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309 Posts authored by: jkerski-esristaff Employee

I get asked occasionally about some of the videos I have made and/or show with the aim to get students excited about what geography is and to understand what geography is about.  Each includes the important role that GIS has in helping us understand our world.  The following list of videos are only a few minutes each, and have been created in an engaging manner to hold students' interest:


  1. Geography Matters -  This starts with elevator speech, and even includes a roller coaster video I filmed at Cedar Point, Ohio.
  2. What does it mean to be a geographer?   My reflections with career information.
  3. Fast-talkin’ geography!   
  4. Five reasons why geography matters -  infused with Indian music.
  5. Esri videos - lately, I have been showing the "Seeing the Future" video and the "See what others can't" video. 


Because I have created many videos on this topic, I have created some playlists.  On this topic, the Why Geography Matters playlist is particularly relevant:


There are other videos that I frequently use with students, as well, such as the Roger Tomlinson 1967 Data for Decision series, the Esri Career Corner videos, and the Penn State geospatial revolution video series.  What are your favorites? 



A selection of my geography matters videos.

I hope that you find these videos useful!


--Joseph Kerski

Many valid approaches exist for effective professional development (PD) for educators in GIS, and here I offer one of mine.  I invite you to comment on this syllabus or a provide a link to one of yours in the spirit of sharing.  The PD I conduct varies depending on the level of instructor (primary, secondary, community or technical college, university, library, museum, other), the discipline(s) represented by the attendee (library and information science, environmental science, sociology, history, data science, business, geography, earth science, biology, GIS, computer science, language arts, or another discipline), the goals of the attendees, the setting of the workshop (including the mixture of outside vs. inside work), and the time available.  No matter the audience, however, my workshops are always over 90% hands-on work with GIS tools and geospatial data and focus on spatial and critical thinking.   


The attached workshop is one in which I use a variety of powerful but easy to use Esri geotechnology tools, including Survey123, web mapping applications including dashboards, storymaps, and other apps, and ArcGIS Online.   I vary the scale and problems that we address to keep the interest level high, and always include teaching about a current event.  I include a few pertinent videos and one crowdsourced survey to set the stage, and include connections to educational content standards.  I keep the goals in mind and in discussion throughout the workshop; in this case, (1) Develop knowledge and skills in geotechnologies focusing on social studies and science, (2) Develop workforce awareness of pathways in careers that use GIS and how to prepare students for them, and (3)  Develop confidence that participants can use these tools, methods, and data sets in their own teaching. 


The workshop closes with reflection, assessment, and "where do I go from here" additional resources.  I include additional activities that the participants can work on after the workshop ends.  I love conducting these workshops for a variety of reasons--It brings me joy to give educators confidence that they can teach with GIS and about GIS, impacting their own students' lives in positive ways, and providing career pathways for them.  Despite the changes that GIS has experienced over the decades, it has remained a tool for solving problems and investigation, and thus is incredibly relevant to education.  But there is another reason I do this -- I believe that using GIS is a key way to build a sustainable and healthier future. 

I am pleased to announce that Dr Diana Stuart Sinton and I have co-authored a chapter for the UCGIS Body of Knowledge on GIS&T Education and Training:


Abstract:  GIS education and training have their roots both in formal educational settings and in professional development.  Methods and approaches for teaching and learning about and with geospatial technologies have evolved in tight connection with the advances in the internet and personal computers.  The adoption and integration of GIS and related geospatial technologies into dozens of academic disciplines has led to a high demand for instruction that is targeted and timely, a combination that is challenging to meet consistently with diverse audiences and in diverse settings. Academic degrees, concentrations, minors, certificates, and numerous other programs abound within formal and informal education.


A Body of Knowledge (BoK) is defined as "a comprehensive inventory of the intellectual content that defines a field" (DiBiase et al., 2007).  For those not aware of this collection, this documents the domain of geographic information science and its associated technologies (GIS&T). By providing this content in a new digital format, UCGIS aims to continue supporting the GIS&T higher education community and its connections with the practitioners.  The wide variety of chapters published in the BoK thus far, under the leadership of good people including Diana Sinton, John Wilson, Ling Bian, and others, can serve as a valuable resource for instruction and also for charting new areas of research in the field.  


--Joseph Kerski

I developed a GIS workshop for environmental science university students that you might wish to use portions of or in its entirety in your own instruction.  The workshop can be covered in a half day, but ideally is a full day; or it could be parsed into several standard class periods. 


The workshop is designed to:
1. Develop knowledge and skills in geotechnologies focusing on environmental applications: GIS, remote sensing, and
GPS/GNSS, technical skills and foundational underpinnings, cloud and SaaS data sources and formats, multimedia, data quality; projections, symbolizing, georeferencing, measurement, classification, databases, and mobile workflows.
2. Develop workforce awareness of pathways in environmental careers that use GIS and how to prepare for them.
3. Develop confidence that you can use these skills and perspectives to move forward with your own career.


I state the workshop philosophy at the beginning of the instruction:

• This is your workshop. Let me know how we can help you today and in the future as you use geotechnologies.
• Using geotechnologies effectively is a journey that will require building a network with your colleagues.
• We will not work with every GIS tool and data set but we will build a foundation so that you will be empowered and feel confident.
• The activities include core themes and skills that can be used in many aspects of environmental work.


The workshop uses the following tools:  ArcGIS Online, web mapping applications such as Dashboards and Storymaps, Survey123 field data collection tool.  For more advanced work, there are links to ArcGIS Pro and Insights. 

The workshop includes the exploration of data from local to global scale, including ecoregions, river systems, population change, historical and current satellite imagery, human health, weather and climate, and natural hazards.  The field activity involves gathering tree type, height, species, and condition on whatever campus you happen to be teaching in. 


Underlying the workshop are the following themes:

(1)  Geotechnologies are critically important tools in environmental science to build a healthier, more sustainable future.

(2)  Geotechnologies are essential tools for your environmental career:  They enable you to apply your environmental skills and knowledge and contribute to the work that nonprofits, government agencies, private industry, and academia is using everyday.

(3)  Modern cloud-enabled GIS tools and spatial data mean that it is easier than ever to learn how to apply GIS to solve problems. 


The attached document contains the workflow and all the links for the workshop to be successful.  I hope this resource is useful. 

