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You've heard about the the Esri Ocean and Atmospheric GIS Forum taking place in Redlands, CA November 5-7, 2019... with a potent array of workshops, speakers, sponsors, and new insights for this growing community. As we expand our focus to include Atmospheric and MetOcean content, I'd like to share a few details of the Forum.

 

What to Expect: Three Powerful Days of Networking, Learning, and Collaborating.

 

On Tuesday, November 5th we will kick-off with warm welcome and overview of Esri's new scientific program support by Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright, followed directly by a Keynote Presentation from NOAA's Deputy Director of the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), Joseph Pica. Pica supports access to one of the most significant archives on earth, with comprehensive oceanic, atmospheric, and geophysical data from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and from million-year-old ice core records to near-real-time satellite images.

Dawn Wright

 

The morning will continue with a more technical presentation from Dr Sandy MacDonald, Director of Spire Weather, who will share how his organization identifies, tracks and predicts weather systems, and delivers these models and data via the ArcGIS platform. 

 

We will cap the morning off with an inspiring and informative presentation from Dr. Sylvia Earle, whose Mission Blue is recognizing, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean by documenting and mapping Hope Spots.

                                                                                                              Sylvia Earle

The afternoon will be continue with a series of concurrent presentation sessions from you and your peers! Topics will include weather and atmospheric modeling, fisheries, marine debris, seafloor mapping workflows and more. The day closes with a Social with drinks and munchies for all.

 

On Wednesday, November 6th we feature the Technical Plenary, where feature a unique set of Ocean and Atmospheric analysis demonstrations, with out-of-the-box functionality that will inspire your work across several application areas. The Tech Plenary is always a favorite of The Forum, and includes these topics this year:

  • Machine Learning for Ocean Plastics
  • Space Time Cubes
  • Multidimensional analytical tools
  • Map comparison workflows
  • Applied Big Data analysis
  • Data Automation

                                     Tech Plenary The day will continue with Lightning Talks, and more concurrent sessions of Ocean and Atmospheric from you.

 

On the last day, Thursday Nov 7, we are offering several post-conference Workshops to choose from:

  • Insights for ArcGIS with Ocean Data
  • Field Operations and Story Maps
  • Web AppBuilder and Configurable Apps
  • Using Drone2Map
  • ArcGIS Pro Basics for Science
  • Advanced Analytical Workflows for Ocean and Atmospheric Scienc

        Ocean Forum Workshop      Tech Plenary   

Also attending are Business Partners, Distributors, and Esri staff, who will be presenting an amazing array of new applications and techniques that will define the state of Ocean and MetOcean GIS and forge your creativity in your work.

 

Looking forward to having you here at Esri headquarters and get involved by submitting a map, app, or paper—to inspire your peers from this thriving community of mutli-D GIS practitioners!


Registration for the Esri Ocean and Atmospheric GIS Forum in sunny Redlands, Nov 5-7 is still open! Paper deadline extended to 13 September! Don't miss out, especially at this critical time for oceans, weather & climate change! https://www.esri.com/…/about/events/ocean-gis-forum/overview #EsriOceanForum 

 

We are offering the most exciting Forum ever, with a potent array of workshops, speakers, sponsors, and new information and insights for this growing community. We are also extending a warm welcome (and focused content) to our Atmospheric and MetOcean users.

 

Our community is moving into new and profound areas, such as large scale bathy data collection and processing, 3D and 4D analytics, new applications for imagery, IoT, and big data processing at sea, and much more.

 

We are certain that attending this year’s Forum will inspire innovative approaches from proven best practices, which will help ‘close the gap’ between your work, and the solutions our people and planet require.

 

What to Expect: Three Powerful Days of Networking, Learning, and Collaborating.

 

After a welcome from Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright, and words of inspiration from Sylvia A. Earle (!!), Joseph A. Pica of the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS)(https://www.weather.gov/organization/pica-josephwill present the keynote address on Tuesday, November 5. Pica serves as Deputy Director at the National Centers for Environmental Information, providing access to one of the most significant archives on earth, with comprehensive oceanic, atmospheric, and geophysical data from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun and from million-year-old ice core records to near-real-time satellite images.

