Why Where Matters in Climate Research and Resiliency

01-20-2023 11:06 AM
Esri Notable Contributor
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I was recently asked to keynote a secondary student STEM geodesign competition called FutureCity.  As the topic of this keynote focused on how GIS is integral to climate science, I want to share the Story Map I created for this event in the hopes that it will be helpful in your own work.   The StoryMap is entitled "Why 'Where' Matters in Climate Research and Resiliency.  


Front portion of the StoryMap described in this article, with arrow meant to signify--keep learning and moving forward.

The StoryMap begins with a map tour that asks "why choose location as a framework for study?", followed by a redirect of the prevailing notion that maps are just reference documents (what is where) to a focus on maps as analysis tools (why things are where they are, and how mapping technologies can help build a more sustainable and resilient future).  Since the audience for this StoryMap was secondary school students, I then state that mapping and spatial analysis gives them superpowers and that they are tied to real-world issues and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  I end the first section with the following message:  You are already a leader:  By participating in this event today, you are demonstrating that you are curious about the world, and are a lifelong learner.  

In the next section, to connect with the audience, I briefly discuss my own career pathway which touches nonprofit, industry, government, and academic sectors of society, and mention that when I was their age, I loved to get outside and explore, to read, and to make maps.  The next section begins with "at no time in history have we been so empowered, and yet so challenged".  This and the following definitions of GIS are meant to convey to these students that we have some very serious issues on our planet that we need to understand and to solve, and that GIS can help us to do that.  I then discuss how people are critical to this effort, show the GIS for Science website, and the Women in GIS book to especially encourage the female students in the audience to consider using GIS in their careers--even starting right now in their schools with a free ArcGIS Online school organizational subscription. 

As a firm believer in "seeing is believing" with regard to maps, GIS, and visualization, I then show 6 engaging and accessible sets of spatial data and GIS tools:   The Ecological Marine Units app, the ArcGIS Wayback imagery, the Drought Aware app, the Esri climate hub, the Living Atlas Indicators of Planet Earth, and a demonstration of mapping field data in ArcGIS Online.  Next I outline 5 forces that have brought us - and the audience - to a pivotal moment in geotechnologies in education and society--geoawareness, geo-enablement, geotechnologies in the cloud, citizen or community science, and storytelling with maps.

I then discuss the implications of our increasingly measured world, and how GIS helps us visualize things in new ways that go far beyond what paper maps could ever do.  Next, I discuss 3 guidelines for all learners:  Go beyond the map, don't get too attached to the tools, and to not *just* focus on skills, but on content knowledge, holistic thinking, and the geographic perspective.  

I follow this with a discussion on why and how should students learn geotechnologies in the 2020s, with several examples of student work with UAVs, story maps, and spatial analysis.  I then address the students' teachers in encouraging them to use GIS in their instruction.  

I then discuss what I believe are the 7 most important skills for students to cultivate:  Be curious, get a free ArcGIS Online subscription and make maps and apps, be able to work with data and be critical of it, know your geographic and geotechnical foundations, be adaptable and flexible, read, and cultivate good communications.   

I close with 5 recommendations--be inspired by the GeoInspirations interviews I have conducted, listen to my Thinking Spatially and other podcasts, view some focused GIS-education videos, get a free ArcGIS subscription, and go through some Esri GIS lessons to keep growing and learning. 

I encourage you to use segments of this StoryMap in your own work to modify for your own needs. 

I look forward to your reactions.



About the Author
I believe that spatial thinking can transform education and society through the application of Geographic Information Systems for instruction, research, administration, and policy. I hold 3 degrees in Geography, have served at NOAA, the US Census Bureau, and USGS as a cartographer and geographer, and teach a variety of F2F (Face to Face) (including T3G) and online courses. I have authored a variety of books and textbooks about the environment, STEM, GIS, and education. These include "Interpreting Our World", "Essentials of the Environment", "Tribal GIS", "The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data", "International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning with GIS In Secondary Education", "Spatial Mathematics" and others. I write for 2 blogs, 2 monthly podcasts, and a variety of journals, and have created over 5,000 videos on the Our Earth YouTube channel. Yet, as time passes, the more I realize my own limitations and that this is a lifelong learning endeavor and thus I actively seek mentors and collaborators.