analysis and modeling, such as sp, sf, raster, and rgdal.
  10. Python Spatial Libraries:
    • GDAL/OGR: The Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL) for raster data and the OpenGIS Simple Features Reference Implementation (OGR) for vector data are fundamental in GIS operations. They support numerous spatial data formats and provide functionalities for spatial data transformation and analysis.
    • Geopandas: An extension of the popular Pandas library, Geopandas makes working with geospatial data in Python easier. It allows for easy manipulation of spatial data and integrates well with other Python libraries for analysis and visualization.
    • Shapely: This library is used for manipulation and analysis of planar geometric objects. It is especially useful for operations like merging, clipping, and spatial querying of shapes.
    • Rasterio: Focused on raster data, Rasterio simplifies reading and writing of raster datasets. It’s built on GDAL and integrates well with Python’s scientific stack.
    • Fiona: Similar to Rasterio but for vector data, Fiona handles reading and writing of vector files. It is known for its ease of use and Pythonic approach to handling spatial data.
    • Pyproj: This library is a Python interface to PROJ (a library for cartographic projections and coordinate transformations). It’s essential for tasks that involve projections and transformations between different spatial reference systems.
    • Folium: Built on the Leaflet.js library, Folium makes it easy to visualize data that’s been manipulated in Python on an interactive Leaflet map. It’s great for creating browser-based visualizations.
    • SciPy and NumPy: For advanced mathematical and scientific computations, these libraries are foundational in the Python ecosystem and can be used in conjunction with other spatial libraries for complex analyses.
    • Scikit-learn: For machine learning tasks, scikit-learn can be used with spatial data for clustering, regression, and classification, often in combination with libraries like Geopandas and Rasterio.
    • ArcPy: For users of ArcGIS, ArcPy provides a Pythonic way of automating and scripting tasks in the ArcGIS environment

Each of these alternatives has its unique set of strengths and is chosen based on specific project requirements, user familiarity with GIS tools, and preferences for open-source or commercial software.

About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.