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Reflections from a Decade of Online Teaching

by Karen Kemp, Professor Emerita at University of Southern California and UCGIS President 2019-20

As I hear from many of you and read lots of blogs and articles about the challenges of going suddenly to online teaching, my heart goes out to the many of you trying to do your research, advise grad students and learn to teach your own courses online while at the same time learning to teach your school-age children and keeping them entertained while dealing with everything surging around you. I am moved to think about all the lessons I learned in my own decade of teaching online. In 2010, when I started teaching in the expanding online master’s in GIS&T program at the University of Southern California, I was just as green as all of you. How do I do this???

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UCGIS joined by AAG and URISA in Response to EPA Transparency Rule

There is currently a rule under consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is cause for major concern within the research community. The proposed Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule indicates that as the EPA uses scientific research to guide future policy decisions, preference will be given to studies which make their raw data publicly available. Consequently, this would allow the EPA discretion to discount research that does not fully disclose such data, which includes any findings that draw from personally identifiable medical and location information as well as proprietary data. 

UCGIS, in partnership with the American Association of Geographers (AAG) and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), submitted a public comment expressing our opposition to this proposed rule.

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GIS&T Body of Knowledge helpful for COVID-19 Related Topics

Are you teaching and learning about mapping diseases and other topics related to COVID-19?  Remember that the GIS&T Body of Knowledge has helpful articles on classification and clusteringkernels and density estimationpoint pattern analysisproblems with scale and zoningstatistical mappingspatiotemporal representationrepresenting uncertaintyepidemiology, and public health, among many others that you might find helpful.  

Mentoring Award for UIUC's Sara McLafferty

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Sara McLafferty, Professor in the Department of Geography and GIScience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), has been selected for the 2020 Carolyn Merry Mentoring Award.  Dr. McLafferty has served as both the Department Head and Associate Head during her 20-year tenure at UIUC, as well as Professor and Department Chairperson at her prior institution, Hunter College.  A geographer by training, she applies GIScience approaches and concepts to the field of environmental and public health, along with other topics in the social sciences, through her use of GIS tools, spatial analysis, and computer models. In all of these areas, her students and peers reference her dedication to collaborative work and her promotion of their own scholarship. The positive reactions to her mentoring style and practices span her career as well as those of her peers and students, at all levels. She has been commended for her patience, her compassion, and her dedication to students from diverse backgrounds and minorities.

“She made me feel completely comfortable when communicating her critique to me as she is so modest, personable and respectful. Based on my observations, she is always passionate about mentoring and firmly committed to empowering others to pursue their research and education goals.”

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Helena Mitasova Selected for 2020 Research Award

UCGIS is pleased to announce that Dr. Helena Mitasova, Professor in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Associate Director for Geovisualization at the Center for Geospatial Analytics, at North Carolina State University (NCSU), has been selected to receive its 2020 Research Award.  Dr. Mitasova’s groundbreaking work in the methodological and theoretical developments of open source geospatial software are key to ongoing GIScience activity. With her specific expertise in both geomorphology and open source GIS, she has made fundamental and innovative contributions to 3-dimensional and spatio-temporal dynamics, such as development of open source software modules for spatial interpolation, topographic analysis, water flow simulations, and erosion modeling. For these, the International Environmental Modeling and Software Society awarded her their prestigious Biennial Medal for outstanding contributions to environmental modeling and software (2006). Her co-authored book, Open Source GIS: A GRASS GIS Approach (3rd ed., 2008), is one of the most widely cited monographs in the GIScience discipline. Other co-authored books include Tangible Modeling with Open Source GIS (2nd ed., 2018), and GIS-based Analysis of Coastal Lidar Time-Series (2014).  

Dr. Mitasova played a critical role in establishing the first Open Source Geospatial Research and Education Lab in the United States (NCSU OSGeoREL, now the NCSU GeoForAll Lab), which subsequently became a primary node the OSGeo global network of GeoForAll labs. Her long-term contributions to open source geospatial software development and applications have also been recognized by an Excellence in Development award from the Open Geographic Information Systems Foundation (1994), the Sol Katz Award for Geospatial Free and Open Source Software from OSGeo (2010), and the Waldo Tobler GIScience Prize for outstanding and sustained contributions to the discipline, Austrian Academy of Sciences (2018).

