Friday, December 5, 2014

GIS Day 2014 - Discovering the World through GIS

GIS Day is a grassroots event that celebrates geography, bringing people together to see the usefulness of maps and performing spatial analysis with GIS technology. Initial estimates show that there were nearly 1,000 GIS day events held worldwide. How did you celebrate?

On the UWF campus, the Environmental Studies Department and representatives from UWF’s Geographic Information Science (GIS) programs hosted their 4th annual GIS Day celebration on November 21st. Under the leadership of Dr. Matt Schwartz, Environmental Science Department Chair, the focus turned to making this day an opportunity to highlight the relationship between GIS and content areas in all four colleges via presentations and focused discussions between academic and professional partners.

At least 100 students, staff, faculty, department chairs and college deans attended some portions of the all-day event.

Dr. Matt Schwartz, Environmental Science Department Chair was “very excited by the quality of the material presented, the breadth of GIS applications presented by our guest speakers, and the overall scope of the event.”

The GIS Day team would like to take to give a special thanks to our presenters: Margo Stringfield with the St. Michael’s Cemetery Project; Cathy Mills with the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, Phyllis Pooley with the HAAS Center, and Dr. Raid Amin with the Mathematics and Statistics Department at UWF. The slide presentations have been made available for download at

Refreshments were generously provided by two businesses that rely on GIS everyday; Starbucks and Domino’s Pizza (9 Mile Road locations)

As part of the GIS Online Internship course, students were tasked to celebrate the day in their own way. Here are few highlights:


Phil Coppola

For my GIS Day event I shared habitat suitability model for redhead (a species of ducks) in Pensacola-area water bodies.  The model was used to assess an array of survey points that would be used for surveys of these ducks.  In winter 2014, these biologists contacted UWF Biologists to coordinate a wintering waterfowl survey between USFWS and UWF.  I used this opportunity to create my model and share it with them this November as a power point presentation.  They were pleased with model and my enthusiasm for the survey project.  Since presenting this GIS project with them, I have participated in two waterfowl surveys in the area and will work closely with them as they further development of the survey.  It was a great opportunity to demonstrate my GIS abilities and share them with prospective employers in the field I plan to work my career.


Eleanor Foerste

Eleanor contacted the recently reactivated Osceola County GIS User Group to see if they were planning a GIS Day event.  I attended their meeting, shared organizational information I used for GIS Day 2009, and we used the same format for 2014.  We had a "map gallery" style event with a variety of public and private entities exhibiting. My exhibit was about using handheld GPS units for mapping data. I prepared an activity sheet with clues similar to those found on In addition, we had exhibits from the Osceola County GIS Studio, IT, Planning, Community Development, Animal Services, Dewberry, Emergency Management and the Osceola County Sheriff's Office. We made good contacts and showed the visitors how GIS is used to enhance our daily lives.


Leah Smith

For GIS Day I brought some nice cupcakes to work to share with my office.  I set them up under a map of the world I had printed out with a note asking the visitor to put their initials on the most remote or unique place they had been in the world.  I emailed out that it was GIS Day and for them to stop by for a cupcake.  It turned out to be a surprising and informative day as co-workers, some of whom I had known for years, came in and talked about places they had been to and why.  I had no idea one co-worker had done a water study in Mongolia or a couple of our archeologists had worked together previously and were taken off a plane to be questioned in Europe when they made the mistake of saying they had just come from a “camp in the Sudanese” , meaning a dig! They talked about places they had been for military, work, and vacation – not just dots on a map but places that came to life in their stories and even their travel between the dots.   “I got to here by going there and then on to this place,” they said indicating their path on the map. At one point in the day there must have been 6 or 7 people in my office trading stories about the places they had been to.  It wasn’t so much talking about GIS, but I was awed by the power of a map to generate so much discussion and memory. But for the sub-continent of India, parts of Africa and the interior of Russia, almost every continent had been visited by someone.  It turned out to be a very fun GIS day!


Jelly Riedel

On Thursday the 20th, the four teams from NASA's DEVELOP National Program Fall 2014 term participants at Langley Research Center presented their research at the Science Directorate building. I was on the Coastal Mid-Atlantic Water Resources II Team. My team lead and I presented our results and project progress using the METRIC model to estimate evapotransiration in irrigated fields. Our project was a continuation of the summer term's participants. The other teams projects included mapping changes in wetlands in the Great Lakes area, predicting effect of climate change on growing degree days in Washington's apple-growing regions, and using flooding models to assist disaster planning in Colombia.
Each team gave a formal presentation and we had a 2-hour poster session afterward. We had a potluck food table set up as we each brought snacks and desserts to share with the presentation attendees. In attendance was the DEVELOP National Program Manager, Michael Ruiz.


