The VISualization of Terrestrial and Aquatic Systems (VISTAS) software development project began with the proposition that visualization would increase the ability of scientists to explore and communicate their data, especially complex datasets that span multiple spatial and temporal scales. A case study of VISTAS articulates how and why scientists intend to use visualization. Scientists intend to use visualization for both confirmatory and exploratory analysis, and as a screening tool, prior to delving into the details of what looks to be interesting patterns in the data. They intend to use visualization to communicate the results of their research in various settings. Visualization effectively conveys changes on the landscape to different stakeholders of varying levels of expertise. Visualization allows researchers and stakeholders to better understand interactions on the landscape. Visualization not only shows the data, but also helps people draw conclusions. Ultimately, scientists are planning to design and create their own visualizations once the VISTAS project is over. The case study analyses also articulate a number of unanswered research questions regarding the technical training and research partnerships of scientists, their access to software tools, and how emerging research problems might be approached in environmental science. These unanswered questions challenge a visualization-centric bias found in similar research and development projects and seek to increase the benefits of visualization while filling in the gaps where visualization is limited.