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Online GIS&T Teaching

Rapid responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have left many GIS instructors scrambling to shift to an online educational format with little notice. For those new to the experience, what knowledge can be gained quickly from those who have years of experience?  What's a piece of advice that you might share with your peers at this point in time?

more about our Hawaii venue

Are you wondering about the experience of our 2020 Symposium in Hawaii? UCGIS President Karen Kemp has created a brief video overview of the venue where we'll be, at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu. Our 2020 TRELIS workshop will also occur here in the days immediately before the Symposium begins.

UCGIS part of new National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator Award

UCGIS is a partner in a $1 million grant from a new interdisciplinary NSF program to foster building an "open knowledge network" for spatial decision support technologies. The inspiration for this type of network comes from Tim Berners-Lee's (best known founder of the World-wide Web) vision for the "semantic web," which applies tags with relationships to information on the Internet, allowing computers to do basic reasoning for improving search results and answering questions. Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant all use these technologies.

Individuals from UCGIS’s leadership group are members of a team of 13 researchers and practitioners from 10 different institutions and organizations who are collectively focused on spatial decision support (SDS) systems, a systematic approach that improves access to tools for analyzing geographic data. Despite many successful applications, SDS contributions are limited by challenges in integrating information across complex organizational networks and across an array of data and tools developed for narrow (often disciplinary) applications. The project is being led by PI Sean Gordon, research faculty at Portland State University, which is a UCGIS member institution. "The proliferation of online mapping technologies has greatly increased access to and utility of these kinds of tools, and a logical next step is increasing our ability to find the appropriate data and tools for your problem and link these together for more complex analyses," says Gordon. Through engaging stakeholders in three applied case studies (the management of wildland fire, water quality, and biodiversity conservation), the interdisciplinary project team will develop and test participatory and automated methods for finding and sharing decision-relevant information using semantic web technologies.  

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New Members selected for the Board of Directors

UCGIS Delegates voted last week to elect Jeremy Mennis (Temple University) as the incoming Vice President, and Paddington Hodza (University of Wyoming) and Suzanne Wechsler (Cal State Long Beach) as Directors. Their terms will begin on July 1. Congratulations!  

UCGIS also thanks its outgoing Board Members: Shashi Shekhar (University of Minnesota) is concluding his year as the past-President, and Ross Meentemeyer (North Carolina State University) and Kathleen Stewart (University of Maryland) will complete their 3-year terms as Directors. 

Research Award for 2019 Goes to Keith Clarke

UCGIS is pleased to announce that Dr. Keith Clarke, Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of California Santa Barbara, has been selected for the 2019 UCGIS Research Award. Trained as a geographer, Professor Clarke has made remarkable contributions to the fields of Cartography and Geographic Information Science throughout his lengthy and outstanding research and teaching career.

This award recognizes Professor Clarke’s significant contribution to GIS through the Land Use/Land Cover change model, SLEUTH.  SLEUTH, a cellular automaton model coded in the C programming language, was first written by Dr. Clarke in the 1990s while an ASCE summer fellow at the NASA-Ames Research Center.  Since then he has received funded support to expand, refine, and improve the model’s computational capacity and stability. The impact of SLEUTH can best be understood through examining the many applications and publications supported by the model. Published research on and with SLEUTH has been robust and prodigious, nationally and internationally, reflected in the many hundreds of citations and applications in which it is referenced. Furthermore, Professor Clarke has been providing unreserved support to make SLEUTH available to as many scholars as possible. In addition to making the source code of SLEUTH openly available, he has maintained a model discussion forum for many years and has provided help to many new applications of SLEUTH through supporting graduate students’ thesis and dissertation research. Professor Clarke’s influence and contribution to GIS research has been highly significant through the creation, upgrading, and dissemination of the SLEUTH model.

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Elections 2019

Our Nominating Committee has completed its work for the season and has put forth these individuals to be considered for the upcoming election, listed below. Bios and short statements from all of these candidates is available at the elections 2019 page

  1. President-Elect: Jeremy Mennis, Temple University. 
As per our By Laws, if anyone else would like to run for the position of President-Elect, additional nominations may be made by petition signed by five delegates and received by the Executive Committee no later than May 22, 2019.
  1. Members, Board of Directors (2 will be elected):               
    1. Kevin Curtin, University of Alabama
    2. Paddington Hodza, University of Wyoming
    3. Alan Murray, UC Santa Barbara
    4. Suzanne Wechsler, Cal State University at Long Beach                   

A big THANK YOU to these individuals who are contributing to our democratic process of shared governance!  

