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GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society. The stories are still flowing in from the over 1,200 events that were held on or around GIS Day 2017, but a few of them are featured here.  Did you host an event in 2017?  If so, feel free to add it to the "How did you celebrate GIS Day" story map.


Did you miss out?  It is not too early to start planning for next year, 14 November 2018.  


GIS Day in Indonesia

In Indonesia, in the Begek Kembar ecotourism area of mangroves, GIS Day was held out in the field, combined with a location game called Gita Laut GO!  (a bit like Pokemon GO).  Organizer Muhammad Barmawi of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reported that, "One goal of the event was to build community awareness about the unique environment of the coastal berekosistem mangrove."


Cutting the GIS Day Cake in Pakistan.

Syed Zaheer Hussain, Punjab Information Technology Board, Lahore, Pakistan, sent this picture of cutting the GIS Day cake at the Punjab Information Technology Board and the Software Engineering group. 


Students in Greece.


In Greece, Vivi Antoniou, who is working at the 9th Primary School Kastorias as Primary Administrator at the Ministry of Education, shared this video, showing students learning about the world via GIS, maps, globes, and also out in the field.


Materials at the UIC event.

Moira Zellner, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago's (UIC) Department of Urban Planning and Policy, and Director of the Urban Data Visualization Lab (UDVL), said, that "GIS Day at UIC was a dynamic and engaging event, with presentations that spanned a wide variety of topics: Validating images captured remotely by robots, assessing flooding susceptibility and food access in the Chicago region, examining the mechanisms of gentrification over time, estimating the best location for green infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations, developing water-themed visual story telling tools, and exploring evolving data infrastructure needs. The event ended with two demonstrations on how to use existing GIS platforms, and how to create your own applications. Of the 80 attendees, more than half were from outside the university, representing governmental agencies, NGOs, private companies and other academic institutions in the Chicago region. The event gave everyone the chance to exchange ideas and discuss new applications.  This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of Al Scorsch, III, the founder of the UDVL at UIC, and a champion of visualization technology to advance science and policy. He passed away a couple of weeks before the event."


Nicaragua GIS Day event

Elvis Danilo Perez shared the story of GIS Day in Managua, Nicaragua, that included a talk on technology trends, presentation of the GEOFUMADAS blogger, a video conference by Professor Rafael Beltran of UNIGI, and Elvis Pérez of blog, via this video.


GIS Day at UCF

I participated in the GIS Day event at the University of Central Florida.  Dr Timothy Hawthorne and his Citizen Science GIS team invited 375 primary and secondary students to the campus to fly and learn about drones, and investigate their community and their world using interactive web maps in ArcGIS Online.  His university students also gave a presentation on what they are doing with UAV and GIS technologies in Belize; we held a GIS career panel, and Dr Hawthorne; and I presented to education and sociology faculty at the university, showing them how they could use GIS in their own instruction and research. I also was honored to give a keynote address on 5 forces acting on GIS, 5 GIS trends, and the 5 most valuable skills for those seeking to use GIS in their career, available here (as a story map : - )).



Baby born on GIS Day

Perhaps the most significant event shared on the crowdsource story map that occurred on GIS Day was the arrival of a GIS analyst's first born daughter!  That one is hard to top!


For more stories, keep an eye on this GeoNet space, and also see the "How did you celebrate GIS Day" story map.The GIS Day story map is still open for you to submit your GIS Day stories!  

Dec 4-10, 2017, is Computer Science Education Week. Fans of GIS will find options in the two-page document “GIS for Coders” (or => “06.Apps & Programming”). Quick to lengthy experiences at three levels await.


In “Part 1: Explore Maps, Users, and Missions,” students can check out a bank of videos, map books, and Story Maps. Seeing and hearing the process and end product of GIS users, students can grasp how users solve problems with software. Whether responding to disasters or providing the resources that support everyday life, GIS users rely on core software and specialty apps to gather, manage, and interpret data.


