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GIS Users Experience Geography in Action

The 2008 Esri UC Ushers in ArcGIS 9.3 and Connects Attendees

More than 14,000 Esri GIS users from 114 countries attended the 2008 Esri International User Conference (Esri UC) August 4–8 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. With UC 2008 logoa more comprehensive agenda than ever, this year's conference offered visitors a broad range of technical workshops, GIS concept sessions, user presentations, and special interest group (SIG) and regional user group (RUG) meetings, as well as speakers, demonstrations, and resources that dove into the hottest topics and technologies. The GIS user community could connect and collaborate, as well as explore the newest release of ArcGIS software, 9.3.

"We wanted users to not only enjoy the forum the conference provides but also hear firsthand about ArcGIS 9.3 and start digging into it," said Jack Dangermond, Esri president. "This event is about finding what you need, be it a session, an answer to a question, or an inspiring presentation. The Esri UC brings all the best resources together in one place, so each person has access to all the information they need."

"This year, there has been a directional swing toward ArcGIS Server, and Esri has really followed through with that by having technical sessions directed toward [its] use," said Lacey Summers, a GIS analyst for Butte County, California. "I've been doing GIS work for a while, and it keeps becoming more and more integrated—the Esri UC offers the opportunity to learn about a variety of different solutions."

The Kickoff

The conference kicked off with its Plenary Session. Dangermond spoke in detail about the conference theme, "GIS—Geography in Action." He presented Making a Difference awards to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Rosario Giusti de Pérez and Ramón A. Pérez, architects and urban designers from Grupo Esri de Venezuela, C.A., Esri's distributor in Venezuela. In Kempthorne's acceptance speech, he outlined how GIS helped him make some difficult decisions regarding America's resources. He also announced his intention to appoint a geographic information officer (GIO) for the U.S. Department of the Interior. The position holder would oversee all geospatial activities throughout the department's bureaus.

"Ramón and Rosario are special people," said Dangermond when presenting their awards. He added that the couple brings the concepts of GIS planning to poor areas to greatly improve the living conditions. "You touch me," he said to them. "I want to recognize you in a small way for your lifetime of work in this field."

Dangermond also acknowledged the City of Philadelphia with the President's Award. "We're honored to be recognized with such a prestigious award and thankful to Jack Dangermond and everyone at Esri for helping to make GIS so successful in Philadelphia," said Jim Querry, Philadelphia's director of enterprise GIS, who accepted the award.

From the top 10 improvements to usability in ArcGIS 9.3 to processing imagery on demand with ArcGIS Image Server, an important selection of 9.3 updates and demonstrations was also presented during the plenary. ArcGIS Desktop improvements were described, including functionality that simplifies photo of UC 2008 plenary sessionuser tasks, such as keyboard shortcuts, reverse geocoding, and converting graphics to features. ArcGIS Server improvements were dramatized via working scenarios, illustrating how advancements will drive Web GIS.

Keynote speaker Dr. Peter H. Raven, a biodiversity expert and president of the Missouri Botanical Garden (see "Renowned Botanist Peter H. Raven Offers Plan for the Planet"), illustrated the problems we are confronted with: growing populations, altered landscapes, overconsumption, and climate change. "Technological tools, such as GIS, bring to bear a proper understanding of these problems and a proper solution," said Raven. "It helps us in our endeavors to develop love and concern for other people. These tools equip us to turn from passivity toward active engagement in developing much-needed solutions."

The 2008 Map Gallery provided a fascinating and diverse collection of GIS maps. The Special Displays area also showed the accomplishments of organizations worldwide putting GIS to use. Special exhibits included one from The Nature Conservancy, which revealed how information and experience can be integrated with GIS to advance conservation efforts, and another from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a mixed-media representation of its geospatial intelligence analytic tool that is used to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made disasters. The winning Map Gallery entry in the category of Best Overall was Qatar's Unique Nation-Wide GIS Data Sharing, submitted by Mohamed Hamouda from the Center for GIS, Urban Planning and Development Authority, State of Qatar.

Applying their skills and innovation throughout the year, more than 180 Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award winners were honored in a special ceremony at the Esri UC. Esri created the SAG Award to recognize excellence in applying GIS solutions. From the Oahu Invasive Species Committee to Iceland's Reykjavik Energy, the winning organizations have demonstrated vision and leadership using GIS.

Concurrent Events

Held the weekend prior to the Esri UC, the 2008 Esri Education User Conference (EdUC) and the 2008 Esri Survey & Engineering GIS Summit offered presentations given by celebrated keynote speakers. At EdUC, Dr. Anne Knowles, professor of geography at Middlebury College, discussed GIS use in historic scholarship and teaching history. "How fascinating history is when you look at it in a geographic context," said Knowles at the opening of her presentation. "A visual revelation is often what causes someone to fall in love with history—that eureka moment. Suddenly, [history] is gripping, exciting, and offers glimpses into the past."

During the Survey & Engineering GIS Summit, Colonel David Madden, commander of the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Wing at the Space Missile Systems Center, shared information about the largest avionics integration and installation program in the U.S. Department of Defense. Also, Timothy McCormick, senior vice president for the Dewberry firm's Hazard Engineering and Geospatial Services Group, discussed the flexible flood mapping solution GeoFIRM.

The HAZUS User Conference, sponsored by the Mitigation Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the first Esri Census Summit were also held during the conference week. The HAZUS gathering focused on effective approaches to using HAZUS more prolifically in state and local mitigation planning. The Esri Census Summit drew those interested in census and demographic data. Keynote speaker Dr. Paul Cheung, director of the United Nations (UN) Statistics Division, discussed the 2010 World Population and Housing Census Programme. "GIS is getting so important, and the statistical community must wholeheartedly and aggressively embrace GIS technology," he said.

Save the Date

Mark your calendar to attend the 2009 Esri UC, July 13–17 at the San Diego Convention Center. Watch for event updates and ways you can be part of the conference at www.esri.com/uc.

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