Environmental science images and maps

Because GIS is rapidly expanding its presence inside web architecture, including data services, software tools, and networking and sharing capabilities, coding and computer science are growing in importance for all who are involved in the geospatial field.  As I work with faculty and students around the world, I frequently get asked about the specific skills that students should learn, and the strategies for learning them, if they wish to be successful in a career that is focused on the computer science side of GIS.  After consulting with some colleagues at Esri and in academia, the starting points I wish to share are below.  I am mindful that this list can and should change, going forward, and I intend to update this post as needed.


What are the programming topics and software necessary in the geospatial industry?   I would include scripting (Python with ArcPy, and inside ArcGIS (such as with Arcade scripts), GIS database programming, GIS algorithm implementation and optimization, desktop application development (C#, Java, ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, GDAL), Mobile app development (ArcGIS Runtime SDKs and ArcGIS API for JavaScript, Web application development (JavaScript with APIs from ArcGIS and others), work with statistics (R, Matlab), and Big data analytics (Tensorflow, Hadoop, Spark).    

What are the differences between GIS programming in an academic setting and in industry? To bridge the gap, how many GIS programming courses of different levels should be provided, and which levels should be required for the completion of the degree?   
Some of the differences might include broad troubleshooting skills for a variety of systems. Also important is the ability to adapt and change based on requirements from management or budgetary-related. The ability to inherit, improve or maintain systems that you didn’t create and they may be outdated and potentially involve unsupported implementations or implementations that don’t use best practices may happen and it is good to be prepared. 


Courses that would be valuable include:

  • Intro to programming concepts
  • A lab that focuses on debugging skills.
  • Introductory and Intermediate courses on JavaScript.
  • Intro and Intermediate courses on Python
  • Other CS courses as electives (e.g. algorithms?)

How can we convince our colleagues that GIS programming courses are important?    GIS is simply mapping a database nor is it just a flavor of computer science.  Certain skills are critical for all GIS students such as Python, for example. Understanding basic programming concepts and the modern web GIS architecture only helps ensure student success once they graduate. Not every student needs to be proficient in building websites or native applications, but if they have the basics, then they will be more adaptable.  


Are our students prepared to meet the programming needs from industry yet? How do we bridge the gap?  There is a spectrum of needs in GIS that ranges from little-to-no-programming-skills-needed to fully custom application building. Does every GIS student need to be able to program at an intermediate level, for example?   


How should pedagogy change given the change in dominant languages over the past 50 years (e.g., FORTRAN vs C vs Python)? Have students changed in ways that requires a different approach in pedagogy?  The fundamentals of “how” programming language work hasn’t changed all that much (in terms of variables, data structures, control structures, and so on). These fundamentals can be applied across a variety of languages.


What is changing very rapidly is advances in some of the programming languages, themselves. Web browsers and JavaScript is a great example of unbelievable rapid change. One challenge and goal might be to keep curriculum as current as possible without stressing that everything used is the "latest and greatest"  Students will still get much training on the job, and thus I encourage university faculty to focus equally on teaching students flexibility in how to learn programming languages and to learn how to adapt. But I am keen on hands-on work with GIS and programming languages--you really only learn by doing it.  Most people cannot simply read about GIS or programming in a book and then apply it successfully.

Ever since they were created by my colleague Allen Carroll and his team, I have been an ardent supporter of story maps. I teach story map workshops regularly.  I also give many presentations throughout the year, and in many of those, story maps are the means by which I give the presentations.  One example is my presentation Geography:  Key to Resiliency and a Healthy Planet, which was the keynote address I gave at a recent conference of the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria Australia.   It has been amazing and heartwarming to see how they have been adopted by the GIS community and non-GIS community alike.  Allen told me that by late 2019, over 1 million story maps had been created; they communicate in just about every conceivable field from archaeology to zoology! 


Those of you reading this blog know that we are focused on education here, and in the education sector, story maps are used in many ways.  Instructors use them to teach content (such as ocean currents, biodiversity, population change, and much more), and to teach skills in working with GIS tools, spatial data, and the ArcGIS platform.  They are also useful in teaching about issues such as data quality, copyright (can I use that image in my map?), crowdsourcing, and to foster skills in communication.  Students use story maps to document and showcase their work, to their peers, to their instructors, and as a living online resource that they can also show prospective employers.  Students in my online courses regularly create story maps and send me the URL so that I can assess their work.  In my face-to-face courses, students use them as a resource as they give oral presentations to myself and their peers instead of a standard PowerPoint or Prezi.  


When I teach workshops focused on story mapping, I always say, "Make a story map of your CV or resume."  Why?  (1) It shows your prospective employer that you know something about web GIS tools; (2) It helps you to "stand out in the crowd".  There is nothing wrong with a traditional text-based resume or CV, certainly, and I recommend that you provide a link to your story map CV on your traditional text-based CV.  In fact I still lead with my text-based CV.  (3) It is an interesting and engaging way to tell your story; (4) It provides a method for you to share your interactive maps, services, and multimedia (videos, audio, photographs) in a way that traditional methods do not allow; (5) It is a great way of encouraging yourself to keep current in story maps tools.  Since you know your own story best, it is an easy way to get started with story mapping, and it is something you can revisit quarterly or whenever you need to add to it; (6) It provides your colleagues and readers with encouragement that they could do this as well, thus spreading the geo-love.  Indeed, as my colleague Bern Szukalski wrote in his essay "Things you didn't know you could do with story maps", CVs are listed along with newsletters, guides, tutorials, annual reports, promotions, engagements, and more as some of the things you can easily and powerfully do with story maps. 


If you need some inspiration, here are some examples.  Amanda Huber of Minnesota has probably received more attention than anyone about her story map, where she included examples of her own work and also sections on why GIS matters! 


Part of Amanda Huber's story map CV. Part of Amanda Huber's story map showing one of the apps she has created. 


An early but still compelling example here uses a Map Tour to feature "stops" along this person's journey.  Kiara Dawson made sure she included her career objectives in her story map


A 2019 Esri student volunteer, Jessica Liew, used the new express map function in the story maps tools for her story.

Story map featuring express maps.

An effective use of the new express maps in this story.


The example below from Leilei Duan uses a Story Map Series with the side accordion layout, providing a compelling way for prospective employers to learn more about Leilei and also see her GIS work through interactive maps, including a very impressive CityEngine scene.