GIS for Coders page


In “Part 2: Explore Apps,” students can dive into banks of apps that permit free form exploration. With no specific “right answer,” users can move from simple to complex creations, and discover volumes of patterns and relationships, global to local, without worry of “breaking anything.” (Stuck? Just refresh the browser or choose another app!)


In “Part 3: Explore Software Development,” learners can see the bank of tools available for building, from configuring templates, thru building apps via drag and drop, to simple development and customization, to full-scale coding. For these choices, learners need to be able to log in and store content, ideally via an ArcGIS Online Organization for greatest options.


The 21st century is awash in ever more data — digital raw materials with attributes and properties that can be queried, integrated, and used in countless ways. People who understand the nature and power of these digital bits, who know how to combine and manipulate them, can better control their own lives, and use these powers to make life better for all. Explore!

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, pummeling the island's people, human infrastructure, and natural environment. In following weeks, companies gathered aerial imagery which multiple organizations used to understand the damage and help plan and coordinate the rescue and recovery efforts. On Oct.11, using post hurricane Maria imagery facilitated generously by Vexcel, Esri made public a crowdsourcing tool for marking damage to buildings.


Mapping Maria tools


Through a simple swipe tool, users could see "before and after" imagery, then indicate with green/orange/red dots their interpretation of the damage. A publicly accessible video showed the entire process. Participants needed to join an ArcGIS Online group via an Organization-based login. Esri communicated directly with some educators and, on Oct.11, posted a public blog, inviting participation. An update blog followed a week later. Over the next month, users generated almost 70,000 entries.



Recent developments in technology have made public action easier, but "crowdsourcing" and "citizen science" have been around for a long time. Starting in 1900, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count has relied on community members recording observations according to a protocol. Today, both government and civic communities rely on -- and debate -- the merits of data generated by people who may or may not have the desired qualifications. Quality control and assurance are essential if the data are to be believed.


The data generated in the Maria project was impressive in quantity, but there were many entries about which people raised objections. Their number and distribution mean the entire data set would need manual confirmation and editing before being useful to the response community, which is too costly in human resources to do.

Education is an act of faith. Communities want young people to learn important background knowledge, skills, and values. Learners seek joy, which can come from extrinsic influences (e.g. earning praise, receiving a prize) or intrinsic influences (e.g. acquiring new knowledge, resolving confusion, developing a skill, making choices, influencing how someone feels, etc). Educators strive to optimize scores of competing forces (time, investments already in place versus those needed, expectations, mandates, learner engagement, individuals and groups, etc). Balancing these in the dynamic world of today means constant tradeoffs.


Esri had several goals in launching this project. We hoped learners, educators, and the public would see better how geographic data, tools, skills, and knowledge can generate benefit. We hoped participants would get joy, on multiple levels -- learning, participating, contributing. In an ideal result, the data would prove valuable for response teams. And we expected to learn, as we always do, from the experiences, ideas, and concerns of users.


Everyone learns by doing. Our lives are filled with imperfect attempts, at tasks large and small. But such "failures" yield important lessons, so we adjust and try again. Learning from "a missed swing" helps us all do better. So we hope you can help us one more time, below, by commenting below on this project (sign in to comment). If you chose not to participate, please tell us why. If you chose to participate, please tell us what the experience was like, what you learned, and what we should keep in mind for "next time." And if you're willing to share comments only in private, please send email "cfitzpatrick{at}" Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who joined the "ArcGIS API for Python” web meeting on Nov 8, and special thanks to the presenters, Rohit Singh (Esri) and Peter Knoop (University of Michigan)! Below is a follow up of our discussion. 



Feel free to post any further questions here.


Look forward to seeing everyone at the Big Data Analytics web meeting on Wed, Dec. 6 at 10am PDT.

At a recent meeting for State of Virginia University Consortium (~18 institutions), a lot of best practices were discussed surrounding portal administration and management of ArcGIS Online (cloud) or ArcGIS Enterprise (on-premise) portals.