 

The morning will continue with a short set of technical presentations from accomplished technology architects and thought leaders from both the atmospheric and ocean communities. 

 

On Wednesday, November 6th we feature the Technical Plenary, where feature a unique set of Ocean and Atmospheric analysis demonstrations, with out-of-the-box functionality that will inspire your work across several application areas. Included in the Tech Plenary topics are the following:

- Machine Learning for Ocean Plastics

- Space Time Cubes

- Multidimensional analytical tools

- Map comparison workflows

- Applied Big Data analysis

- Data Automation

 

We will have several post-conference workshops to choose from on Thursday, November 7:

- Insights for ArcGIS with Ocean Data

- Field Operations and Story Maps

- Web AppBuilder and Configurable Apps

- Using Drone2Map

- ArcGIS Pro Basics for Science

- Advanced Analytical Workflows for Ocean and Atmospheric Science

 

Also attending are business partners, distributors, and Esri staff, who will be presenting an amazing array of new applications and techniques that will define the state of Ocean and MetOcean GIS and forge your creativity in your work.

 

Please join us at Esri headquarters and get involved to inspire your peers from this thriving community of mutli-D GIS practitioners! Register today! http://www.esri.com/events/ocean 

Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Esri have come together for a Smart Oceans Panel at SXSW 2019, entitled Technology from Surf to Seafloor 

The demand for oceanographic data has never been greater—we need to understand how our coasts, open oceans, and coral reefs are changing if we are to preserve and efficiently utilize the ocean’s vast resources. Marine technology development must confront challenges such as turbulent waves, intense pressure at depth, and remote and (big) data transfer issues, for example. Now, more than ever, scientists and engineers need to make their complex discoveries accessible to broad audiences via high-tech data visualization and storytelling. This panel will explore innovative ways that technology development is advancing in the ocean—from the Internet-of-Things-enabled surfboard fin that aims to measure coastlines changing due to sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and more, to mapping technologies that `visualize and interpret the ocean from the sea surface to the seafloor.

 

The panel occurs Monday, March 11, 2019

 

Watch this space for a short recap.

Now available and free "Interpolate 3D Oxygen Measurements in Monterey Bay" #ocean #GIS learning module http://p.ctx.ly/r/93g1 

 

See also elsewhere on GeoNet - New in ArcGIS Pro 2.3: 3D Interpolation with Empirical Bayesian Kriging 

Videos now available from the 2018 #EsriOceanForum at http://p.ctx.ly/r/92qu  Experience the action, insight, and inspiration for the first time, or relive the magic (see also http://p.ctx.ly/r/92qv )

GeoTools 20 Year Logo

WOW! 20 Years of GeoTools! 

 

We have two presentations and a booth presence at the conference this year.  I'm presenting on Local Ecological Marine Units in the Mapping Benthic Habitats session on Tuesday morning at 10:30am in Windsor A.  My colleague Charmel Menzel is presenting In the Tools Showcase from 3-5pm on Tuesday afternoon. Charmel Menzel, Esri GIS Solution Engineer, will discuss and demonstrate ArcGIS Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Configurable Apps.

 

We're excited to continue to be a part of the GeoTools community.  Please stop by so we can talk about GIS and the Science of Where.  See you in Myrtle Beach!

 

coastalgeotools

scienceofwhere

Calculating the extent and coverage for your bathymetry data just got easier.

 

Bathymetry data typically comes as a processed image (.tif or .asc) or maybe even a Bathymetric Attributed Grid (BAG) file.  This allows access to a single band of values that represent elevation.  This data is commonly stored as 32 bit floating point.  While that’s all very informative it’s sometimes difficult to understand how many of the pixels contain data and how many don’t and just how much area was mapped.

 

This tool reclassifies the bathymetry data and then generates polygon footprint for the areas where data exists.

 

Results of tool showing labeled polygon of areas mapped.

 

The tool started as a model in ArcGIS Pro and is now  available as a geoprocessing package (.gpkx) so you can use it in your ArcGIS Pro projects.