The example of a "GeoResume" from Renato Salvaleon uses the Story Map Journal to profile accomplishments and projects using a mix of media and maps. Since Journal organizes things into section, this enables a logical arrangement of important resume facts and examples.  His GIS buttons start things off in an eye-catching way!


Renato Salvaleon's story map CV.


One of the best things about story maps and other web mapping applications from Esri is that they can be embedded in other types of multimedia.  For example, Jon Montgomery's story map is embedded into his own Weebly-powered web page.  Kate Berg hosted her content on GitHub and showcases two different styles of story maps, here.  


Part of Jon Montgomery's story map, which is embedded into his web page.

Part of Jon Montgomery's story map, which is embedded into his web page.


After years of preaching "you should do this" I got around to creating my own, in Cascade style.  After I spent a little while on it, I wondered why I had waited so long.  It was a blast. I have the story map, a video about me, and my text-based CV linked to my website.  In the map I included some 2D and 3D web maps associated with curricular items that I created, selected story map presentations (so, yes, a story map embedded in a story map!), and some of my favorite geeky photographs of myself, and some of my favorite landscapes and features, including the 1964 world's heaviest globe in New York City, below.

 That is ONE big heavy globe!

That is one big globe!  It was created for the 1964 World's Fair. 


But most importantly, my story map includes a web map with some of the accomplishments I wanted to feature.  What will I do with my CV story map next?  My next task is to create a section that includes some of the people I have been most privileged to collaborate with.  That will be fun and a kind way to acknowledge those who helped me along the way.


Part of my own storymap CV--Joseph Kerski.

Part of my own storymap CV--Joseph Kerski.


Explore but don't feel confined to these examples:  Be creative and do your own thing!

Are you using Esri GIS technology to better understand a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and to report progress or inspire action? If so, showcase your work by participating in the Esri GIS Technology poster competition at the 2020 American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Denver Colorado USA. In this session, you will learn from others as you discuss your poster with people from all over the world. Cash awards in 4 categories will be given, but even more importantly, this is an opportunity for your students and colleagues to showcase the innovative things they are doing with Esri GIS technology to help understand and solve the most pressing local-to-global problems of our time.  For more information about posters at AAG, see this page.   The deadline has been extended for this competition to:  10 March 2020!


Your submission can be a printed poster to be displayed on a bulletin board OR a StoryMap or other digital format that can be displayed on a monitor. If the latter, it has to be shared with the public and accessible without a password. This session is open to anyone registered for the 2020 AAG Annual Meeting. Student participation is especially encouraged. Your submission must demonstrate the use of at least one component of the Esri ArcGIS platform, which could include ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS StoryMaps, ArcGIS Pro, Insights for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Community Analyst, Survey123, Collector for ArcGIS, or other Esri technology.


Submissions will be judged and awarded in the following 4 categories:


  1. Best Application of GIS to Solve or understand a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): How effectively does the poster show why GIS is an appropriate toolset to apply to a SDG? How effectively does the presentation show how GIS was applied to this specific issue?


  1. Best Use of Spatial Analysis Methods: How are techniques such as spatial statistics, overlay and proximity, multivariate mapping, space-time cubes, or others being used to analyze the patterns, relationships, and trends in the data, rather than simply displaying data on a map?


  1. Best Use of Cartography to Tell a Compelling Story: How are classification methods, colors, 2D and 3D symbols, basemaps, multimedia, and other cartographic elements and techniques being used to clearly explain the problem or issue being examined?


  1. Best Use of Components of Esri Technology (ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, Insights, etc.): How and to what extent are Esri GIS tools and functions being rigorously applied to display, analyze, and communicate the results of the research or the extent of the problem being examined?


Do the following to register:

(1) Register for the meeting and submit your abstract to AAG, here.   Yes, we are past the deadline, but the AAG has generously allowed us to extend the deadline for this competition.  Register and then contact the AAG via and explain that you are applying for the AAG Esri GIS Poster Competition.  

(2)  Use this form once you receive your confirmation from AAG - remember to do so by 10 March 2020.  All best wishes. 


Collage of poster competition from the 2019 AAG Annual Meeting.

 Collage of poster competition from the 2019 AAG Annual Meeting.

Teaching and learning about demographics and population change in an effective, engaging manner is enriched and enlivened through the use of web mapping tools and spatial data. These tools, enabled by the advent of cloud-based geographic information systems (GIS) technology, bring problem solving, critical thinking, and spatial analysis to every classroom instructor and student (Kerski 2003; Jo, Hong, and Verma 2016).  Several developments make this the ideal time for educators to embrace these tools and data sets for teaching these topics. First, population patterns change over space and time, providing the perfect data and themes for investigation using 2D and 3D maps in a GIS environment. Second, web GIS is a platform enabling the maps and applications to be saved, shared, and embedded into presentations and multimedia in a collaborative learning environment. In addition, analytical and cartographic tools have migrated to the web, enabling their use on any device at any time, using only a standard web browser (Manson et al. 2013). Third, the open data movement places an array of rich, varied demographic data sets from the local to global scales in the hands of educators and students. These data include those from the U.S. Census Bureau and other national statistics agencies. Fourth, GIS was created to be a tool to investigate real-world issues, and therefore teaching with GIS is conducive to a multidisciplinary, problem-solving learning environment using real data (Milson and Kerski 2012).


Why teach about population change, demographics, and lifestyles?   These themes are (1) Multi-scale, (2) Multi-disciplinary, (3) Connected to content standards, and (4) Relevant to 21st Century issues.


Why teach with interactive mapping tools that are tied to web-based GIS?  Consider the following reasons.  GIS tools and spatial data offer resources that are:


  1. Tied to Problem-Based Learning (PBL).
  2. Aligned to an Inquiry-driven approach. What if we ________?
  3. Helpl students engage with with real-world, complex, important issues using real data.
  4. Build community connections.
  5. Offer the opportunity for fieldwork.
  6. Represent a way to infuse technology in meaningful ways. 
  7. Are tied to scale and systems thinking.
  8. Promote spatial and critical thinking.
  9. Foster multi- and cross-disciplinary thinking.
  10. Are served on a cloud-based platform with nothing to install.
  11. Offer ways to collaborate.
  12. Foster skills in media fluency.
  13. Foster skills in communication (multimedia, oral).
  14. Foster discussion on copyright, location privacy, data formats, file management.