One of the items discussed is what to do with existing content created by students who have graduated. As administrators of ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise portals in academia, we often work with influx of students coming to our organization and graduating after certain amount of time. What do we do with all the content they create? We all have dealt with this in different ways, such as:


  •      Let it accumulate over time and keep it in the production environment ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise portal
  •      After student graduates, delete the content and remove the student user
  •      Stage a separate portal to keep a copy of the student content, then delete it from the production environment portal
  •      Others?


While any of the above are valid approaches, as a best practice, we’ve started suggesting that instructors at the end of a course or a program advise students to use the ArcGIS Online Assistant  tool to transfer content from a production portal to their own Personal, Developer or other ArcGIS Online/ArcGIS Enterprise account.  The ArcGIS Online Assistant would give students (or any named user in a portal) the ability to transfer their content and “take it” with them.


Chrissy Rothgeb at James Madison University, Cise IT Labs and Server Support, has already started advising faculty to incorporate this approach. As a result of our discussion, she created the attached PPT to be shared with faculty and students, listing specific instructions on how to transfer this content. Thanks for sharing, Chrissy, and for providing permission for anyone to use the attached PPT and share with respective faculty/students!!


Advantages of this approach:


  •      Students get to keep their content and build a portfolio of maps and other information products to share with potential employers
  •      Students are empowered to administer and manage their own ArcGIS Online portal, which gives them an essential and marketable skill in today’s GIS world
  •      It gives us as administrators the ability to safely remove content and delete users without having to worry about lost content
  •      Others?


Further considerations:


  •      For anyone using enterprise logins (SSO), this must be done before the user is removed from the enterprise directory, which disables the ArcGIS account and the user can no longer login
  •      This can be done for ArcGIS Enterprise portals as well – the name of the tool could be deceiving. Also, Portal for ArcGIS is now a component of ArcGIS Enterprise, and on the tool itself one would still see “Portal for ArcGIS” as the option (vs ArcGIS Enterprise).
  •      This tool can be shared and used by any named user, whether student, faculty or staff
  •      Distributed collaboration could achieve a similar result - it is currently available between ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online portals. In future releases, we will see ArcGIS Online to ArcGIS Online collaboration, where transfer of content would be possible between two ArcGIS Online portals.


Further feedback is welcome!

Thanks to everyone who joined the "Insights for ArcGIS” web meeting on 10/11, and thanks to all the presenters! Below is a follow up of our discussion. 



Feel free to post any further questions here.


Look forward to the ArcGIS API for Python web meeting on Wed, Nov. 8 at 10am PDT.

Thanks to everyone who joined our “Teaching ArcGIS Enterprise” web meeting. Attached are some of the resources we discussed, the presenter slides, as well as the recording for those who didn’t make it.



Feel free to post any further questions here.


Look forward to the Insights discussion on Oct 11 at 10am PDT.

Opportunities abound for use of GIS by students in schools and clubs, and for their leaders. Education about these does too. Herewith a cornucopia of links to key items:


  1. GeoInquiries provide a feast of intro GIS activities in key classroom content areas, requiring no login, download, or install, at
  2. Getting Started with GIS for Educators is a one-page step-by-step pathway that helps teachers or club leaders begin, at
  3. ArcGIS Schools & Clubs Bundle is available to any K12 school or formal youth club, for instruction, for free, at
  4. GeoMentors can help schools or clubs use GIS. Anyone who wants to be or to find a GeoMentor can get started at Map#4 of
  5. GIS Day is November 15, 2017, though any day can be used as "GIS Day." See tons of events and resources at
  6. Computer Science Week is December 4-10, 2017, and GIS can play a role (this week and all year long). See
  7. 2018 Esri School Teacher Video Challenge gives a monthly prize to one educator who submits a 60-second video about how they use ArcGIS Online,
  8. 2018 ArcGIS Online Competition for HS+MS (17 states participating as of this writing), with state deadlines in advance of Esri's final deadline in May 2018,
  9. 2018 Esri Education GIS Conference is accepting presentation proposals through December 1, 2017, at


No lack of opportunity for students or educators!

