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When I visited Mark Guizlo, Professor in the Department of Geography and Geospatial Technology at Lakeland Community College Ohio and his colleagues not long ago, I was very impressed at what the faculty and students are doing with geospatial technologies. Recently, Mark was asked by the college president to write the weekly Lakeland “Musings” newsletter.  Mark did so, focusing on a student project and Story Map that was featured on GIS Day to a packed auditorium for a presentation by Kurt Lieber of the Ocean Defenders Alliance. Several things stand out to me about the story map and article below:  (1) This was the professor and the students’ first work with story maps, and yet the map is rigorous and communicates their research well; (2) the students in this course haven’t been using GIS all that long, and yet it shows why GIS is an appropriate research tool; (3) this is the perfect illustration of the important work that community colleges are doing with GIS, research, and communications; (4) the fact that the work incorporates fieldwork (in this case, wet field work; that is, in the water!) is something near and dear to my heart as a geographer. 


Ocean defenders map.

Ocean Defenders story map.


Mark writes, "Kurt Lieber got sick and tired of letting ghost gear ruin his dives off the coast of Southern California. Ghost gear consists of abandoned fishing gear and traps that accumulate in some of the most diverse, fragile, and beautiful marine ecosystems. He wanted to help clean up ocean waste, so he joined the Sea Sheppard Foundation in the 1990s, then went on to found Ocean Defender’s Alliance (ODA) in 2002. ODA depends on donors and grants to run expensive boats and pay for the equipment needed to remove abandoned fishing gear from coastal waters in California and Hawaii. They also clean up beaches. In Hawaii, mounds of trash routinely wash up on beaches from the giant central Pacific garbage gyre.


Kurt spoke at Lakeland’s GIS Day on Wednesday, November 13. A native of Northeast Ohio, he told stories of swimming through dead fish, garbage, chemicals, and debris as a Timberlake teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kurt threw himself into the marine conservation effort when he moved to California to pursue his work as an engineer and his passion for diving.


ODA has collected data for every dive and cleanup event from 2002 to the present, and Kurt sent the spreadsheet just a few weeks ago. It was messy. The spreadsheet contained coordinates for their activities for hundreds of dives and some beach cleanups, but it needed a lot of work to prep it for mapping. In other words, it was data from the real world, and not the perfectly tuned data we often use with GIS tutorial manuals. The ODA data was rough, poorly behaved, with a vague whiff of abandoned lobster traps. It needed a cup of coffee and a good shave. This was far from the normal experience of our introductory GIS students in GEOG 1700, where the data they encounter just got dressed up to take grandma to church and sits quietly waiting for instructions.


The students looked concerned reviewing the data in class. I proposed that we throw out the original plan (you know, the project in the syllabus) and map the ODA data before GIS Day. Their reactions ranged from keen interest to outright fear.


They had a lot of questions. I didn’t have a lot of answers. I proposed that we would make a Story Map for their project, and with confidence said “this ODA project is perfect for a story map.” I didn’t tell them I had never made a story map myself. Sometimes, what doesn’t get us fired makes us stronger. We would figure it out later.


Kurt Lieber joined us in class by video link and we planned the project together. I helped the students divide tasks, and they prepped the data. With about 48 hours remaining before GIS Day, the students mapped and created their story map. It was good enough to show on GIS Day.


After Kurt spoke at GIS Day, the students did a great job of presenting their story map with no preparation or even prior warning that they would be on stage. They are Melissa Dopriak, Mason Kirchner, and Josh Lupas, and Ben Sulecki.

Most people think GIS Day is about technology. Sure, there is a lot of technology present, but that isn’t really why we do this annual event. GIS Day is just like the field it represents - it is about people and their ideas, demonstrated through mapping technologies. We seek to build communities of practice that translate creativity, experience, and knowledge into solutions for humanity. In academic terms, we don’t think of the geospatial technology program as a “tech program.” It is in a department that is unique for Lakeland – the Geography and Geospatial Technology Department has a split personality, and it was designed that way on purpose. The traditional liberal arts and sciences meet up with the mapping sciences and technologies. We engage in the study of places, society, and the earth’s environment, and do it through a highly sophisticated set of technological tools. Those tools change constantly, and the key survival skill is thinking and adaptation, rather than just technological mastery. Students are expected to develop a sense of lifelong learning as part of their bridge from being “student” to being employed. I am convinced that we cannot do that without both the general education and the technological sides of our department.


GIS Day is a worldwide celebration of mapping technologies, made possible at Lakeland because of support from the college and the participation of a large number of GIS Professionals. Our Geospatial Program Assistant and Part Time Faculty, Lisa Stanich, organizes GIS Day. Associate Professor Bobby Oliver manages the student volunteers who run hands-on mapping activities with real-world live data. One the best things about GIS Day is that our graduates come back as GIS Professionals to represent their employers and engage in conversations with the students who are just starting out. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate GIS Day than that."