Let me describe 10 ways to teach about population, population change, demographics, and lifestyles:  (1) Examining world population and demographic data by country.  (2) Visualizing and understanding migration over space and time in 3D.  (3)  Examining demographic patterns in selected cities.  (4)  Examining world population density vs. latitude, altitude, and ecoregions.  (5)  Examining regional change using satellite imagery.  (6)  Examining local changes using historical USGS topographic maps.  (7)  Examining local changes using satellite imagery.  (8)  Examining median age, income, behavior, and diversity at state, county, and neighborhood scales.  (9)  Examining population change during the Dust Bowl by county in the USA, and (10) Exploring population dynamics via the NASA SEDAC CIESIN Global Population Estimation Web Mapping Application.


These tools all use the ArcGIS platform, from Esri, and specifically, ArcGIS Online (  The platform includes (1) spatial data; (2) maps; (3) analysis, classification, symbology, and measurement tools; (4) field apps; (5) web mapping applications; (6) a community of users.  Over 1 billion maps are served daily in this platform!


Now let's discuss how to use each of the 10 ways in more detail: 

(1) Examining world population and demographic data by country.   The Living Atlas of the World ( is a curated and growing body of content covering a multitude of scales. Population growth, ethnicity, density, cities, and other themes can be quickly accessed, combined with other layers, queried, and used in presentations. Many of the layers contain data extending back in time; others have forecasted growth and demographics into the future.  Using this web map that includes some of this Living Atlas content opens the door to investigating population growth rate, life expectancy, birth rate, and other variables.  Some of the variable can be analyzed over time, by opening the table associated with the maps, and also by using the time animation slider bar.  For additional analysis, modify the map and add other layers from the Living Atlas or from ArcGIS Online.

Population by country map

Comparing demographic variables by country using ArcGIS Online.

(2) Visualizing and understanding migration over space and time in 3D.  One of the maps in the Esri "Cool Maps" gallery is this 2D and 3D map visualization of incoming and outgoing migration, by country, for 4 different time periods.  This map presents estimates of the number of international migrants by destination and origin. It uses the data set called Trends in International Migrant Stock from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. This data set contains time-series of estimates and projections of the number of international migrants in the 232 countries or areas for the years 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2013.  Compare one country's change over time in terms of numbers, and in terms of where migrants travel from and where they travel to.  For example, you can visualize the increase in Australia's immigration from South Asia and East Asia relative to its traditional immigration from western Europe, and the increase in its absolute numbers of migrants as well.   The same map can be used to investigate the immigration to the UAE to support the infrastructure development there, as well as the continuing challenges facing Somalia and the resulting out-migration from there.  Which patterns did you expect to see, and which were surprising to you?  Why? 

Migration map.

  Visualizing incoming migration to the UAE across space and time with the Global Migration Map.


(3)  Examining demographic patterns in selected cities.   The Urban Observatory is a mapping and visualization tool that allows for over 100 cities around the world to be compared across more than 50 themes.  The Urban Observatory was created by Richard Saul Wurman (founder of TED), RadicalMedia, and Esri, and makes an easy-to-use and powerful teaching tool. Themes include work (such as zoning), movement (such as roads, transportation noise, airports, and traffic), people (such as population density and growth), public (such as the ParkScore and health resources), and systems (such as current temperature and flood zones).   Click on "Launch App" to compare cities and themes of your choice.  These will be displayed in three side-by-side maps that are interactive and at the same scale.  Because some variables are from real-time feeds, you can use the Urban Observatory to teach about commuting, time zones, and seasons.    How does the site and the physical geography of each city affect population density? Which of the urban geography models (Ch 9 Urban Geography - Open Geography Education) apply to each of these cities? I use the data service's senior population theme frequently in conjunction with population pyramids to compare Tokyo to Accra, for example.  Why is the senior population for Tokyo so much higher than for Accra or Lagos?  If you find the Urban Observatory data fascinating, and want to dig deeper, see my colleague Jennifer Bell's content items in ArcGIS Online.

Urban Observatory.

Comparing senior population in Accra, Lagos, and Tokyo using the Urban Observatory.


(4)  Examining world population density versus latitude, altitude, and ecoregions.   Using an interactive map in ArcGIS Online of ecoregions and population density (  allows for study of the effect of latitude and altitude upon the distribution of world population density and of ecoregions. Which ecoregions are most under human pressure due to high population density? The scale can be changed, the basemap can be changed to highlight landforms or the human-built environment (such as roads, parks, and railroads), the measure tools can be engaged, and the transparency on each layer can be adjusted to focus on the relationship between map layers.   Why on the map below, for example, is the population density so much higher along the Ganges River in India than a few hundred kilometers to the north?

ArcGIS Online map

Investigating which ecoregions could be most under pressure from high population density.


(5)  Examining regional change using satellite imagery.  Regional changes can be easily detected using a variety of Esri mapping tools, including the swipe tool in the Landsat Explorer app, and the Landsat Lens web mapping application.  Using the Landsat Lens and with no sign in required, you can examine any region of the planet, in several different wavelength band combinations, for five different time periods.  This resource can therefore be used to investigate urban growth, deforestation, volcanic eruptions, glacial retreat, agricultural expansion, and other human- and natural-caused earth changes.  Specific issues such as the advancement of the Sahara Desert southwards into the Sahel, urbanization in Abu Dhabi (see below), the drying up of the Aral Sea, and the continuing activity at Kilauea volcano in Hawaii can all be studied to fit any instructional time period allotted. 


Examining change with the Landsat Lens. 

Examining change in Dubai, UAE, using the Landsat Lens over a 15-year period.


(6)  Examining local changes using historical USGS topographic maps.  Using the Esri USGS historical topographic map explorer, you can quickly examine changes in your own community and in other communities across the USA using 75,000 historical maps at a variety of scales covering a century of history.  Finding a place is easy with the search box, and transparency and timeline tools make it easy to customize and investigate places.  With no sign in required, study how your own school or university campus has changed, and the surrounding neighborhood, and compare it to the direction and amount of growth in other communities nearby or across the country.  Why do communities change?  Why do some communities change rapidly while others change much more slowly?  What did your community look like 60 years ago?  How will your community change in the future?  Can you spot evidence of deforestation or reforestation, of mining and mining reclamation, of paving over of agricultural lands vs. reclaiming of urban greenways?  In 2019, this web mapping application was improved so that now you can easily save the maps you are examining to your own web maps in your own ArcGIS Online account.


