Earlier in July, over 16,000 GIS professionals, educators, and users from over 120 countries attend the world’s largest conference in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This conference was hosted by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) in San Diego, California for sharing and discussing the latest technologies, practices, and solutions in GIS. There were over 1,000 sessions with 450+ hours of workshop training including over 300 sponsors with special guests from the Walt Disney Animation Studios along with Dr. Geoffrey West discussing the behind the scenes of Zootopia at the plenary using ArcGIS CityEngine. Esri (http://www.esri.com/) was founded in 1969 and has a very high market share of GIS software. This year marks their 36th annual GIS conference.
During her last semester at WKU, Kate Love from Madisonville, Ky. (pictured at left) was selected from WKU’s GIS programs for an Esri assistantship to attend and work this year’s conference in exchange for a stipend working half days at this weeklong conference. Only sixty students are selected for an assistantship each year from the United States and WKU has had a student selected each year for the past fifteen years. Kate graduate from WKU this year with a bachelor’s degree in Geography Environmental Studies and with both a minor and certificate in GIS from WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology. She is also the Dept. of Geography and Geology’s undergraduate winner of the Syed Reza Ahsan Outstanding Senior in GIS Award. Upon graduation in May of this year, she began interning with the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden as a Plant Records Intern where she continues utilizing GIS. Kate has worked as a GIS Lab Assistant for the Dept. of Geography and Geology, as well as a Horticulture Intern at a Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Ky. She also received a FUSE grant for using GIS to assess the biological and economic impact of Emerald Ash Borers at the Baker Arboretum supervised by Dr. Martin Stone, Director of the Baker Arboretum.
Students from WKU that were awarded an Esri conference assistantship in the past have went on to work at Esri’s headquarters in Redlands, Calif. and regional offices. The theme for this year’s Esri GIS conference is The Science of Where with a focus on Big Data.
Alumni from WKU’s GIS programs were also in attendance at this summer’s Esri International GIS Conference. To name a few are Tim Rink (GIS Manager at Stantec), Chris Blinn (Solutions Engineer at GISinc), Andy Reeder (Advanced GIS Analyst at BGMU), Becky Brown (GIS Administrator at BGMU), Preston Dallas (Data Specialist at WKU PDC), Sarah Fielden (GIS Analyst at Tenn. Dept. of Safety), Kyle Bearden (GIS Manager at City of Bowling Green), Ryan Uthoff (GIS Analyst at Hydromax), Taylor Hutchison (Software Developer at the State of Tennessee) and Ashley Hitt (Director of GIS Services at Connected Nation).
Presenting at this year’s conference from WKU were Kevin Cary and Ryan Uthoff on mapping Accessible Regions of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) High Tunnels in Kentucky. A high tunnel is like a greenhouse, but a scaled down version for extending the growing season for farmers. The EQIP program is a conservation practice “…that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air, and related” (www.nrcs.usda.gov). Data for mapping high tunnels in Kentucky were only provided at the county level and so a reverse mapping technique was used to identify distances away from the nearest high tunnel for any location in Kentucky.
For information about applying for an ESRI student assistantship, or about GIS, WKU’s GIS programs and GIS applications in business and industry, contact Kevin Cary in WKU’s Center for GIS at (270) 745-2981 or firstname.lastname@example.org.