Curation of spatial data is an important topic for anyone working in GIS, particularly with the advent of web GIS.  In this dynamic environment, services behind the layers in any online map could change, rendering components of that map unusable.  Yes, even your maps and mine.  Let’s make an example of a weather map tied to a lesson that I created and frequently use


This lesson asks students to analyze the patterns of wind speed, wind direction, pressure, and temperature, for the USA and for the world, asking them to consider latitude, altitude, proximity to coastlines, prevailing winds, high and low pressure zones, and stream gauging stations.  The lesson asks students to make weather predictions in specific cities and to interpolate surfaces (by state, to keep the lesson manageable) of temperature, pressure, and wind speed based on point data.  I love this data set and lesson because they (1) require hands-on inquiry and investigation; (2) connect geography, meteorology, climatology, mathematics, physics, GIS, and change over space and time; (3) use real time data that are interesting and that students can tie to their own local observations; (4) use weather data that is global in nature. Admittedly, some countries have relatively few weather observations in the data set, but even that fact that be turned into a teachable moment (“can we trust an interpolated surface from only 2 observations in that country?”).


 Real time weather map and data.


Several educators alerted me recently to the fact that the weather layer containing current wind speed, wind direction, temperature, pressure, and other variables was no longer working in my map.  How did these educators know it was my layer and how to contact me?  Well, I maintain metadata for my maps and layers in ArcGIS Online, and also a profile for each of my ArcGIS Online accounts, so that data users know how to contact me.  I encourage you to do the same—populate metadata for your maps and maintain a profile in ArcGIS Online.  Besides being a good steward and serving the community with the metadata that you provide, doing this can also save you time in data curation, and can even be a lifesaver.  While this doesn’t excuse you from periodically checking your maps and layers to make sure they are working properly, I suspect that many of us have a large number maps and layers online and a lack of staff we can delegate data curation tasks to. The resulting reality is that sometimes some of our content is not working as it should.  Therefore, I really appreciated that these data users notified me!


In short, in my Feature Layer item: was a reference to ‘’, which I needed to replace with ‘’. It had the same service directory and name; just the server had changed.


To update my map, I needed to point to the updated location of the layer.  I could have done this either by re-creating my web map from scratch, and pointing to the new location, or by accessing my layer’s data service, using the AGOL Assistant by using the “Update the URLs of Services in a Web Map” as shown below.


Here is URL of one of my services:






Another thing I needed to address now that the service had changed was as follows:  Using the livefeeds server requires the user to have an account in ArcGIS Online.  This new situation means that the users of my map now need to log in to ArcGIS Online to use it.  But let’s say I want to provide an option for anyone to open the map, even if they do not have an ArcGIS Online account.  That way, anyone could complete the first part of the lesson, before the steps requiring the analysis tools.  Once the analysis steps are reached, everyone needs to be logged in.


To allow users to use the map without logging in, I created a “Stored Credential” item for this layer or service under my account and then I added the resulting item to the map. In my case, the Live Feed Services require subscription access, but will not consume credits.  Creating the stored credential allows anyone to access my layer by using my own ArcGIS Online credentials.   Once done, I added the layer to my map, shared it publicly, and now, anyone can open my web map in ArcGIS Online without being asked to log in.


I decided to create two identical maps, one for the educator and student who just wants to work through the front half of my lesson, that did not require a log in, and one for those who want to complete the entire lesson.  Once I created these two maps, I rewrote the front part of my lesson as follows:


Open and save map.  Open either of the following maps that use ArcGIS Online:

  1.   This is the Real Time Weather Map Starting Point that requires you to be logged in to ArcGIS Online, because it is accessing data in the Living Atlas of the World.  Use this map if you wish to run through this entire exercise, including the analysis steps.  After you log in, save this map in your own ArcGIS Online account’s workspace.  As you work through the steps below in this exercise, save your map after each step.
  2. This is the Real Time Weather Map Starting Point that does not require a log in.  Use this map if you are simply doing a visual inspection of the patterns that you see on the map.  You can change the style, filter the data, and perform other tasks, but you will not be able to complete the interpolation portion of this exercise with this map and without logging in to ArcGIS Online.