Esri USGS historical map explorere

Examining nearly 100 years of change in Wylie, Texas, using a 1929 and 2020 topographic map in the Esri USGS topographic map explorer.


(7)  Examining local changes using satellite imagery.    Using the Wayback imagery in ArcGIS Online opens a window on the world's changes from human and natural causes to you by simply using a web browser.  High-resolution imagery for the past five years covering the entire planet is at your fingertips with this web mapping application.  The app begins in Las Vegas, one of the most evident examples of rapid change over a short time period.  In Las Vegas, the direction and magnitude of urban sprawl can be studied, and, panning to the east to Lake Mead, the decrease in the elevation of the reservoir over the past five years is starkly evident.  Click on "only versions with local changes" to focus attention on specific years that cover your area of interest. Use the plus signs to the right of each image layer to save desired images to your own ArcGIS Online map, where you can then add additional layers such as population change, cultural features, ecoregions, or elevation.   Use this tool to examine coastal erosion in England, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China, the results of wildfires in Australia and California, urban sprawl, landslides and volcanic activity, and much more--right down to construction of your own school or university buildings. 


Wayback imagery for Las Vegas Nevada USA.

Examining urbanization in Las Vegas Nevada USA using the Wayback imagery.


(8)  Examining median age, income, behavior, and diversity at state, county, and neighborhood scales.  Using ArcGIS Online's map viewer, you can investigate the relationship between such variables as median age and median income, explore consumer and other behaviors, study the patterns of diversity, and examine how many of those variables change over time.  For example, begin with this ArcGIS Online map that contains about 10 different layers.  Where is the median age lower than the surrounding areas, and which factor(s) are pulling down the median age (certain types of employment, a military base, a university campus, a prison)?  Where does the median income increase as the median age increase, and where does that trend break down, and why?  How does your community compare to others that contain roughly the same population, and why?  What are the projected trends for some of these variables into the future?  To investigate this last question, use this ArcGIS Online map containing 2018 Census data projected to 2023 to incorporate the temporal component.  I opened this map, changed the scale to the zip code level, and changed the style to reflect changes in 2018 median household income compared to that projected in 2023, as shown below.


Examining changes in 2018 median household income compared to 2023 projections, by zip code.


(9)  Examining population change during the Dust Bowl by county in the USA.  This map invites investigation into the climate, agriculture, and population change during the decade of the 1930s in the American Great Plains and in California.  The map is tied to a lesson that is part of the GeoInquiries collection, which are designed for brief but intensive investigations that can be used across many curricular areas and in many educational levels and settings.  In the case of the Dust Bowl map and lesson, data layers include the percentage of land in each county involved with agriculture, population change from 1930 to 1940, change in the number of farms from 1930 to 1940, precipitation graphs, and more.  


Dust Bowl map

ArcGIS Online map showing the percentage of each county in farms in 1930.


Dust Bowl Lesson

Part of the hands-on geoinquiry lesson inviting investigation into the Dust Bowl.


(10) Exploring population dynamics via the NASA SEDAC CIESIN Global Population Estimation Web Mapping Application.  Having been a long-time fan since my days as a US Census Bureau geographer of NASA SEDAC (the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center) and CIESIN (the Center for International Earth Science Information Network), I asked their staff at the 2018 Esri User Conference if they would consider building a new web mapping service.  They did so, much to my appreciation, and this application provides the educator, researcher, and student with a valuable, easy-to-use tool to examine the distribution and demographic characteristics of the world’s population.  The result is their NASA SEDAC Population Estimator). Population, demographics, and pyramids can be calculated for any user-defined area, allowing regions to be easily compared, opening the door for research as to the reasons those differences exist and implications for the future. Compare how population growth will occur in places with a younger population, such as northern India, to that of central Japan, and the impact of population growth on natural resources, infrastructure needed, and city size.


The CIESIN population mapping service.

The CIESIN population mapping service.


Want to dig deeper?  Here are two ways to do so.  First, the National Council for Geographic Education’s journal The Geography Teacher has compiled a special issue for teaching about the 2020 Census with background on the planning and execution of the census and discussion regarding the use of data. Several lesson plans provide an orientation to materials available from the Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program, and others offer guidance in using geospatial technology.  Routledge, in partnership with the National Council for Geographic Education, is excited to announce that The Geography Teacher special issue, 2020 Census, is available to read with free access until May 1, 2020.  I, Michael Ratcliffe from the US Census Bureau, and others have all authored articles in this issue of the journal:   My article provides additional teaching foundations, references, and background to the above content. 

The Geography Teacher special census issue.

The Geography Teacher special 2020 Census and population issue. 


The second way to dig deeper into the above content is to use my Microsoft Sway version of much of the content described in this essay, at the following URL:  Teaching population change, demography, and lifestyles with interactive mapping tools.    This presentation is suitable for use in teaching as the links are all live, and some of the web maps are embedded in the presentation. 


I hope you find this to be useful, and I look forward to hearing how you use these resources in your own instruction.


Wait!  A few more additional fascinating maps and data sets.    Here are some new and absolutely fascinating interactive maps in ArcGIS Online that you might find useful for your work, perhaps especially for those of you in instruction.  When Americans move from one state to another, their change of residence is recorded by the IRS when they file taxes in a new state.   The data was processed via the Distributive Flow Lines tool for each state to visualize the quantity of population migration in both the inbound and outbound directions. This allows seeing where people are moving to and where they are coming from.


State to state outflow migration.  The flow lines are not literal paths that people took, but rather a directional flow. The pop-up for each state shows how population migration has changed between 2011-2016 for each state.    Why do Texans tend to move to other warm states?  Why do people who move out of North Dakota tend to move to Minnesota?


State to state inflow migration.   This shows how population is moving toward each state from all other states. Note how many of the inflow patterns for a state are similar to a state’s outflow migration and how many are quite a bit different:


If that weren’t all, there are 20 COUNTY-LEVEL incoming and outgoing migration maps listed in the second half of the essay where the above maps are linked:


On this topic, 3 more of my favorite in-flow and out-flow web maps and data sets are as follows:


The US Census Bureau flow mapper.  County-by-county in-migration and out-migration:


The state-by-state migration map from the NY Times:

If you are maxed out on your NYT views, here it is on another site:




Jo, I., J. E. Hong, and K. Verma. 2016. Facilitating spatial thinking in world geography using web-based GIS. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 40 (3): 442–459.


