Directors Welcome

The Visual Planning Technology Lab (previously called the GIS Lab) was established in 1987 as a research and community outreach center of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University with a focus on the use of Geographic Information Systems and geospatial technologies. This state-of-the-art facility continues to be a hub for basic and applied planning and policy research and spatial analysis. The role of the Lab continues to evolve as we engage in and take the lead on multidisciplinary projects and research that have national relevance and applicability. Outlined below are

Research and Creative Activities

Since its inception in 1987, the VPT Lab has been actively involved in basic GIS analysis, and applied planning and policy research supported by:

  • National Science Foundation
  • Florida Sea Grant 
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • United States Geological Survey
  • US DOE Go Solar Initiative 
  • National Park Service
  • Local government agencies
  • Research centers and institutes
  • Non-profit agencies

We have also contributed to community planning and (re)development initiatives via GIS modeling, the design of websites for agencies and community-based organizations, and survey  research. Please visit the VPT Lab Research web page for more information or contact us if you have any questions about contracts, grants and collaborations.

Instruction and Training

The VPT Lab supports the Department of Urban and Regional Planning's course offerings in GIS and Visual Planning Technologies. The courses are taken by undergraduate and graduate students as well as non-degree seeking professionals who wish to further their technical skills.

In 2014, in order to respond to the growing demand for GIS professionals, the School of Urban and Regional Planning jointly with the Department of Geosciences developed a 15-credit graduate GIS certificate program. Once admitted to the graduate program, students can apply the credits earned as part of the certificate towards the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree. Note that one of the required courses is URP 6270 Introduction to GIS in Planning, which is also a core course in the MURP program.

As part of the GIS curriculum, we offer comprehensive training in ArcGIS for Desktop and Web GIS. Students enrolled in the program acquire advanced skills in spatial data analysis and use of state-of-the-art tools and techniques available in the field of GIS today, including CityEngine, ArcGIS for Server and ArcGIS Portal, Operations Dashboard, GeoEvent and Collector App for ArcGIS, Business Analyst, ArcGIS Pro and GeoPlanner. In addition, the students have the opportunity to explore several GIS applications in environmental and land use planning, hazards, housing, and urban design. For additional information and course offerings, click here. Students in the MURP program or planning professionals may direct questions to Dr. Yanmei Li at or (561) 297-4285.

Outreach and Public Engagement

We assist with the production of class and lecture series videos aimed at a global audience. At the local level, we have performed a number of small mapping projects and web page development for agencies and nonprofits, and have developed and offered low-cost hands-on training in GIS and related technologies. This outreach to our area professionals remains part of our mission as we work toward reaching a broader audience.

Dr. Yanmei Li

Yanmei Li, Ph.D., AICP,
Associate Professor and Director

Visual Planning Technology Lab
Department of Urban & Regional Planning