2616 Ellison Hall

2616 Ellison Hall [24 seats]

Open Monday through Friday, 9-5pm
DesCartes LabThe Descartes Laboratory is named after René Descartes, the 17th century French mathematician, philosopher, and scientist who is considered the father of analytic geometry and the founder of modern rationalism. Originally known as the Cartography Lab (or Cart Lab, for short), the Descartes Lab was funded by a National Science Foundation Award (Keith Clarke, PI; Leal Mertes, Joel Michaelsen, and David Siegel, Co-PIs) and was formally opened on March 5, 1999.

To quote the grant application abstract,

    Support from the NSF Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement (ILI) program will be used to conduct an educational experiment in integrating graduate and faculty research at UCSB directly into our undergraduate program. UCSB’s status as an NSF National Center for advancing geographic information science and the unique role that research plays at UCSB make Santa Barbara an ideal place for this experiment. The plan will launch project Descartes, with four components:

    1. A Descartes Laboratory to act as a focal point, with advanced research level facilities for technical geographic information science
    2. Formal modifications to the curricula of six existing classes to use real research data and critical thinking in the classroom
    3. A new class to add the “research experience” into the senior level curriculum
    4. A suite of informal additions to build a research environment enrichment experience for students aimed at encouraging publication, research activity, scientific meetings, and continued contact after graduation.

The Descartes Lab is maintained by the Department of Geography. The lab is primarily a graduate student computing facility (along with select undergraduate student-level courses) with 24 Windows 7 PCs used primarily for instruction. Only Geography students and students enrolled in Geography courses are authorized to use the lab.

To streamline processes and minimize interruption to users in the lab, each quarter the Descartes Lab Manager will query the faculty and graduate students on software needs one month prior to the beginning of the next quarter. The response time for this query is two weeks. At the end of the two week deadline, the lab manager will disseminate a message to all faculty and graduate student mailing lists with the revised software list of the PC’s for the upcoming quarter.

The Descartes Lab will then be closed the week prior to instruction. so that the Descartes Lab Manager has time to re-image the machines before the quarter begins. The lab will also maintain “no access” periods for two hours each week so that the lab manager may address issues that arise after instruction begins.

Please contact the Geography IT Support at with any inquiries pertaining to software changes in the lab.

View the Current Software List