 

Model created in ArcGIS Pro using Model Builder

 

What is a geoprocessing package?

 

A geoprocessing package is a convenient way to share geoprocessing workflows by packaging one or more tools and the data used by the tools into a single compressed file (.gpkx). Geoprocessing packages are created from one or more successfully run geoprocessing tools.

 

You can add the geoprocessing package to ArcGIS Pro by downloading it and copying the file (.gpkx) to your ArcGIS Pro Project folder in windows explorer. Then browse to that location in ArcGIS Pro using your Catalog and add the tool to the current project by right clicking on it.

 

Try it out!

 

Catalog in ArcGIS Pro showing how to add geoprocessing (.gpkx) package to project.

 

 

ArcGIS Pro showing results of geoprocessing tool.

Have you ever seen green algal swirls in surface waters or dozens of dead fish washed up on the shoreline? Do you know what likely was the cause? These phenomena are typically related to the amount of chlorophyll in our oceans. Mapping chlorophyll concentrations in the ocean can be accomplished through remote sensing. Chlorophyll in water changes the way it reflects and absorbs sunlight, allowing scientists to map the amount and location of phytoplankton using optics. These measurements give valuable insights into the health of the ocean environment, and help researchers study the ocean carbon cycle.

 

Phytoplankton, Algae and MODIS!

The same critters that cause red tides and harmful algal blooms are also the reason for success of aquaculture and fisheries. Tiny microscopic organisms called Phytoplankton contain chlorophyll and conduct photosynthesis (using light at the surface of the ocean) to produce energy, this is how they survive. These phytoplankton are at the base of the food chain for marine life and play a vital role in the carbon cycle by converting carbon dioxide to organic matter.

 

Phytoplankton Bloom off the coast of New Jersey - July 6, 2016. MODIS

 

Chlorophyll concentration data shown here are obtained from global satellite measurements by the MODIS-Aqua projects of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The image on the left shows the true-color satellite view and the image on the right shows the chlorophyll concentrations.

 

Phytoplankton are tiny microscopic organisms that survive by converting photosynthetic pigments such as chlorophyll into organic matter. The amount of phytoplankton in the ocean can be quantified by measuring chlorophyll concentrations. In the occurrence of a phytoplankton bloom, when populations are large, phytoplankton congregate, feed on the nutrients and form layers at the surface of the ocean. This causes the water to visually appear greener because of high concentrations of chlorophyll being observed from the phytoplankton.

 

The name Phytoplankton comes from the Greek words phyton, meaning “plant”, and planktos, meaning “wanderer” or “drifter”.

 

Phytoplankton Bloom Examples from MODIS. Available in the Living Atlas of the World.

 

Why is this important?

 

Changes in phytoplankton populations can impact fish and other marine life, which can in turn affect food availability. Scientist use phytoplankton as an indicator to understand the health and productivity of ecosystems both in the ocean and on land.

 

Chlorophyll is a new layer added by Esri to the Living Atlas of the World. It’s one of the many layers that is available within the Environmental collection of content. A few things that make this layer unique: it’s updated daily (automated) to reflect the previous days collection, the collection includes the entire archive spanning back to 2002, you can view the common time intervals (daily, 8 day, monthly) for the entire span of the archive, and the data are fully capable for analytics.

 

The layer is updated routinely using the Aggregated Live Feed tool.

 

Visualization: This layer can be used for visualization online in web maps and in ArcGIS Desktop.

 

Analysis: This layer can be used as an input to geoprocessing tools and model builder. Units are in mg/m-2. See this Esri blog post for more information on how to use this layer in your analysis. Do not use this layer for analysis while the Cartographic Renderer processing templates are applied.

 

Time: This is a time-enabled layer. It shows the average chlorophyll-a concentration during the map’s time extent, or if time animation is disabled, a time range can be set using the layer’s multidimensional settings. The map shows the average of all days in the time extent. Minimum temporal resolution is one day; maximum is one month.

