Esri User Conference Behind-the-Scenes: The Science Symposium

Blog Post created by Charlotte_Papp-esristaff on May 31, 2018

This week we will be discussing the third annual Esri Science Symposium. The Symposium started in 2015 by Esri’s Chief Scientist Dawn Wright as a reception for the 300 scientists of the GIS community attending the UC. In 2016, the reception expanded into the first actual Symposium with a keynote speaker, reaction discussion panel, and an audience of 450 attendees. The Symposium continues to grow in popularity with an expected audience of 600 for the 2018 event!


Dawn Wright presenting behind podiumWhat is the Esri Science Symposium?

The Science Symposium is held on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. in Ballroom 20D of the San Diego Convention Center. The keynote presentation will focus on critical environmental issues, while the reaction panel will include GIS experts talking of how the vision presented by the keynote speaker can be realized geospatially. Following the panel discussion is a Q&A and a discussion among the audience. The Symposium will conclude with a networking reception.


The purpose of the Symposium is to “broaden the tent" of participation at the UC beyond the traditional geographers, GI engineers and GIScientists who come to the UC, inviting those working in the domain sciences.

Domain sciences include: ocean science, hydrology, ecology, forestry, climate science, geology/geophysics, agricultural science, conservation biology, sustainability science and/or geodesign, health sciences, the social sciences

It also serves as a focal point for scientists at the UC who are normally scattered about as individuals and hidden in various sessions during the week.


How is the keynote speaker selected?

The keynote speaker is selected based on their relationship with Esri and the advancements that they are making in their field of science. Last year, Dr. Jon Foley, the Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, spoke about the need for scientists to communicate more clearly about the societal importance of their work, particularly in the area of climate change.


This year the keynote speaker will be Dr. Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii. Dr. Mora will be presenting on his work with deadly heatwaves impacting the entire planet. His work (featured in media outlets such as CNN, Newsweek, Wired, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post) has shown that 74% of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by the year 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world’s human population affected is expected to reach 48% by that same year.


Reaction panel sitting on stageHow is the reaction panel of experts chosen?

In addition to our keynote speaker, we are happy to welcome our five reaction panelists:


  • Tom Cova, University of Utah
  • Kellee Koenig, Conservation International
  • Mark Kumler, University of Redlands
  • Karen Kemp, University of Southern California
  • Amber Witner, United States Geological Survey


This year the reaction panel, consisting of a variety of GIS experts, will discuss how GIS can play a role in reversing this trend. Panelists are chosen based on their backgrounds, their prior work with Esri teams and Esri software, and their ability to speak to the issues that will be raised by the keynote speaker. The session will end with general questions and comments from the audience.


Crowd of people at 2017 Science SymposiumWho should attend?

The Symposium is open to everyone with interest in science and how GIS may be used to solve a variety of scientific problems that also have a great effect on society. The content is slightly geared towards professionals rather than researchers, but the conversation stems from those in the room, and all are welcome. Registration is free, and seating is limited.


(Please note: you must be registered for the Esri User Conference, or Education Summit @ Esri UC to attend this event)


Register Now>>


What makes the Science Symposium unique?

The Science Symposium is not a Technical Workshop or a User Presentation. Nor, is it a Special Interest Group meeting. It covers broad science issues such as Earth observation, sustainable development and climate change by prominent scientific experts, and provides a unique opportunity for UC attendees to interact directly in discussions with them. The speaker and panelists bring with them different perspectives and expertise that in turn help all attendees get a thorough understanding of the issue at hand. The Symposium is also more interactive than a traditional session, with inspiring moments coming from the speaker, and from the discussions with the reaction panel and the audience.


Tips from the Team:


  • Pace yourself. It's like going to Disneyland, if you try to do too much all at once you'll burn out
  • Ask anyone with a red lanyard for help; for anything; at any time
  • Pick up your badge before Monday morning
  • Bring a light wrap, pashmina or jacket that will fit into your bag
  • Stay involved after the symposium with the Sciences group


For Discussion:

For our GeoNet Scientists who have attended in the past, why have you attended previous Esri Science Symposiums?