Thank you Mark!  Kudos to you and your students for the inspiring work you and they are doing! --Joseph Kerski

Ocean defenders map.

One of the sections of the ocean themed story map showing the number of and types of species freed from traps and nets.

Open the following blog announcement to learn the updated transition timeline.


Updated classic story map transition timeline

Thank you to everyone who celebrated GIS Day 2019.  I invite you to share your experiences and continue the celebration by sending in your GIS Day memories to this survey and view the many events displayed on this map.  As of this writing, a total of 1,583 events have been registered.  The 5 free ArcGIS personal use licenses offered to each event host to distribute and the resources on the website all appear to have been of high interest.  This essay reports on just a few of the many inspiring stories coming in from government agencies, universities, schools, nonprofit organizations, and private companies that clearly demonstrate how GIS is making a positive difference all around the world.


Agrobiotechnical Sciences, University of Osijek, Croatia: Over 100 attendees attended a field day of UAV imaging and a workshop on the processing and interpretation of collected data. The workshop titled “Mapping of agricultural land using an unmanned aerial vehicle” was organized by the members of the Chair of Geoinformation Technologies and GIS and the AgroGIT research team. Visitors were presented with a method of point cloud, digital elevation model, and digital orthophoto generation using the collected images. The role of UAVs in the current scientific work of the research team is presented, as well as all the benefits of using precision agriculture in practice.

GIS Day event

University of Osijek, Croatia.


Bangladesh Conservation GIS (BCGIS) and Wildlife Conservation Society:  Mohammad Shamsuddoha, SCGIS Scholar 2017 and Program Officer, Wildlife Conservation Society, organized a GIS Day event in Dhaka, that included a series of events and activities for conservation professionals.  These professionals came from a background in marine biology, Chiropteran biology, ornithology, fisheries, biology, and other fields. This was the first event under BCGIS which was formed by the SCGIS scholars in Bangladesh with a dream to spread the mission and vision of SCGIS.  The event included information sessions, a geospatial quiz, and a hands-on mapping session, where a portion of the participants made their first maps. 


GIS Day in Bangladesh

Conservation focused GIS Day event in Bangladesh.


University Jaume I, Spain:  The Geotec group at the university, which is near the Mediterranean Sea on the east side of the country, sponsored another successful GIS Day event.  Geotec is a research group specialized in geospatial technologies and GIS development.   The event was organized around a series of "Missions", which helped participants to understand how GIS is used in different fields and contexts, and they served us as an introduction to the technologies we are using everyday. Missions were perfect examples to explain projects such as A-Wear, SyMptOMS or Copernicus Academy initiative to name a few. Looking for a book in the library using indoor technologies, playing a mobile game inside a building which connects the gameplay with the current place, sharing the location of a horse sculpture at the university campus or write a post about the possible uses of GIS, were some of the missions available to complete. The last mission was to meet the staff and attend to the talk in which our colleague Carlos Granell explained how geospatial technologies supported the missions (see the sketch he prepared below). After the talk, there was opportunity for social networking, and last but not least… some prizes were also raffled.


During the event, more than 100 missions were completed by 26 participants; see the full list of missions and associated apps and tools they used at . A press note and some pictures about UJI GISday are also available here  For more information on their event, see this link.


GIS Day at UJI University.

The Government of Upper Austria:   Thomas Ebert from the Land Division of the Government of Upper Austria has been promoting GIS and GIS Day for many years, in conjunction with the Private University of Education.  This year's celebration was one of the finest, with more than 400 students from the region converging on Linz to participate in over 30 workshops filled with hands-on activities focused on geospatial technology.   See this video and these photos to experience it for yourself. 

GIS Day at Linz, Austria.

Part of the GIS Day events in Linz, Austria. 


Clark College and US Forest Service:   Chris Highfield, GIS Services Area Manager from the US Forest Service, reported that "Our GIS Day event was jointly held with the R6 Forest Service Data Resource Management group Customer Service Area 1 and Clark College in Vancouver Washington, who hosted the event on 15 November 2019.  The enthusiasm for the event ran high before, during, and after the event.  In all, 9 lightning talks were held, along with Smokey Bear picture opportunities, food and raffle items, and included people from Clark College, Clark County Planning department, Portland Community College, and Diana Perez from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Our Project Manager (Whitney Vonada) did an outstanding job in pulling together a really awesome event. Those that came were treated to a great experience in learning more about GIS and the Science of Where.  What we learned from this year’s event will be applied to GIS Day 2020!

Clark College and US Forest Service GIS Day event.

Clark College and US Forest Service GIS Day event, Vancouver Washington USA. 


Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas:  This event was billed as the largest GIS Day event in the world, with over 40 speakers, 30 sessions, and more than 500 attendees.  All of the events were streamed and recorded for later viewing.  This year's events brought geospatial computing sessions on GeoAI, the geospatial internet of things (IoT), frontiers of geospatial data science and data science applications with campus data, and geospatial social media data mining to the schedule.  Event highlights included over $1,000 in prizes and awards, over 20 sponsoring organizations, over 10 organizations looking to hire, a career fair, and a crowdsourcing competition (


Guatemala City, Guatemala.  Silvia Paola Forno Lima organized a GIS Day held by the Municipality of Guatemala, Dirección de Información Geográfica Municipal.  See attached flyer for more details on their event. 


Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria:    Professors Vanya Stamenova and Stefan Stamenov, students, and others participated in the GIS Day organized by Esri Bulgaria that included an exhibition "Capitals" devoted to the 140th anniversary of the establishment of Sofia as a capital of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria GIS Day event.

GIS Day event at the Hotel Balkan in Sofia.


Paris Training Center, Sudan:  750 people attended an event sponsored by the Paris Training Center in Sudan.  The event began with seminars about GIS applications and the importance of GIS in our daily lives, as well as using GIS to achieve sustainable development goals. Workshops were conducted about GIS application with students, followed by a tour of the GIS posters, finishing up with a photo session and musical party.


GIS Day in Sudan

GIS Day celebration in Sudan.


On the Pakistan-China border:  Survey123 and GIS were celebrated by creating awareness and work the study areas of Himalay, Karakoram, and Pamir.  Students and specialists from different organizations and educators traveled from Islamabad to Khujerab to a point on the China border at 16,000 feet (4,877 m) in elevation. During the journey, tourism points, wildlife species, disaster prone areas, landslide hot spots, check points, and other important points were captured using Survey123. On the border between Pakistan and China, a one-day workshop was conducted.   (Joseph's note:  A beautiful and fascinating place to hold a GIS workshop!).


GIS Day on the Pakistan-China border.

Way up high--GIS Day on the Pakistan-China border.


Weld County Colorado:  Weld County, the Cities of Greeley and Evans, and the University of Northern Colorado teamed up to organize and invite local middle and high school students for a complete GIS experience. The organizing led by Geography, GIS, and Sustainability Professor Jieun Lee  team created a Zombie Apocalypse Emergency scenario using Survey123, ArcGIS Online (for locating and neutralizing zombies), and an operations dashboard so students can excitingly submerge themselves in GIS experience. Their event was featured in the newspaper The Greeley Tribune.

Weld County GIS Day

Weld County GIS Day 2

Images of Weld County Colorado's GIS Day event.


Fayetteville State University, North Carolina:  Organized by Professor of Geospatial Science Dr Trung Vinh Tran, the third Annual GeoWeek and GIS 2019 Fayetteville State University included multiple activities. See the attachment for the program or visit this website. This year's multiple day program included speakers from the City of Fayetteville, Esri, the NGA Support Team – Army, 18th Airborne Corps, FT Bragg, the university History Program, and the Drone company Nine Ten Drones LLC, among others.


Clemson University Center for Geospatial Technologies:  Clemson University's GIS events spanned two days, attracted over 100 people, and featured a series of lightning talks, a 3D printed model of campus coloring contest, a VR topographic sandbox, exhibitors, and much more. I participated in the Clemson University event by giving a lightning talk on 5 forces in GIS, 5 trends in GIS, and 5 skills for GIS, meetings with faculty from across the campus to support their work in GIS, and conducting two hands-on workshops for students in spatial analysis in ArcGIS Online and in Business Analyst web.  I was joined by two colleagues, Geoff Taylor and Zemin Dhanani, two proud Clemson alums now working for Esri, and was inspired by everyone I met and learned from.  See attached for flyer for this event.

GIS Day at Clemson University

GIS Day event at Clemson University. 

GIS Day at Clemson University

Painting contest at Clemson University where participants painted 3D models of campus that were printed on a 3D printer and made from UAV imagery. 

GIS Day at Clemson University

The Where in the World map contest at Clemson University was particularly challenging because many of the images were of fictitious places created for movies or books.


Central Idaho:   Kara Utter and the Central Idaho GIS User's Group organized this year's GIS Day with raffle prizes sponsored by Esri and other items sponsored by the Northern Rockies Chapter of URISA. The diversity in
backgrounds of attendees provided for great discussion and awesome networking opportunities. Lines of communication were opened between GIS entities throughout the Central Idaho Region from local city and county governments to the US Forest Service, Surveyors and the DOD's Environmental Management Office.  A committee was formed and tasked with determining how multiple jurisdictions can come together and create authoritative datasets.  Enterprise Portal sharing through Sites or ArcGIS Online Sharing through Hub was introduced as a way that they can all collaborate more efficiently.  Ideas for bringing GIS to the classrooms and for the planning of GIS
community projects were discussed, and finally, thank you cards were written and sent to mentors, which was an idea given in the 101 things to do on GIS Day blog essay. 