2019 Education Award to John Wilson

UCGIS is pleased to announce that Dr. John P. Wilson, of the University of Southern California (USC), has been selected for its 2019 Education Award.  Dr. Wilson is Professor of Sociology and Spatial Sciences in USC’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, where he directs the Spatial Sciences Institute as well as the Wilson Map Lab. He also holds courtesy appointments as Professor in the School of Architecture, in the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Department of Preventive Medicine, and in the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Departments of Computer Science and Civil & Environmental Engineering.

The diversity of Dr. Wilson’s affiliations reflects the vital educational roles he has played at USC over the last several decades, where just since 2012 he has designed and established 15 new joint programs, degrees, and certificates through partnerships across campus. His promotion of the spatial sciences as an enabling educational platform is his own prime directive, and he is strongly dedicated to the nurturing and success of the programs with which he has been involved. Internationally, this includes the UNIGIS International Network, a worldwide consortium of universities focused on online geographic information science academic programs.

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Guido Cervone Selected for 2019 Mentoring Award

UCGIS is pleased to announce that Dr. Guido Cervone, of the Department of Geography, Meteorology, and Atmospheric Science at the Pennsylvania State University, has been selected for the 2019 Carolyn Merry Mentoring Award.  Dr. Cervone, a computer scientist by training, applies his expertise to the fields of remote sensing and hazards while also serving as Associate Director for the Institute for CyberScience and Director of the Geoinformatics and Earth Observation Lab. His guidance is highly valued and appreciated by his former and current graduate students, undergraduate students, and post-docs alike, many of who are women or other under-represented minorities within the geospatial sciences. They cite his steady support throughout their academic and professional careers as they build confidence and gain credibility, guiding them through the complexity of seeking and managing external research funding, and inspiring them to pursue excellence in research while not compromising on goals in all aspects of their lives.

“Dr. Cervone believes his students can do it and then they do. His students grow at a rapid pace because of his encouragement, belief in them, and his role as their leader and teammate.”

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2019 TRELIS Cohort Selected

In June 2019, the TRELIS project, Training and Retaining Leaders in STEM-Geospatial Sciences, will hold its second workshop in Washington, D.C. TRELIS is a unique model for professional development for women educators in the geospatial sciences. The program builds leadership capacity and skills to address career development, communication, conflict resolution, and work-life integration. With the name, we instill the concept of a human capital trellis or scaffold of support, and embrace the reality of nonlinear career trajectories that move sideways, take leaps, and do not follow a single upward ladder. There is significant demand for TRELIS-related knowledge and support in the geospatial sciences, reflected in part by the large pool of applicants to TRELIS events each year. 

We are pleased to announce the following members of our 2019 cohort. These TRELIS Fellows will participate in a 3-day workshop that has been designed to target topics and concerns of early-career individuals and focus on envisioning and crafting leadership pathways. Immediately following the workshop, the TRELIS Fellows will continue their professional development exchanges during the UCGIS Symposium.

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Creating & Sustaining Inclusive Workplaces

Ideas about recruiting, retaining, and promoting leadership opportunities for women in the geospatial sciences were the topic of a recent article in URISA's The GIS Professional magazine. Dr. Laxmi Ramasubramanian, a co-PI and leader of the TRELIS program, highlighted how gender affects these matters, often in under-appreciated ways. 

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Update on the Geospatial Data Act of 2017

Whatever happened to the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017, you may be wondering? This important bill is designed to facilitate and support geospatial data development, sharing, and coordination across federal agencies and partnerships with state and local governments, towards a more robust National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). Unfortunately, the bill has yet to reach congressional floors for a vote. Back in mid-November 2017, parallel versions of a revised Geospatial Data Act of 2017 made their way to their respective committees in the Senate (S. 2128) and the House (H.R. 4395). You can find the committee assignments at the links to the bills above. Those identical bills had been modified to remove language in two places, Sections 11 and 12, that UCGIS and many other organizations and individuals had previously regarded as problematic to the pursuit of open GIS and mapping activities in academic and public sectors.

Since that time, actions have been largely behind the scenes and the bills remain on their respective congressional dockets. Further discussions and debate around data and mapping language have taken place but have yielded no changes to the text.

