Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Computer Science


Computer Science


Zo ̈e Wood


Historically, humans traveling on foot do not travel as the crow flies in a constant direction; rather, they follow the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance could mean avoiding mountain ranges, or following a stretch of terrain or avoiding large bodies of water. These paths are taken because they are easier to traverse and allow the traveler to expend the least amount of energy, or calories. Least cost caloric paths are a more realistic model of how humans travel on foot across terrain. Previous work has been done in computing and visualizing least cost caloric paths. This thesis presents a framework and implementation for a web application spatial data visualization tool, built in conjunction with expert input from an anthropologist, that strives to serve as an interactive tool for analyzing human travel across terrain. In addition to using least cost caloric paths across high resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data, the system supports user-specified constraints on the travel. The collaborative web-based tool allows multiple users to view the same DEM model while specifying, computing, and visualizing multiple paths. In addition, the tool includes the ability for a user to specify constraint origin and distribution on the terrain to support specific study constraints such as no-travel zones (to account for hostile communities or commonly known latrine areas) and other sociopolitical boundaries affecting human travel across terrain. As the tool is intended for use via the web, usability and interactivity are key factors when considering the application design and implementation. To this end, we also present an error analysis of data resolution trade offs in computation time versus accuracy.