Winners of ArcGIS Online Grant Program for Educators Announced

Esri logoGrantees Will Develop Projects to Support Teaching and Research

Esri has awarded five grants to select university and college faculty members to create exemplary higher education course materials and implementations of ArcGIS Online. Grantees receive $10,000 (US) each, as well as assistance from curriculum development specialists on Esri’s education solutions team.

ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based geospatial platform that enables individuals to create and share maps, apps, and map services. Later this year, Esri will introduce new features to ArcGIS Online, providing enhanced mapping and data sharing capabilities to support collaboration within an organization. Esri will include ArcGIS Online subscriptions in its educational site licenses at no extra cost.

“Our goal is to help early adopters demonstrate the potential of the ArcGIS Online platform to support spatial thinking and learning across the curriculum,” says David DiBiase, director of Esri’s education solutions team. “We believe this new platform will enable hundreds of thousands more students worldwide to experience the power of GIS.”

The grant winners and their projects are as follows:

  • Mark Lindberg, Len Kne, and their colleagues at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN) will evaluate how the software can be used to support teaching, research, and enterprise services across a large land grant university.
  • Dr. Fred L. Miller and colleagues at Murray State University (Murray, KY) will develop and deploy business GIS exercises for marketing majors.
  • Dr. Christopher Bone at the University of Oregon (Eugene, OR) will use the software as a platform for a new introductory course, entitled Our Digital Earth, to expose students to the geospatial data and technologies found in their daily lives.
  • Ken Yanow at Southwestern College (Chula Vista, CA) will create a series of assignments for a suite of general education courses that will enroll a diverse population of 2,000 students per year.
  • Dr. Eui-kyung Shin at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL) will develop geographic curriculum materials that enhance spatial thinking and active learning for elementary preservice teachers.

Grantees will present their preliminary results during the 2012 Esri Education GIS Conference in San Diego, California, and implement them on campus during the 2012–13 academic year.

[Source: Esri press release]

A GIS Model Predicting Potential Distributions of a Lineage: A Test Case on Hermit Spiders (Nephilidae: Nephilengys)

PLoS ONE: Research Article, published 06 Jan 2012

Magdalena Năpăruş and Matjaž Kuntner

“Background: Although numerous studies model species distributions, these models are almost exclusively on single species, while studies of evolutionary lineages are preferred as they by definition study closely related species with shared history and ecology. Hermit spiders, genus Nephilengys, represent an ecologically important but relatively species-poor lineage with a globally allopatric distribution. Here, we model Nephilengys global habitat suitability based on known localities and four ecological parameters.

Predicted habitat suitability for Nephilengys cruentata within its directional distribution area

Predicted habitat suitability for Nephilengys cruentata within its directional distribution area

“Methodology/Principal Findings: We geo-referenced 751 localities for the four most studied Nephilengys species: N. cruentata (Africa, New World), N. livida (Madagascar), N. malabarensis (S-SE Asia), and N. papuana (Australasia). For each locality we overlaid four ecological parameters: elevation, annual mean temperature, annual mean precipitation, and land cover. We used linear backward regression within ArcGIS to select two best fit parameters per species model, and ModelBuilder to map areas of high, moderate and low habitat suitability for each species within its directional distribution. For Nephilengys cruentata suitable habitats are mid elevation tropics within Africa (natural range), a large part of Brazil and the Guianas (area of synanthropic spread), and even North Africa, Mediterranean, and Arabia. Nephilengys livida is confined to its known range with suitable habitats being mid-elevation natural and cultivated lands. Nephilengys malabarensis, however, ranges across the Equator throughout Asia where the model predicts many areas of high ecological suitability in the wet tropics. Its directional distribution suggests the species may potentially spread eastwards to New Guinea where the suitable areas of N. malabarensis largely surpass those of the native N. papuana, a species that prefers dry forests of Australian (sub)tropics.

“Conclusions: Our model is a customizable GIS tool intended to predict current and future potential distributions of globally distributed terrestrial lineages. Its predictive potential may be tested in foreseeing species distribution shifts due to habitat destruction and global climate change.”

URISA Data Policy & Amicus Brief Decision Statement

URISAAt its February 24, 2012 meeting, the URISA Board of Directors again considered the draft Sierra Club vs. Orange County, California amicus brief.  A Board motion to sign an earlier version of the brief on February 2 failed to pass a vote.

The Board’s deliberation followed a joint URISA Board and Policy Committee conference call to discuss the Board’s February 2 decision in light of the Policy’s Committee’s recommendation to sign the brief.  Glenn O’Grady, Policy Committee Chair, was invited to again discuss the matter with the Board during the February 24 meeting.
Before considering the question of signing the SC v. OC amicus brief, the Board drafted and approved the following data sharing policy that reflects URISA’s role as an international organization and the need for the organization to be aware of data policies and situations in many countries:

It is URISA’s policy that all units of government should freely provide the means for their citizens to fully participate in their own governance by publishing and otherwise supplying geospatial data to all interested parties.  URISA believes that governmental geospatial programs must be appropriately funded and that there are multiple acceptable mechanisms for such funding.  Credible studies have shown that the value of geospatial data to the governmental agencies and the people they serve increases with the breadth of data sharing.
The Board then discussed reconsideration of signing the draft amicus brief.  However no motion to sign the brief reached the floor for a vote by the Board.

The Board did agree to continue advocating for the principles outlined in the data sharing policy.  Specific actions will include continued pursuit of URISA’s 2011-2012 Advocacy Agenda item 2 (Nationwide Development of High Quality, Publicly Accessible Geospatial Data), participation in COGO’s URISA/NSGIC – Data Sharing Legal & Policy Framework initiative, and advocating for the newly approved URISA data sharing policy with state governors and legislatures.

Individual URISA members are free to make their own choice to sign or not to sign the SC v. OC amicus brief.  The value of a professional organization is not to tell its members what to think in a case like this. It is to create an environment where each individual can be exposed to the range of arguments about the issue so that they can make their own decision.  This would be the case no matter how the Board voted.

Greg Babinski, MA, GISP
URISA President

[Source: URISA press release]