 

Supporting images generated in ArcGIS Pro using Chlorophyll concentrations combined with the MODIS True Color Imagery available from Esri’s Living Atlas of the World.

 

North Sea Bloom | Phytoplankton Bloom off the north coast of Norway - July 23, 2017. MODIS

North Sea Bloom | Phytoplankton Bloom off the north coast of Norway - July 23, 2017. MODIS

 

Tasman Bay Bloom | November 9th, 2017 - Tasman Bay phytoplankton Bloom

Tasman Bay Bloom | November 9th, 2017 - Tasman Bay phytoplankton Bloom

 

Gulf of Alaska | Phytoplankton Bloom in the Gulf of Alaska on May 12, 2017. MODIS.

Gulf of Alaska | Phytoplankton Bloom in the Gulf of Alaska on May 12, 2017. MODIS.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Chlorophyll, Phytoplankton and the Ocean here are some additional resources:

NASA | Earth Science Week: The Ocean’s Green Machines

https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-ocean-data-shows-climate-dance-of-plankton/

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/habharm.html

https://www.globalchange.gov/browse/indicators/indicator-ocean-chlorophyll-concentrations

 

 

References:

Thurman, H. V. (2007). Introductory Oceanography. Academic Internet Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4288-3314-2.

NASA Earth Observatory (2010). Importance of phytoplankton. Web Article.

 

the living atlas living atlas layers esri ocean ocean science

Dear colleagues,

 

Please enjoy this initial Wakelet of last week's 2018 Esri Ocean GIS Forum. The compilation comes mainly from Twitter and Instagram.

 

Thanks to all who were able to attend and to many, many more for their support of our event!

So you’ve been seeing the ads and the emails for the 2018 Esri Ocean GIS Forum, and you’re wondering just what you will gain and experience in coming? The brief answer has several key components; the Tuesday Workshops, the Wednesday Plenary and Keynote Presentation, the Thursday Technical Plenary, the User Presentations and Lightning Talks throughout Wednesday and Thursday, and a few additional special presentations. Most important however, are the people that glue all of these components together; the conversations, networking and reuniting of this small and intimate gathering is what makes it so valuable. You will experience days at Esri Headquarters, with access to your marine and oceanographic peers, as well as to the Esri staff that create, use, and support the scientific tools and processes presented at the Ocean Forum.

 

The Workshops. Valuable new knowledge will be gained by attending the Workshops on Tuesday, November 6, presented directly from the product managers and developers who create ArcGIS and the related apps we are featuring. With six workshops to choose from, you will surely find a topic of interest, and they are all included with the price of registration.

 

The Plenary. On Wednesday after the traditional Hawaiian Protocol Opening, Esri Founder and President Jack Dangermond will provide a welcome and overview of what Esri has been creating for ocean and atmospheric ocean science, and you will be the first to peak at advances and future capabilities. Following that, Dr. Timothy Hawthorne will share his experiences and observations from his extensive field research with new components of the ArcGIS platform, and he will reflect on the influences of government science, commercial operators, and start up companies on where the technology is headed. Esri Chief Scientist Dawn Wright and Dr Roger Sayre of the USGS will also present an update on the new Ecological Coastal Units Project.

 

User Presentations. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons we have approximately 40 scientific papers from our user community who will be presenting a mix of 15 minute papers, and 10 minute Lightning Talks. The diverse mix of topics in these presentations, from an equally diverse group of agencies, institutions and organizations, represent the state of best practices of Ocean Science and Ocean GIS. The sharing and discussion that occurs in this context lifts the community and speeds our forward progress together.

 

The Technical Plenary. On Thursday November 8th, we will start the day with the Technical plenary, a 90-minute venue for Esri scientific and development staff to share the brand-new tools and techniques that have been created over the last year to support multidimensional analysis, 3-D interpolation, seafloor contouring, and more. We proudly demonstrate creative new methods and tools for research and analytics using publicly available content from the Living Atlas, and off the shelf, current software. The Tech Plenary is always the inspiring technical highlight of the Ocean Forum. Following the Tech Plenary this year, we will have a session of user experiences and other new information. These presentations will include Marine Protected Area work from NOAA and their partners, it will include work from our sponsors on semi real-time bathymetry collection and processing directly into ArcGIS information products, as well as other announcements of soon to be released functionality.