For further investigation about storing credentials for map services, read the documentation here.  If you are interested in more weather data, see the layers supporting the USA Weather Warnings and Watches Live Feed Service, which are maintained automatically. These layers contain even more information than the layers tied to the map that I use in my lesson, including Public Forecast Zones, Fire Forecast Zones, and Coastal/Offshore Marine Zones as well as current Warnings and Watches. 

"All our K-5 students are doing at least one GIS activity per year." That's according to Eric Cromwell, coordinator of elementary science for Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland. "Most are doing multiple activities using GIS in their annual curriculum. Some are just to orient kids to where things are. Kindergarten has three activities (like weather, and getting them ready for doing some examining of their environment in the spring and where will creatures find food, water, and space." He rattled off different activities across the grades. Listening to him describe activities makes you want to spend the day in school, learning.




"But Fifth Grade is great. Every fifth grader participates in our outdoor ed program, coming out to one of our parks for a one-day experience. We provide a 20-minute orientation on collecting data using a tablet with the Collector app, then get them out collecting data in the field for about 2.5 hours. We have all 8500 of them, about 150 per day, rain or shine, thru mid-December, and starting up again in late March, and split them up across four of our county parks and one state park. They gather data relating to biodiversity, and with this many kids gathering this much data, we have some pretty big data, which is all theirs, and they compare the biodiversity of their schoolyard with that of the parks."




Those devices? "We use Collector," he explained, "so we can have a basemap and go offline. We've got 60 inexpensive Android tablets (well, a few have suffered glitches technically or, uhh, been impacted by gravity, but these were really inexpensive in bulk). They're all pre-configured, the students arrive, do their work, and then we bring them back to the office, synch the data and images (removing any with identifiable kids), and get 'em ready for the next day."


Do the kids like it? And, even more, do they learn anything? "I hear a lot of 'Wow, I never realized this was out here!' And we have different parent chaperones all the time, some of whom really know a lot, so they're sharing what they know, and learning from the kids about the process, so there's all this great intergenerational instruction."




But what about content? "NGSS [Next Generation Science Standards] is all about data … creating it, using it, discovering and understanding patterns in the data. Our kids are all collecting data, so it means something to them. They get to see their items in relation to everyone else's. And when we analyze it across the whole year, during the fourth quarter, they are mesmerized! When I saw what we could do with the Web AppBuilder, I was ecstatic! We've set it up so people can explore it without login (" So, I explored Cromwell Valley Park ("No relation," he added), zooming in to see the park (date selection is sensitive to map scale), then choosing Oct.26. Items popped up, and I clicked to examine what had been collected, and the supporting images. Then I shifted to Oct.25, and used the food web role filter. "We wanted the app to work fast, even with a lot of data behind it, so we've forced people to choose. All the students love this," he continued. "We just keep growing with it. We've been building this over the years, biodiversity, earth science, data collection and analysis … they learn a ton with GIS. And, yes, they're using some in other areas too, like social studies, with GeoInquiries, and they have a lot of interest in adding more to their curriculum…"


So, for learning about The Science Of Where, truly, it's elementary, in Baltimore County.

Some teachers know, a month ahead of time, exactly what their class will cover, and even how it will work, minute-by-minute. Not Jason Smolinski, at Fairfax (VA) High School. His five sections of 12th grade GIS sometimes don't even get the same content from one period to the next. "I no longer provide written instructions ... Instead, we do a brief reading at the start of class. I then demo a new concept/tool/etc, have them work through a practice with me, and then give them an assignment for the second half of the class period. Since I no longer write instructions, I am free to change topics or examples, even at the last minute..."