Kerski, J. J. 2003. The implementation and effectiveness of GIS in secondary education. Journal of Geography 102 (3): 128–137.


Manson, S., J. Shannon, S. Eria, L. Kne, K. ****, S. Nelson, L. Batraa, D. Bonsal, M. Kernik, J. Immich, and L. Matson. 2013. Resource needs and pedagogical value of web mapping for spatial thinking. The Journal of Geography 113 (1): 1–11.


Milson, A., and J. Kerski. 2012. Around the world with geospatial technologies. Social Education 76 (2): 105–108.

As a lifelong geomentor and someone who wholeheartedly believes in education and mentoring, I am happy to announce that a new article of mine on this topic is now available in xyHT Magazine:  In the article I explore how learning and mentoring have changed with the evolution of GIS, how personal networks still matter, and what career mentoring is and how it can be of benefit.  I then investigate ways that mentoring in education works in venues such as Nepris and Mentored Pathways, and I close with a focus on geomentoring and assisting schools and those affected by natural disasters, using examples from and URISA's GIS Corps.  Another article in this series from a surveying point of view is here.  My other articles about GIS in education in xyHT Magazine are here


I look forward to your comments about this article and about this important topic!


Joseph Kerski working with educators in a GIS professional development setting.

Joseph Kerski working with educators in a GIS professional development setting.

I recently highlighted some incredible GIS Day stories from 2019, but more stories continue to be submitted.  I feel that these additional stories are so inspiring that they too really need to be shared, which I have done, below.  Want to see even more stories?  See those submitted by event hosts via this story map.


India:  A GIS Day event was organized by and held at the Training Centre, Department of Geoinformatics, Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University (KSRDPRU), Gadag, Karnataka, India, with the objective to create an awareness and applications of GIS technology in various fields, especially in rural development. Coordinators, Head of Departments, Faculty, and Students from all Departments of the university were invited. The event included Formal Talks and Presentations, GIS Resource Mapping, a GIS field hunt, and a GIS Quiz. The chief guest was Prof. Dr. Suresh V. Nadagoudar, Registrar and Vice Chancellor (Acting),KSRDPRU, Gadag.  First, the Honorable Prof. Dr. Nadagoudar addressed the gathering, explaining the need and importance of GIS in our daily life. He urged to make use of GIS technology for all the students in their studies and their research. In his talk he quoted the transparency brought in MGNREGA by implementing a GIS system. The Course Coordinator Shri. Suresh Lamani communicated the importance, use of GIS technology and its applications in various fields. The hands-on workshop focused on how to prepare and produce the map of natural as well as man-made resources using ArcGIS 10.5 software. The GIS hunt was a fun field game on collection of GPS coordinates using handled GPS devices and and smartphones. The GIS Quiz was a multiple choice quiz competition. At the event, students of other departments came to know about the importance of GIS applications in daily life and for better decision making. This event brought-out awareness about how GIS plays a key role in various fields of spatial planning and management of rural lives.  

Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University GIS Day event 1

Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University GIS Day event, India, outside activities. 


Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University GIS Day event, India, inside activities.

Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University GIS Day event, India, inside activities. 


Belarus:  Olga Serebryannaya, Esri Internationalization Product Engineer, shared this inspiring GIS Day story from Belarus.   Held at the Mogilev State A. Kuleshov University, Professor Natalia Tupitsyna and her students created and shared this story map ( in which multiple student projects are featured.  These include a set of Survey123 quizzes to check the knowledge of geography for middle school students, a Country of Fairy Tales showing precise geographical locations of the best books for kids, including Garry Potter, Pinocchio, the Mermaiden, and many others, Ramsar Convention Wetlands of Belarus, National Parks of Belarus, National parks and Natural reserves of Turkmenistan, The most famous Football Clubs, Noise pollution in a city of Mogilev (Belarus), Twilights and real world (geographical locations of the Twilights movies).   In another event in Belarus at the Brest State A.S.Pushkin University, students presented an amazing array of projects (, including georeferenced historical photos of the City of Grodno – a city of ancient temples of different religions, the most famous world attractions and points of interest, the most amazing world zoos, the most popular YouTube channels, pollution of world cities, the most dramatic earthquakes, and UNESCO features of Italy.


One of the Belarus story maps.

One of the story maps created and featured during the GIS Day events in Belarus--of selected football (soccer) teams.


Another GIS Day web map created in Belarus.

Another web map, on historical points of interest, created and shown at the GIS Day events in Belarus.


Argentina:   At Argentina's National Technical University, Tucumán Region, GIS is an elective subject of the fourth year for students in Information Systems Engineering. Ten students presented their projects in the university's 12th GIS Day event and showed how GIS can contribute to society and the place where people live.  Mr. Alejandro Báscolo, Professor of the GIS Chair Geographic Information System explained: "This event exposes the intentions of the Faculty to advance with disruptive knowledge that can improve the quality of life of the environment as a university extension and contribution by students.   More information, including the press release about the event, is available here:  

One of Argentina's GIS Day events.

GIS Day event at Argentina's National Technical University, Tucumán Region.


Guatemala:  Silvia Forno reported on a very successful day in Guatemala, held by the Municipality of Guatemala, Dirección de Información Geográfica Municipal.  A total of 8 presentations were given and they raffled off GIS t-shirts and ArcGIS personal use licenses that were donated to the event hosts.  You can discover more here:   


Guatemala GIS Day.

Guatemala GIS Day celebration.


Malaysia:   The TNB GIS DN (GIS Project for Distribution Network, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, Malaysia) hosted its first GIS Day celebration with 50 attendees.  They reported that they celebrated with cake, pizza, and happiness!  Very spatial! 

GIS Day celebration in Malaysia.

GIS Day celebration at the GIS Project for Distribution Network, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, Malaysia.