 

Our theme this year is Why (and How) We Map the Ocean. We will close The Forum with a community that is connected and informed, as well as individuals who will return home with new ideas and new inspiration. We at Esri get to hear from you what you’re working on and what you need from us. The Ocean Forum has always been primarily about building a community for sharing GIS tools and techniques in these exciting and challenging times. With a rapidly expanding  array of data collection hardware, it is critical to share with one another Why and How We Map the Ocean. Looking forward to seeing you there!

 

Join the GeoNet Community and Follow the Ocean Sciences GIS group

Before, during and after the conference we'll be connecting, collaborating and sharing updates in the Ocean Sciences  group on the GeoNet, Community. We invite you to join and contribute to the conversations. 

 

If you're not already a member of the GeoNet Community, follow these instructions:

  • If you don't already have an existing Esri account, click here to create your GeoNet and Esri account. 
  • If you already have an existing Esri account, go to the Esri.com drop down (see image below), sign in and click on "Community & Forums" to activate your GeoNet account. 

 

Great new story map originally debuted by Brett Rose of the Esri National Government Sciences Team at the 2018 FedGIS Conference, with dynamic particle tracking and "message-in-a-bottle" functions embedded 

 

What Causes Ocean Currents?

 

A companion story map is 

How Ocean Currents Impact the World

 

Thanks to Witold Fraczek for creating these extensive resources!

Esri Product Engineers/Data Scientists Shaun Walbridge, Noah Slocum, and Marjean Pobuda led the charge on a new peer-reviewed journal article about the open-source extension from Esri known as the Benthic Terrain Modeler (BTM). The paper describes the tools provided with the current release of BTM (v 3.0), highlighting powerful analytical workflows that combine ArcGIS with the Python scientific stack (aka SciPy), and the R statistical programming language (including the R-ArcGIS Bridge). BTM is used by scores of researchers around the world, and has been accessible for some time via ArcGIS Online at http://esriurl.com/btm (nearly 7500 views).

 

ABSTRACT:

High resolution remotely sensed bathymetric data is rapidly increasing in volume, but analyzing this data requires a mastery of a complex toolchain of disparate software, including computing derived measurements of the environment. Bathymetric gradients play a fundamental role in energy transport through the seascape. Benthic Terrain Modeler (BTM) uses bathymetric data to enable simple characterization of benthic biotic communities and geologic types, and produces a collection of key geomorphological variables known to affect marine ecosystems and processes. BTM has received continual improvements since its 2008 release; here we describe the tools and morphometrics BTM can produce, the research context which this enables, and we conclude with an example application using data from a protected reef in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

 

The paper is open access (#openscience) and part of a special issue on Marine Geomorphometry - http://www.mdpi.com/journal/geosciences/special_issues/marine_geomorphometry - featuring other studies that use GIS, including ArcGIS, as well.

By Guy Noll and Drew Stephens

 

It once was, that the shipper signed a contract with the skipper, and a ship set to sea. In normal outcomes, she came to port with intact cargo and new information about the route, the weather, and improvements in other ports. Cargo was off-loaded, the ship was paid, and in the case of exploration voyages, this cargo included samples and notes from the voyage that would require months or years of compilation for final release. The current paradigm for science and commercial maritime operations is that bandwidth is the bottleneck governing the movement of large, unprocessed, or real-time data to shore. Once ashore, the science content is picked-up by various ubiquitous terrestrial systems for further processing and management, and prepared for release via delivery of multiple information products, such as research papers, environmental assessments, and further grant proposals. In a sense, any type of mission; science, defense, survey, or cargo could be fit to this old paradigm of ship-to-shore modality.