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UCGIS Publishes Statement on Data Science

As a long-established information science discipline, the Geographic Information Science & Technology (GIS&T) community has key contributions to make to evolving data science curricula. This statement articulates the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science’s (UCGIS) position for the academic GIS&T community and provides recommendations and action items for the benefit of both internal and external audiences. On May 22-24, 2018, UCGIS held its annual Symposium under the theme of Frontiers of Geospatial Data Science, coordinated this year with the AutoCarto conference of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS). Drawing from discussions at that event, together with many months of internal exchanges, UCGIS offers these statements for the benefit of its member organizations as well as the broader geospatial community. The goals of this white paper and its recommendations are to 1) describe and clarify the value of incorporating geospatial knowledge, skills, and data for students, employees, and employers within the emerging field of data science; 2) highlight potential pathways and opportunities for academic geospatial scientists to establish connections with data science programs and personnel on their university campuses; and 3) initiate a national dialogue about the synergistic benefits of mutually enriching data science and geospatial science curricula.

Please find our white paper, A UCGIS Call to Action: Bringing the Geospatial Perspective to Data Science Degrees and Curricula, available here (pdf)

Set of CaGIS Journal Open-Access articles

Papers in Cartography & Geographic Information Science, available for free (open-access) but only through Thursday, May 31, 2018. Thank you, Taylor and Francis publishers.

  • Marc P. Armstrong (2017) How large is Aroostook County? Exploring the historical mutability of US county area measurements, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, DOI: 10.1080/15230406.2017.1370392
  • Sarah E. Battersby, Daniel “daan” Strebe & Michael P. Finn (2017) Shapes on a plane: evaluating the impact of projection distortion on spatial binning, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 44:5, 410-421, DOI: 10.1080/15230406.2016.1180263
  • Barry J. Kronenfeld (2018) Manual construction of continuous cartograms through mesh transformation, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 45:1, 76-94, DOI: 10.1080/15230406.2016.1270775
  • Lawrence V. Stanislawski, Kornelijus Survila, Jeffrey Wendel, Yan Liu & Barbara P. Buttenfield (2018) An open source high-performance solution to extract surface water drainage networks from diverse terrain conditions, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 45:4, 319-328, DOI: 10.1080/15230406.2017.1337524
  • Waldo Tobler (2018) A new companion for Mercator, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 45:3, 284-285, DOI: 10.1080/15230406.2017.1308837
  •  Xinyue Ye, Qunying Huang & Wenwen Li (2016) Integrating big social data, computing and modeling for spatial social science, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 43:5, 377-378, DOI: 10.1080/15230406.2016.1212302

TRELIS Fellows Announced for 2018

In May 2018, the TRELIS project, Training and Retaining Leaders in STEM-Geospatial Sciences, will hold its first workshop in Madison, Wisconsin. TRELIS is professional development for women in higher education in the geospatial sciences, which includes geographic information science, cartography, remote sensing, and related mapping sciences. TRELIS builds leadership capacity and skills around the topics of career retention strategies, mentoring training, career transitions, technical professional development, and work-life balance. With the name we instill the concept of a human capital trellis or scaffold of support, and embrace the reality of nonlinear career trajectories that move sideways, take leaps, and do not follow a single upward ladder.

We are pleased to announce the following members of our inaugural cohort. These TRELIS Fellows will participate in a 3-day workshop that has been designed to target topics and concerns of mid-career individuals, and focus on leadership pathways. Immediately following the workshop, the TRELIS Fellows will continue their professional development exchanges during the UCGIS Symposium, co-located this year with the CaGIS AutoCarto in Madison. In the coming years TRELIS will focus on additional themes as we aim to meet the very strong interest for these professional development activities.

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Calls for Nominations: 2018 Awards

UCGIS invites its membership community to nominate individuals for our Research Award, our Education Award, and our Carolyn Merry Mentoring Award. In each case, the respective review committees will be singling out from among the nominees those individuals who have demonstrated excellence in these different areas. While nominations themselves can only be made by someone affiliated with a UCGIS member institution, the awardees themselves can be from anywhere within the worldwide geospatial community.

The deadline to submit nominations for all three competitions is Thursday February 1, 2018, and awardees will be recognized at our May 2018 Symposium in Madison, Wisconsin. We will be meeting jointly with CaGIS’s 2018 AutoCarto at that time.

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