As part of the Virginia Geospatial Semester, Smolinski teaches GIS to high school seniors, in a project-based style. The school uses a block schedule, so he gets 150 students for 90 minutes each, every other day. The scheduling and instructional style allow students to dive deeply into projects, and expand their exploration. But Smolinski still holds them accountable for learning: "Every few days, I encourage them to recall the last few lessons and write down the instructions or tips they need. I'll then allow them to use it on a formative assignment. When a summative assignment comes at the end of the quarter, they will not have access to these notes, as they should be familiar enough with the processes."

Inventing a strategy du jour might cause angst for some. Smolinski does have experience to draw on; he was a GIS analyst for several years, and so has a deep grasp of maps, data, analysis, and the mission of GIS users -- to understand complex situations more completely, in order to make good decisions, in constantly new situations. But, he adds, anyone could teach like this. Taking advantage of events that change by day or even by hour, he engages students with relevant, timely examples. "We do a lot of analysis. Find all schools within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant in this state. Analyze the landcover in hexagons. And, so far, we've done everything this year with ArcGIS Online, which lets us be more creative, share, use templates and the Web AppBuilder. From a data view, it's just much easier and more interesting to work with Online. We used ArcMap [for some projects] last year but we'll use ArcGIS Pro this year, so we can connect more powerfully with Online in the deep dives."


So, what do the students think after dancing around with new ideas, new tools, new data constantly, and only a vague idea of what might happen tomorrow? "Many of the kids said they didn't know computers all that well, but learned to think differently, and amazed themselves with what they could do. They don't get a lot of opportunity to think about a technology skill set, but GIS, with this project-based class, and the way we work, shows them 'Look what I can do that other kids can't!' This helps students grow in ways they can’t anticipate."


VGS mentor Kathryn Keranen says “Jason and some others are just so comfortable with technology, it’s seamless. He shows something on-screen, puts up three bullet points to guide them, and they go to work. They may be doing things a little bit their own way because of what they’ve learned before, but they are trying new things constantly, and come up with new ideas. They walk out knowing how to use the software to handle questions that don’t come with instructions.”

Here is a fun and interactive map (full URL here) that you could use to teach spatial thinking and Web GIS fundamentals.  This map shows the results of NFL (National Football League) football week-by-week data.  Why are the team locations distributed as they are?  How does the spatial pattern of football teams compare to those of professional basketball, hockey, or baseball?  How has the spatial pattern of the football teams changed recently and how will it change in the future, and why? (recent moves of teams to Los Angeles and an impending move to Las Vegas).  Use ArcGIS Online to investigate city size.  What seems to be the minimum size threshold for a city to have an NFL team?  What large cities do not have an NFL team, and why?  (Birmingham Alabama, Portland Oregon, or Memphis Tennessee, for example).  What is an example of a smaller city that has an NFL team? (Green Bay, Wisconsin).  


You can also explore this map to illustrate how the Esri Web AppBuilder, the storymaps builder, and other tools can be used to create interactive web mapping applications in ArcGIS Online.  Examine how animated GIFs can be used in the creation of web maps - in this case, the sleepy, happy, and sad football faces depend on the team’s results for the previous week.   


For the GIS professionals reading this, you could show this map to your friends and family to introduce them to the idea of web mapping applications and what GIS is.  You could also show this as your attention-getting starting point if you are visiting a school as a geomentor ( or for something to demonstrate on GIS Day ( 


The map is updated after each Monday Night game (and thus the map after Week 6 below will unfortunately show the sad faces in Green Bay and Denver).


For more information, see my video with further details.  If you would like to further pursue the connections between sports and geotechnologies, see the chapter on geotechnologies that Jill Clark and I wrote in the book Practical Sports Coaching by Christine Nash.


NFL interactive map in ArcGIS Online

While GIS analyst and developer careers are readily available, the bulk of professional GIS users are in geo-enabled careers – like civil engineering.  Join the Esri Education Outreach team and Strivven Media’s Virtual Job Shadow as we explore the career field of civil engineering – focusing on storm water management.


Be sure to share this and all of the career videos with your students! 