Portland Oregon USA:  Christina Friedle, Geography Faculty and Department Chair at Portland Community College, reported that their 8th Annual GIS day celebration attracted over 150 people (their largest one yet) with a great deal of enthusiasm, sponsors, and speakers. The Portland GIS Day event has always been grassroots, with a volunteer group of organizers and open to anyone who interested in attending.  Christina Friedle (Portland Community College) and Madeline Steele (Tri Met) first organized the Portland GIS Day event in 2012, with Alexa Todd (Metro) joining them in 2016.  This year, Debbie Blackmore (EYEON18) and Liam Neeley-Brown (Kroger) join the group or organizers, making it a well-rounded team.
The highlight of the evening was our Keynote Speaker, Metro Planner and "Geospatial Philosopher" Matthew Hampton. His presentation titled “Alis Volat Propriis” explored what it means to be an Oregonian and fly with your own wings. Hampton entertained with a retro “Streetview” video tour of Aspen, CO from 1978 and a live demonstration of black-powder mapping.
A record number of local businesses and organizations, whose donations covered the cost of the venue, food and beverages, raffle prizes, a speaker gift and other giveaways, sponsored the event.  Sponsors included the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, EcotrustEsriMapboxOregon Chapter of Urban and Regional Information Systems AssociationDOGAMIPortland Community College - GeographyPortland State University - GeographyQuantum SpatialSociety for Conservation GIS, Gartrell Group, and Timmons Group.
Following another GIS Day tradition was the late afternoon Missing Maps Mapathon, led by Chaelese Kailewa and Dale Kunce (co-founder of the Missing Maps project!). This event brought together 25-30 people to digitize buildings in Tegal, Indonesia using OpenStreetMap.  The data created during this event will be used by the Red Cross to assist in forecasting future disaster impacts by knowing in advance what is likely to be impacted, its exposure and vulnerability. Many thanks to the PSU Geography department for use of the computer lab. The data improvements made during this Mapathon - and others like it - make a huge difference for aid groups around the world.  Christina added, "Thank you to all the additional volunteers who made the night run smoothly – PCC students Catherine Greene, Ben Meister, and Michael Puma; our photographer Kelly Neely-Brown; and our video production team at Outlier." 


Watch the GIS Day video, read a summary of the event, and view some photos from the event, here:


Portland GIS Day event

One of the images from the Portland GIS Day event; for more photos, see above link. 

Portland black powder mapping!  

One of the black powder mapping results--boom!

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.

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 idea behind Mapillary is a simple but powerful one:  Take photos of a place of interest as you walk, bike, drive, or however else you move across the landscape using the Mapillary mobile app.  The app takes photographs automatically, which you then upload to the Mapillary database.  Once there, they are wonderfully combined into a ground photo view that is a bit like Google’s StreetView, showing you a digital virtual path of how you traversed the landscape.  Mapillary is part of the rapidly growing crowdsourcing citizen science movement, which seeks to generate “volunteered geographic information” content from ordinary citizens.  In fact, Mapillary is helping to generate critical infrastructure and natural resource inventory in places around the world that have no national mapping agency or local GIS data.  Mapillary is therefore helping to create a data-informed citizenry that can more effectively plan resilient, safe, and thriving communities.  As part of the growing set of artificial intelligence tools, Mapillary can also automatically extract map features from images—light poles, trees, benches, curbs, and so on.  While I have written about Mapillary in the past, and regularly include Mapillary in my field workshops, in this essay I wish to provide an update for people already familiar with this tool, and introduce new people to these exciting capabilities.  


Mapillary is much more than a set of tools–it is a community, with its own MeetUps and ambassadors, and it is an Esri partner.  At the time of this writing, over 710 million images have been contributed, covering over 8.6 million kilometers.  Currently, the site’s leaderboard shows that the top 50 users have submitted over 1 million images each, with the leader at 18 million images and nearly 300,000 km.  I currently have submitted 2,400 images covering 24 km.  I have a long way to go: Ah!  More fieldwork!


There are many uses for Mapillary in education, and I have explored all of the following with students at the secondary, university, and informal education (libraries, museums, after-school clubs) level over the past few years in a wide variety of settings and institutions.  First, I use Mapillary to help students explore places of interest from thousands of users around the world.  The Mapillary map page linked to images allows instructors and students to play sequences of images in a flowing video style that provides a powerful immersive experience of thousands of landscapes and places around the world.  What clues do the vegetation, land use, building type, weather, and place names give about the climate, ecoregions, biomes, history, and culture of the area?  These images and maps can be powerful sources of inquiry, prompting investigations using other sources and drawing on content knowledge in history, environmental studies, geography, earth science, and even language arts, as I explain in this video.


To examine the map and images, from the main page, under the Imagery tile, select “Explore coverage.”  A global map will open with the Mapillary data collected shown in green.  For example, if you zoom to Melbourne Australia, you will see a large circular feature that I collected in Royal Park, shown below.  You can see the photographs I took on a fine late winter day as I was walking to the University of Melbourne to teach a GIS workshop.  Look at those fantastic Australian trees!  You can also tick the “Play” button in the image to “travel” around the circle as I did, in your case, virtually, using the images.  Note how each image indicates where on the map it was captured and what direction from straight ahead I took it.  You can also play the sequence in full screen mode with the map in the corner, turn on object detection, or filter the view.  


Mapillary image

Try walking along my route through Royal Park in Melbourne by clicking on the forward and backward arrows in the above immersive view collected with Mapillary!


Mapillary image

Example set of Mapillary points and images I collected in Royal Park in Melbourne Australia. 


Second, I use Mapillary with students in the field to create data, and encourage faculty reading this to do the same with your own students.  You will need to register for a free Mapillary account to do this.  After obtaining your free account, download the Mapillary app for your phone.  You can use this Mapillary app to create photos and maps to document a field trip to your local wetland, rainforest, prairie, or urban neighborhood, and if you cannot get off campus, use the tools to walk every pathway on campus.  The Mapillary app is free and fun to use, and can spark discussions such as “how does the app determine my location?” and “how does the app know what direction I am pointing my phone?”  As you collect tracks, they will be visible on the web map along with the global community’s tracks, and also, your own tracks will be visible as “uploads” on your phone app (shown below).


Mapillary image

My set of Mapillary images currently online.


For students who become familiar with creating Esri ArcGIS Online maps and Esri Storymaps, Mapillary images can be embedded in these types of multimedia maps.  Start simply by downloading one image from Mapillary, such as mine, here, in Melbourne, using the Download Image while logged into Mapillary: Add this into a Map in ArcGIS Online.  Make a story map and experiment with this image.  Or, link to the image online.  See below for example.


Mapillary image

Example Mapillary image embedded in a map note in ArcGIS Online.  Try it yourself with my image:


Mapillary provides map data as a subscription and downloads are requested through Mapillary for Organizations.  Mapillary for Organizations is a workspace that anyone with a Mapillary account can create. Within an organization, there can be multiple individual accounts. Thus, it provides a way to organize capture projects and request data for your area of interest, rather like putting together a team for mapping purposes.  To use data for educational purposes, you should focus on data that you or your students have collected. 