 

The new paradigm focuses on our ability to efficiently conduct ocean science, monitor vessel safety, and ensure the timely delivery of cargo through telepresence and IoT enabled infrastructure. Modalities are being connected to decrease transfer and processing time of cargo and data. To be clear, IoT and other connectivity technologies are only part of the new paradigm, as data enablement and information integration for oceanographic content has also become a significant focus. We now regularly see data collection and enablement examples set by NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer, Schmidt Ocean’s R/V Falkor, and Ocean Exploration Trust’s R/V Nautilus, all brilliantly allowing us to explore the oceans with them in real-time HD video online, if we know where to look. How we efficiently store, extract, analyze and deliver these data collections as useful Information Products for a variety of stakeholders is the real challenge. The commercial marketplace is beginning to experience this positive disruption.

 

As new sensors and more efficient transmission systems are installed at sea, new vessels are streaming data in near real-time to scientists and practitioners anywhere. Demian Bailey, Project Manager for the National Science Foundation-funded Regional Class Research Vessel initiative at Oregon State University, speaks of this concept in terms of “Ships as satellites… a new form of connectivity to shore”, calling it “data presence.”

 

Accepting that satellites and certain radio frequencies can carry the data transmission load, soon to be followed by less-expensive fixed and drone-based relays, we at Esri are focused on the two following areas; Marine Data Cyber Infrastructure (Big Data) requirements, and building-out the Web GIS applications to deliver rapidly-configured and real-time Information Products. These Information Products include everything from instant ENC Chart updates, to real-time sea-state and weather modeling, as well as ship instrumentation and systems monitoring for the coming reality of pilotless shipping. The modalities are linked well before the ship arrives; fueling and waste requirements are known, as well as container, trucking, and other information. The foundation of our technological approach starts with open standards and web-enablement for systems integration, and we foresee the workflow leading to automated navigation, real-time water column visualization, condition-based maintenance of equipment, more efficient shipping risk pricing, and more.

 

Three key forces are driving these fundamental changes. First, new marine hardware, robotics and sensor technology abound, with a range of vehicle and deployment options, assuring anything that can be measured, will be measured. Secondly, from the human dimension, we are experiencing new awareness of the Blue Economy, fostering strong collaboration across commercial, academic, and government ocean and maritime sectors. Lastly, we are now in an era of Web GIS, where these data can be sourced real-time, and integrated with other open cloud data in ways that allow us to automatically configure visualization into apps that leverage artificial intelligence to sort through Big Data. We continue to build an application and partner framework to discover and use spatial and temporal patterns that human eyes and thinking may not detect. The combination of these forces is positively affecting innovation in data collection, analysis, availability, and usability.

 

Powerful monitoring and modeling across 3D and multi-dimensional space creates opportunities for insight and collaboration to solve problems using transdisciplinary teams. Examples of how this may manifest in the near future include; Port Authority harbormasters and reinsurers, making navigation decisions less risky, seafood suppliers and shippers, ensuring safety of the food supply, environmental domain monitors and developers, building better coastal installations with shorter permit times, and hydrologic forecast offices and scientific research institutions performing insightful science in the complex estuaries of the world.

 

Our partner Earth Analytic is successfully deploying working examples of these technologies in the mapping and surveying practices along with Kongsberg Maritime. We hope you come visit us in the Ocean ICT section at Oceanology International to find out more about how your work can be enabled through ArcGIS.

 

Thanks to our partner CPC for the opportunity to photograph R/V Baseline Explorer!

The  The specified item was not found. team is pleased to announce the release of a new Learn lesson featuring Ecological Marine Units data:

 

Predict Seagrass Habitats with Machine Learning

Seagrasses are an important ally in combatting global warming—these coastal marine plants sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide. When compared to terrestrial tropical forests, they can store up to 100 times more CO2 per acre. In addition, seagrasses have a large economic value: they provide shelter for marine life such as invertebrates, fish and sea turtles, making them important for local fishing economies. The roots help anchor sediment to the seafloor, decreasing the impact of storms and stopping erosion from affecting coastal homes and businesses. Understanding the habitat of this species is important to drive conservation efforts and map out areas where they disappear due to human interaction.