Sara loved buildings as a girl and planned to become an architect. In college, she discovered art didn't interest her as much as science, math and GIS so she switched to civil engineering. Watch her video to see why she loves being a civil engineer!Civil engineer


Civil engineers design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Many civil engineers work in design, construction, research, and education.


Watch the civil engineer video >>

Oct 18 - It has been only a week since we launched the Hurricane Maria Mapping Project and your response has been … amazing!  Altogether, over 22,000 building damage interpretations have been contributed since October 11, and the numbers keep growing! In this week, more than 160 teams and individuals have joined.


Interpreting damage through the aerial imagery has been a great learning exercise for all. Here are some interesting scenarios people have run into. (Info below is from the project team.)



This is a classic ORANGE example (Damage Observed), since the structural damage is obvious. Note how the strong wind literally scrapped out part of the roof. Note that, in this case, we have not marked the building in RED (Completely Destroyed). The difference between Damage Observed and Completely Destroyed is always a bit subjective. It is best to reserve Completely Destroyed for cases where the structure is virtually gone.



Here is another ORANGE example. The roof has been heavily affected as well, but you can tell the main structure is still standing as proven by the shadow of the building. The trees around the house have been badly hit, but typically that would not count for us as damage, unless it is obvious that the trees have hit the building. In this particular case, it is also interesting to see how the pier has been ripped off. The pier damage has been flagged as ORANGE, although some would argue it should have been RED (Completely Destroyed). The most important thing here is to flag the damage!



This one is really tricky. First, you can see that the color of the roof is completely different. Before the hurricane it was red, and now it is white? What is going on? Well, a lot could have happened between the time the pre-Maria and post-Maria images were taken. In fact, major transformations in the house could have been undertaken, explaining why the roof is completely different. Now, looking the post-hurricane image, you can tell that the texture of the roof is pretty consistent. It looks like a perfectly fine flat roof, so there are no obvious signs of destruction. Also the fact that there is not a lot of debris around indicates that all these red tiles from the pre-Maria image were probably taken away before the hurricane hit. But wait! There is a small suspicious blue rectangle in there. What could that be? If you have spent enough hours looking at this imagery, you may have seen blue tarps on roofs. This is a good indication of damage (more on this later). However, in this case, we play conservative and leave the building alone; this blue thing could be some sort of roof structure on top of a door to the backyard, some sort of a patio covering may be? Just too difficult to interpret, so we move on and look for more obvious damage somewhere else.



In this screenshot, I am highlighting a plain mistake. Note all buildings are flagged in GREEN, indicating no damage. Indeed, the imagery shows no damage, but please note the imagery is pre-Maria! For this particular area of the island there is no post-Maria imagery. Always use the swipe tool to compare the before and after: if it looks the same… then there may be no recent imagery at all! I left the green dots for the screenshot, but I deleted them right after.  Note that for some areas of the island we do not have imagery after the hurricane. These could include highly forested portions of the island, military areas, or portions of the island constantly covered by clouds or islands (like Culebra or Vieques for which we are still waiting for imagery).



Look at the animation above. What do you think? Is this worthy of RED (Completely Destroyed)? I would personally have categorized this as ORANGE. Particularly the building in the center of the image is a good candidate to leave unflagged. It is certain that vegetation above was severely affected, but there is no obvious evidence of damage to the building itself. It is sometimes just hard to tell from the air.



Flagging buildings in GREEN indicating that no damage is observed is good practice. Here we have a good example. It is quite difficult, if not impossible, to see all damage in buildings from the air. Someone will need to inspect buildings while onsite, because glass in windows may have broken, or tiles in walls may have been ripped off, but in this case, with the data we have, it is safe to flag thsee buildings in GREEN.  There is very minor effect in the vegetation, at least compared with other areas. Note that some Palm Trees are still standing, there is no debris around the house and even the pool looks usable. Another good sign of no damage are the new solar panels installed on the buildings: still apparently intact! There is only north of the pool a small corner of the building where some beams seem to be exposed, but given how well everything seems to be, we would not flag it as damaged: our eyes could be lying here.