You can download your Mapillary map data and bring it into ArcGIS Online.  The data gets extracted as a GeoJSON file, which you can add to your ArcGIS Online map as I will explain below.  Go to your sequence in the web mapping app >  click the three dots in the bottom right corner, as shown below:


Mapillary image

The 3 dots on your collected track that allow you to download your data for use in ArcGIS. 

After clicking on the 3 dots, select: > Advanced options" > "Download lines" to get the trace of your track:


Mapillary image

Downloading your Mapillary track.


After selecting Download Lines, a GeoJSON file will open up in a web browser tab.  Right click somewhere on in the white space where there is no text, and > "save as." Change the filetype to "all files" and then add the ".geojson" extension to the file name. Alternatively, in a web browser where you are displaying the GeoJSON file, copy all of its contents, paste it into Notepad, and name the file appropriately, such as Melbourne_track.geojson.  Your system will likely add “.txt” to the end of the file name.  If so, rename the file and take off the “.txt” extension. 


Once you have your GeoJSON file, go to ArcGIS Online > Add Data > Add from file, and point to your geojson file.  Symbolize the tracks in the area on user name so you can determine which track is your own, as I did, below:


Mapillary image

Alternatively, you could add your GeoJSON file as a file to your ArcGIS Online content, thereby creating a feature service from it.  Then, you can add it to your map, and filter on the user name to only see your own track, as shown in this web map of mine, here.  Now that it is a feature service, it is an even more powerful layer than simply a map element, that you can now use as input to your spatial analysis tools, such as buffer, overlay, and more. 


Next, for enhanced geo-visualization, try bringing your Mapillary track into the 3D scene viewer in ArcGIS Online, as I did here; see below.

Mapillary image

Mapillary track in a Esri ArcGIS 3D scene.


Mapillary image

Close up of Mapillary track in 3D scene viewer using a hiker as the symbol.


Want to dig deeper?  You can even extract features from the images; see more information here on map features, and the help page about how to bring data to ArcGIS Online.  When you do so, you are using Artificial Intelligence in action!  See an example of features in the benches example below, along with my track.  The benches have been extracted with the Mapillary algorithms from the images on my track.


Mapillary image

Example set of Mapillary features in ArcGIS Online.   Mapillary uses computer vision, a form of artificial intelligence, to automatically identify and extract map objects like these benches.


Next, use these guidelines to start building story maps with Mapillary sequences.  Essentially you will get the embed code for the Mapillary image, its thumbnail, and the geographic coordinates.  As they are working through the procedures, show them this example set of stories and this story map of a refugee camp for inspiration.


Mapillary image

For students who become familiar with using Esri’s Web App Builder, you might also encourage them to try the Mapillary Widget, which allows for the viewing of Mapillary street-level images.


I encourage you to use these Mapillary tools to enhance your fieldwork, teach about apps, Web GIS, and crowdsourcing, and to improve the spatial thinking of your students.


For more information, see my related essay on the Mapillary blog.  

ArcGIS is a platform, which means that (1) applications can be built upon it, which offer powerful capabilities for educators and students, and (2) the tools within the platform are connected.  When these ArcGIS connected tools are used in tandem, complete experiences are easily realized.  One example is fieldwork:  Planning > Collection > Mapping > Analysis > Communicating > Monitoring.   GIS enhances each step in this process.  The attached activity I created guides you and your students through the following 10 steps: 

  1.  Considering why and how to conduct fieldwork.
  2.  Understanding the scope and purpose of Esri field and office apps.
  3.  Understanding some of the most popular ways to map field-collected data in ArcGIS Online.
  4.  Creating a field survey using one of these apps, Survey123.
  5.  Collecting data into the survey.
  6.  Creating an ArcGIS Online map from the survey data.
  7.  Symbolizing, classifying, and examining the data in the ArcGIS Online map.
  8.  Conducting spatial analysis using the ArcGIS Online map.
  9.  Creating an operations dashboard from the survey data.
  10.  Creating a story map from the ArcGIS Online map, operations dashboard, and survey.


This workflow touches several key tools and methods for collecting, mapping, analyzing, and communicating the results of fieldwork.  It is my hope that through this lesson, you will consider what data you would like to collect, and be empowered and confident that you can use these tools in your own work in education and beyond.


--Joseph Kerski


One of the messages of the activity--don't just map it--analyze it and understand it!

One of the messages of the activity--don't just map your field-collected data--analyze it and understand it!


Workshop workflow

Part of the attached lesson showing the workflow that touches on several key tools and methods for collecting, mapping, analyzing, and communicating the results of fieldwork.  

Getting out into the field.

Collecting data in the field is important--plants, animals, weather, soil moisture, water quality, condition of trails, and much more, and can be done through these connected tools in the ArcGIS platform.   Photo by Joseph Kerski.

As I frequently give short courses and presentations focused on GIS in education, and as I receive requests for this content on a regular basis from the education community, I thought it would be helpful to post a collection of my most recent content here.  


Why GIS in Education Matters:  My presentation with a research focus.

Why GIS in Education Matters:  Article in Geospatial World.

History of GIS in K12 Education:  Article in xyHT magazine


Short course on useful apps in teaching and learning and 10 things you can do with ArcGIS Online.

Short course on ways you can teach with modern web-based GIS tools and data. 

Short course on 10 key skills to grow in ArcGIS Online.  

Short course on fieldwork > map > analysis > storymap > operations dashboard. 


Presentation on what geography is and why geography matters.

Presentation on why data quality matters more now than ever.

Presentation on the modern web GIS paradigm.


Presentation and short course on exploring your world through geography and beyond.

The Lakota Language Story Map and the reasons it was created.

The storymaps and the digital humanities collection.


Short course on GIS for beginners and intermediates.

Short course on predicting the weather.

Short course on fieldwork > map > analysis > storymap > operations dashboard. 


Short course on story maps - slides and short activities - the #2 link here. 

Short course on story maps - detailed activity.


Keynote address on 5 forces, 5 trends, and 5 skills critical in GIS as we look to the 2020s. 

Keynote address on geography--key for resilient communities and a healthy planet.


Lifelong learning

I hope and trust that these items will be useful in your own work.  Feel free to use and modify them and I look forward to hearing how you have used these resources. 


--Joseph Kerski



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