Steven Kieffer

For GIS day, I wanted to do something that was useful to educate and promote GIS to people outside of normal the GIS world— many people do not know what GIS stands for. Moreover, I wanted to introduce GIS into some business sectors that could see the value in the broad uses of GIS. I choose to do a presentation for A Converting, Inc. <> otherwise known as ACI Tapes. Since I know some of the guys that work there, I was able to get an audience with the general manger and the sales staff. ACI is a materials supplier and converter in the manufacturing industry that has an amazing reach into more areas that one would imagine when we think of “tape” and “foam” products. They “specialize in multiple foam tape products, including polyurethane, PVC, EPDM, and Neoprene foams, roll stock and die cuts.” This seems like an industry that would have little effect on each of us until they described to me that all cell phones, computers, lighting fixtures, automobiles, air conditioners, and desk chairs all use these types of products. Automobiles, for example, are loaded with these tapes, foams, and plastic parts. Everything I am using to write this GIS day description uses these products and the product list we all use goes on and on.
So, how can all this be related to GIS? I got the idea for a specific GIS application in their market sector was when I was speaking to one of the sales staff who was marketing down in south Florida. He said his marketing challenge was to locate businesses in industrial park areas to visit and market their products. He told me that the yellow pages and internet searches only go so far and that he actually drives around looking for industrial parks. My first thought was the south Florida population map we created way back in GIS-3015 and then I remembered our land use-land cover we created in GIS-4035. I needed a business hook to get them to hear my presentation (rather than a bunch of board guys tolerating me as I take up their valuable time espousing the wonders of GIS). When I showed the sales staff that a LULC GIS map like this one could localize the industrial zoned areas using a level II and III classification from only a true color aerial image, their eyes lit up thinking of the time savings in driving and cold calling marketing visits. When I pointed out that the map I created yielded nearly a 90% accuracy of ground truthing (using Google street view) from true color aerials, they seemed impressed with that as well.

I was able to explain that most counties and specifically larger metropolitan city areas have GIS land use maps that can be downloaded in .pdf format for free and printed out right from their computer. I explained that smaller counties may require me to help them download the data into ArcMap and create a map for them or create a LULC map like the one above in extreme cases.
Presenting these types of time-saving GIS maps allowed me to get them interested in GIS and show them other wide ranging applications of GIS from maps on my blog and share other map-geek stuff (such as ESRI’s Map Book- Volume 29). They had no idea how many uses GIS has and how many public, government, and business sectors that benefit from GIS. They gave me what I considered a very generous hour or so for people in the middle of their business day.
My measure of GIS day success came when I walked into the senior salesman office, Larry Capan, to say goodbye and thank him for his time. He already had his head down in his computer looking for a county GIS web-site on his next marketing adventure (Fulton County, GA.-- Atlanta area, I think). As I was leaving he said; “how do you spell that, GSI, right.” I was able to correct him by reiterating; “G-I-S stands for Geographical Information Systems.”-- Another GIS convert that knows what it stands for.


Valerie Woelfel

For GIS day I decided to attend the open house at the University of Wisconsin Campus in River Falls. Its been cold up here in the Northland and people are getting stir-crazy being trapped in their houses by the polar vortex. My mom called this morning looking for some excuse to go somewhere so we made it a road trip and stopped at a couple antique stores, a museum, and a cute cafe before hitting the open house. It turned out to be really useful to have someone along who was not a GIS user. It was interesting to hear her input on the maps we saw at the event.
There were about a dozen examples of student maps displayed in the GIS lab for the open house. The first one we looked at was a map with three Land Cover classification images of the area around the campus. When my mom asked about the map I began describing the process to her and was going to point out how the legend shows the different classes, but there was no legend on the map. I told her that wouldn't fly at UWF. Some of the subjects chosen for the maps were interesting, but we both felt that they didn't follow through with much analysis.

Happy Holiday and looking forward to GIS 2015!  If you are interested in GIS or participating in the next GIS day celebration, please contact us at We would love to hear from you!