If you are a baseball fan, the above will not look pretty. ORANGE or RED, is your call. To some of you the assessment may be conservative, but let’s do not split hairs on this one. Well done highlighting damage!



A good example of thorough interpretation. Every building where an interpretation can be made is flagged, leaving only those buildings where a clear assessment cannot be made. Being thorough and at the same time not adding guesses makes the best interpretation.



Looking for more? You can use the basemap gallery to temporarily switch to the Streets basemap. This will highlight urbanized areas more clearly so you can focus on areas where no assessments have been made.


You may be wondering about the blue tarps… Did you run into any? I am sure you did! So what about you adding a comment to this blog post with images showing blue tarps? In fact, I encourage you to post comments about situations you have encountered where you need help, or those where you think it is worth sharing!


As we get more damage assessments mapped and we also get better at it, folks in Puerto Rico are getting ready for field validation.  We are working with local groups to help contrast the interpreted damage with onsite information. In the meantime, let’s keep up the good work and above everything else, let’s keep learning by doing!


[[Note (Nov.13): Please see blog of Nov.13 adding important context and results.]]

For a while we have recommended that the best approach for managing an ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise portals is to enable enterprise logins, commonly referred to as Single Sign On (SSO). The information below may be useful for those who are not familiar, or have not implemented it, yet.


  • SSO explained
    • SSO enables a user to use the same set of credentials for signing in to multiple applications. This means that faculty and students can use the same credentials coming from their institution’s enterprise identity store to login to ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise.
    • What happens in the background? An ArcGIS Account still gets created for identity purposes that is linked to your enterprise credentials. This is not visible to the user.
    • SSO can be setup for both ArcGIS Online as well as ArcGIS Enterprise, both referred to as “portal”, and can be setup for multiple portals.


  • What will be alleviated with SSO 
    • Ease of access – one set of credentials will be used.
    • User management – this is HUGE for academia. Enabling SSO means that no additional account logins need to be created for ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. We don’t have to add students to the portal manually (or via script), and share credentials with them.
    • This could solve various inefficiencies associated with creating and managing multiple accounts, which takes time and thus is an incurred cost.
    • Students have one account only, if one portal is used, which makes it easy to save projects and build their geosopatial portfolio. Without SSO, some institutions create different student accounts for different courses, which means that workflows would need to be in place to transfer student content.
    • When a student is no longer attending the university, and have been removed from the institution's identity store, their account will get disabled. They will no longer be able to login to the ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise portal. As an administrator, it would be easy to find disabled accounts, determine what would be done with their content, then remove the student account from the portal. 


  •  What you would still need to do (i.e. what problems it does not solve)
    • Manage groups – a group for a course or project would still need to be created, and users added to it. An enhancement request is in place for automatic group creation based on existing group in respective identity store.
    • Manage content when student or faculty leaves the institution. Geo Jobe Admin Tools, ArcGIS Online Assistant and the ArcGIS API for Python could be useful for this, and many other tasks, associated with portal management.
    • If the university keeps their faculty and student IDs perpetually, a mechanism would need to be in place to remove inactive accounts and associated content. There is also an existing enhancement request and an idea on to Set Expiry Date for User Account on the ArcGIS Ideas – please consider voting.
    • You still need to manage ArcGIS Pro licensing, enabling Esri Access and assigning credits, if desired. Consider supporting these requests on ArcGIS Ideas – Assign ArcGIS Pro licenses, Enable Esri Access and Assign credit budget.
    • Currently one cannot identify if a new user is a student or faculty member, or what department/program they belong to. There is an existing enhancement request to define more identifiers for each user at the SSO setup stage.
    • Esri technology does not yet support identity federation (allowing the use of identification coming from multiple enterprise systems) – this is functionality that will be supported in future releases.


  •  How do we do it
    • Work with your IT department and refer to the documentation – these are industry standards, and IT staff will be aware of them.
    • Attached is a template letter to Campus IT staff that could be used to request SSO.
    • Note that Esri Technical Support is there to help if any issues arise.



 Further feedback is welcome!