You are a marine ecologist who wants to model suitable locations for seagrass habitats around the world. Though you only have seagrass data for a small region of Florida, luckily seagrasses tend to grow in similar ocean conditions in coastal areas around the world. Using the predictive powers of a machine learning model along with the spatial analysis capabilities of ArcGIS Pro, you’ll find suitable locations for seagrass growth globally. First, you’ll create a training dataset with all the ocean variables that influence seagrass growth. Then, you’ll put the variables into Python and use a random forest prediction model to determine where the ocean conditions support seagrass growth. Finally, you’ll save the prediction results as a feature class and import it into ArcGIS Pro to find where the highest density of growth is likely to occur.

Skills: Manipulating and cleaning data, Loading machine learning libraries into ArcGIS Pro, Enriching data to fill missing values, Transferring data between ArcGIS Pro and Python, Performing analysis in Python, Performing prediction using random forests, Using geoprocessing tools for statistical analysis.

 

Thanks to Orhun Aydin, Marjean Pobuda, Keith VanGraafeiland, and Kathy Cappelli for their excellent work in developing this lesson.

WARNING: Last Jedi Spoiler Alert!

This is a re-posting of a blog piece by Lou Woodley, Community Engagement Specialist for AAAS's Trellis Science and Program Director of AAAS Community Engagement Fellows. I have posted it here because of the many helpful parallels to GeoNet.

 

5 things The Last Jedi reminds us about community management by Lou Woodley

 

1. Get to know – and work with – your biggest advocates

As any community manager knows, your community is made up of members with different personalities and activity levels. Your job is to create and maintain a space where they can work constructively together towards a common vision.

There’s been much criticism of Poe in The Last Jedi – the headstrong hero who’s so passionate about fighting for the rebellion that he’s prepared to be increasingly rash in his actions, whatever the cost. But most facilitators of well-established communities will recognise at least one Poe in their midst – the regular contributor who reliably dives in to every single one of the discussion threads, or who happily tells you and anyone else on the Internet who’ll listen how you’ve ruined everything with your latest product update/marketing campaign/editorial the minute it disappoints him.

Poe’s really a super-user out-of-control – someone who cares so much about the community that his actions ultimately become destructive and detrimental to it. While one response to this as a community manager is to regulate and respond after the fact via the enforcement of community guidelines, an alternative response is to attempt to head off the unconstructive behavior in the first place. Getting to know your super-users via check-ins, structured advocacy programs and other channels for regular feedback can help them to feel empowered but with their energy directed towards things of benefit to the overall community.

2. Communicate clearly and often with all of your community stakeholders – not just in times of crisis

One of the most desperate moments in The Last Jedi is towards the end when the rebels are hiding out in their formerly abandoned base, waiting to hear of any offers of help from outside allies – and not a single one comes.

A big danger for those running hosted communities is getting so engrossed in the day-to-day work with community members that they neglect to keep other stakeholders up-to-date about the community plans and progress.

Just because your senior management or funder is not yet regularly active in the community, don’t forget to keep them updated about how things are going with their investment. Maybe that requires educating them about community lifecycle models and what to expect over the coming months – rather than defensively attempting to justify why communities take time to flourish. Start that dialogue before you hit a crisis when you need money for a software upgrade or when community members are giving difficult feedback that needs a meaningful response.

Likewise, while you may be in the habit of celebrating your community members and their activities within your community, don’t forget to let the outside world know about the great work your community is doing too. This can be a source of new community members, as well as building reputation for your community within its niche, maintaining it as the place to be.

Depending on the community and your wider audience you might do this through a blog, periodic press releases and news stories, industry commentaries or social media.

3. Don’t get distracted by your origin stories – leadership should evolve

Origin stories are an important part of community culture – they create a shared narrative for the community, helping to initiate new members into what the community is for and reinforcing a sense of belonging for existing members. They can essentially be shorthand for some of your community values. But they can also become the target of embellishments and/or be deployed in service of an individual’s personal goals – resulting in the creation of cult hero figures within the community and a growing sense of disenfranchisement among members.