Central Idaho GIS Day


The University of Illinois at Chicago:  Dr Moira Zellner, professor in the department of urban planning and policy and director of the Urban Data Visualization Lab, organized an event at the University of Illinois at Chicago that was held at the Richard J. Daley Library, open to the public, and featured a range of techniques exploring different aspects of Community and Global Disparities. It included a keynote speaker, presentations, a panel, a poster session and competition, and a hands on-workshop. GIS Day brings an opportunity to learn about innovative techniques and impactful applications, and network with others interested in or working on a range of visualization approaches to classwork, research or professional activities.


The University of Southern California's Spatial Sciences Institute:  An event organized by Dr Laura Loyola of the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California brought Tom Vo to speak at USC's 2019 GIS Day celebration.  The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is charged with creating a dynamic growth vision for Southern California. At SCAG’s Research and Analysis Department, Tom Vo is utilizing GIS to solve local and regional issues and promote more housing, transportation accessibility and sustainability of cities in Southern California.  Andrej (Andy) Rutkowski, of the USC Libraries, in conjunction with the UCLA Institute for Digital Research, organized a USC vs UCLA Battle of the Maps event, where students from both universities mapped areas changed by natural disasters. The focus was on how climate change is impacting the environment and ways a person can make a difference through mapping on Humanitarian OpenStreetMap projects in Tegal Indonesia and in Central Asia.  Collectively, 77 mappers from USC and 68 from UCLA mapped nearly 20,000 buildings!



USC Map Event for GIS Day.

USC vs UCLA Battle of the Maps! 


USC GIS Day event

GIS Day event at the University of Southern California.

Finally, shared by Esri Canada is this GIS Day cake from the land where GIS began--Canada (eh!).


GIS Day Cake

Which would you prefer?  Newfoundland or Baffin Island? 

The updated Education Institution Agreement enables more students, faculty and staff to leverage ArcGIS technology, such that any ArcGIS product can be accessed on any device and in any location.


ArcGIS has grown beyond the confines of a single desktop GIS application, and ought to be managed as an institution-wide system available to everyone, similar to a learning management system (LMS) or cloud storage. More importantly, it must be managed at scale to take full advantage of the Institution Agreement benefits - maximizing access and minimizing administration time.   


To successfully deploy and manage ArcGIS in a sustainable and secure manner, please follow the below recommendations. These recommendations are designed to help you take full advantage of the Institution Agreement benefits, but they also apply to Site Licenses and K-12 Schools licenses.


  • Single ArcGIS Online organization – use a single ArcGIS Online organization for the entire institution to avoid impeding collaboration and minimize management workload.
  • Enable enterprise logins (Single Sign On, SSO) – leverage your institution’s identity provider to eliminate manual management of users and to prevent unauthorized access when student graduates or faculty/staff leave. Make sure to enable “Automatically” join for new users.
  • Configure New Member Defaultsauto-provision new users with everything they will need, which eliminates manual administration:
    • User Type (GIS Professional)
    • Role (Publisher) – empower users to do most tasks
    • Add-on licenses – such as Business Analyst, Community Analyst, Insights, ArcGIS Pro Extensions, GeoPlanner
    • Credit Quota – set it high enough that most users can get their work done, there is ample amount of credits available with your new Institution Agreement
    • Enable Esri Access – enable users to help themselves by providing access to Esri Training (e-Learning), GeoNet.
  • Software distribution – provide executables and provisioning files via your institutional file share system (Box, OneDrive, GoogleDrive, etc.). The same provisioning file can be used by everyone in your organization. ArcGIS can be accessed on any device.
  • ArcGIS Pro licensing:
    • The new GIS Professional Advanced User Type provides ArcGIS Pro licensing. ArcGIS Pro Extensions still need to be set in New Member Defaults as an Add-on license. Bottom line, ArcGIS Pro licensing is provided via named user in ArcGIS Online.
    • We discourage single use or concurrent use licensing – why maintain a license manager? Single Use licensing is recommended for offline use.
    • Disable “offline” licensing for ArcGIS Pro, as it often results in inquiries to recover the license.
  • Monitor Usage – demonstrate to stakeholders the breadth and depth of GIS on campus. The ArcGIS Online Usage Reports (Organization>Status) are a start and provide easy access to total usage data. Further analysis and efforts are needed to provide information for ongoing, repeat usage, as well as daily reporting.
  • Inactive users and stale content – if you are in the early stages of deploying ArcGIS to your entire institution, the recommendation is that you DO NOT delete users and content, as deleting users and content takes time and effort, it breaks the audit trail of ownership, and may break dependencies that others may have on that content. Deleting content cannot be recovered! Over time, you can work on best practices for your institution on how to manage inactive users and stale content.

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