This is one of the themes The Last Jedi tackles in multiple places – from unpicking the heroic reputation of Luke Skywalker in Jedi history (and how that contrasts to his tortured reality following failure to successfully mentor Kylo Ren) to Rey exploring whether she really needs a “royal lineage” to be worthy of contributing as a Jedi.

Related to this, the initial founders and/or leaders of a community should never assume that they’re going to stay in that role forever. A healthy community thinks about succession early, and makes way for new inputs and new leadership to arise. The Last Jedi is a pivotal point in the history of the resistance because it sees the old leadership and hero figures – Luke, Leah (and to some extent the daredevil behaviour of characters such as Poe), moving aside or being pushed aside, to make way for a necessary rebirth.

4. Use your powers with kindness – and examine your motivations regularly

One of the most striking scenes in the Last Jedi is Kylo Ren ordering the slaughter of Luke Skywalker by directing all of the Empire’s firepower onto the lone figure standing unarmed in front of the rebel base. Looking increasingly maniacal, Ren is over-run by his hatred to destroy the person he sees as his greatest enemy, prompting even his colleague, Hux, to declare “Enough!”

We’ve all seen a variant of this online – discussions that rapidly escalate without any kindness where polarization of beliefs seemingly justifies inhumane behaviour. As community managers we have the ability to create spaces where we can influence the social norms in a variety of ways – from modeling good behaviour and rewarding constructive contributions to punishing bad behaviour by implementing the consequences of our community guidelines. It’s important at every stage to examine our own motivations to ensure that we’re behaving fairly and proportionately in our responses.

The related lesson in The Last Jedi is that breaking the community guidelines doesn’t always have to result in outright expulsion from the community (although of course, in some situations that is necessary). Sometimes deploying kindness and seeking cautious forgiveness and reintegration is an appropriate response to mistakes – something that has to be decided based on the circumstances and individuals involved.

For initially disobeying orders during a mission, Poe is demoted. But desperate and dissatisfied with new leader Holdo’s seeming lack of action, Poe then leads an outright mutiny. And yet, tellingly, the response of a recovered Leah and Holdo is to restrain and restrict Poe, without outright banishing him, knowing that he still brings something to the resistance. It’s going to be very interesting to see how his role as “difficult community member” evolves in the next Star Wars installment!

5. You don’t get to define the community’s vision alone – it gets co-created by community members

One of the ways we define a community is a group of people with a shared vision and thus shared sense of belonging. The key word here is shared. It’s not up to the community manager or their organisation or even a funder to define the ultimate vision for a community – it’s something that has to be evolved as a process between members of the community, including the community manager.

What this also allows is for members to step up or step back as their circumstances require, making for a fluid set of interactions. Different people have the capacity and desire to step up at different times – and different community members will be at different stages of commitment to the community and with slightly different interests. Can you create a space that’s flexible enough to accommodate that?

This is illustrated in The Last Jedi through the continual relighting and sharing of the beacon of hope throughout the film. Faced with impending failure, Finn loses all hope and attempts to flee in an escape pod – yet later in the film he’s the one championing the fight from the rebel base. Rey persists in persuading Luke to teach her about the Force, while at the same time confused and questioning its role in her life. Even fearless Leah loses hope at the lack of response to her call for help, then the crystal foxes point out a possible exit route.

No single character is responsible for the survival of the resistance – Poe doesn’t save them all in an act of heroic violence, Holdo’s plan for escape partially fails, Rey doesn’t dissuade Kylo from his plan, Leah doesn’t draw in any external allies, Luke doesn’t physically defeat Ren in a grand showdown… It’s their collective inputs and how they play off one another that ultimately move them towards a chance of survival – the incremental tick, tick, tick of progress rather than a single, grand gesture.

And to me that’s why the final scene with the boy wearing Rose’s ring with the rebel insignia is really about the role of community in the continuation of the rebellion and all it stands for – whatever its next iteration. Yes, the child is playing with a figure of Luke, but Luke’s role as a returned hero is just the visible face of a much bigger story that any community manager knows – your community is what it is because of the contributions of everyone in it.