Map of Devastating 2003 Heat Wave in the Netherlands Observed from MODIS Satellite. Mehdi Aminipouri (PhD Candidate in Geography at SFU)


GIS Day is an annual worldwide celebration of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology and the GIS community. GIS Day 2018 happens on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. Celebrate GIS Day 2018 with us!

GIS Day 2018 events

REGISTER NOW: GIS Day talks and presentations

SFU Library, UBC Library and UBC Forestry are partnering to provide this year's celebration with an event showcasing exciting talks from a variety of speakers. 

Register to attend GIS Day talks and presentations 

Date:  Wednesday, November 14th, 2018
Location: SFU Vancouver Campus in downtown Vancouver (515 W Hastings St., Vancouver, BC V6B 5K3), Room 1600
Time: 9:30AM - 5:00PM
Mid-morning and afternoon coffee will be provided.
Cost:  Free

Mappy Hour after 5PM at Malone’s Social Lounge and Taphouse.

GIS Day 2018 Schedule

10:00 to 10:10 – Welcome. Keith MacLachlan, Esri Canada

10:20 to 11:00 – Open Source Cartography: Blending Data and Design for the Next Generation of Online Maps. Alan McConchie, Stamen Design

11:00 to 11:20 BREAK (Coffee/tea and snacks provided)

11:20 to 12:00 – Making Maps with ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud. Sarah Bell, Esri PS Cartography Lab

12:00 to 1:00 – LUNCH (On your own)

1:10 to 1:50 – What Happened in the Dark? Yuhao Lu, UBC Faculty of Forestry.

2:00 to 2:40 – Map Digitization at the City of Vancouver Archives. Sue Bigelow & Sharon Walz,City of Vancouver Archives

2:40 to 3:00 – BREAK (Coffee/tea and snacks provided)

3:00 to 3:40 –  Indigenous Mapping: Practical applications of GIS and mapping technologies. Steven DeRoy, The Firelight Group

4:00 to 4:08 – Illicit Drug Overdose Mapping. Sunny Mak, BC Centre for Disease Control

4:10 to 4:18 – A Machine Learning Method for Predicting Urban Change from Space. Jermone Mayaud, UBC School of Community and Regional Planning

4:20 to 4:28 – Mapping Across Disciplines. Aateka Shashank, SFU Geography & SFU Library Research Commons. Kimberly O’Donnell, SFU English & SFU Digital Humanities Innovation Lab

4:30 to 4:38 – The Art of Learning GIS. Aateka Shashank, SFU Geography & SFU Library Research Commons

4:40 to 4:48 – Landscapes of Memory – from points to places in early medieval Scotland. Megan Meredith-Lobay, UBC Advanced Research Computing

5:00 – MAPPY HOUR @ Malone’s Taphouse 


Keith MacLachlan, Esri Canada, Welcome remarks

Alan McConchie, Stamen Design, Lead Cartographer
Presentation: Open Source Cartography: Blending Data and Design for the Next Generation of Online Maps
Description: Stamen Design has spent the last seventeen years pushing the limits of what is possible with online cartography, creating innovative maps and visualizations to tell our clients' spatial stories. Using open source tools has made this possible, giving us an unparalleled level of creative control over design and functionality of our maps, and freedom from the conventions of traditional cartography. In recent years, open source tools have matured, becoming easier to use and more powerful, and opening exciting new frontiers of cartography. In this presentation, I will showcase past and current Stamen projects and talk about the use of an open source design process to help clients see their data with fresh eyes. I will also talk about how this approach extends to the cartographic tools we use in our work, where a careful mixture of expertise and naivety lets us break our tools in interesting ways, pushing them to their limits and finding exciting new visualizations in the process.

Yuhao (Bean) Lu, UBC, Forestry
Presentation: What Happened in the Dark?   
Description: At this very moment, we still have people on this planet that are switching the lights off in their homes, and not because they need to leave for work, or because they want to save the environment. Rather, they are displaced and have to flee their homeland. Pictures of bombed buildings, rubble-strewn streets, and flooded villages cannot alone summarize the scale of tragedy and destruction that the effects of an artillery bombardment have on a square city block dense with residential housing. It is hard for many of us to recognize the horror that people are living through every minute of every day.  

Nighttime lights images have been widely used as a proxy to human footprint and wealth in general. Against the backdrop of brightly illuminated regions in the rest of the world, I shamefully cannot even name the places where clusters of lights have dimmed towards darkness.    

Using monthly nighttime imagery, I hope to identify places where large population has been displaced from 2012 and 2017. So I decided to map what happened in the map.

Sue Bigelow, Digital Conservator; Sharon Walz, Digital Archivist; City of Vancouver Archives
Presentation: Map Digitization at the City of Vancouver Archives
Description: In 2015, the City of Vancouver Archives participated in a multi-departmental project to digitize, geo-rectify, and mosaic one of its most popular cartographic records, the 1912 Goad’s Atlas of Vancouver, with the goal of presenting it as a layer in the City’s publicly accessible GIS system, VanMap. Digital Conservator Sue Bigelow and Digital Archivist Sharon Walz will discuss the genesis and execution of the project within the context of the City of Vancouver Archives’ digitization efforts and provide a brief overview of the Archives’ map holdings.

Steven DeRoy, Director Firelight Group
Presentation: Indigenous Mapping: Practical applications of GIS and mapping technologies

Description: Steve is Anishinaabe from the Ebb and Flow First Nation and Lake Manitoba First Nation in Manitoba, Canada. Since 1998, he has worked as a cartographer and researcher with Indigenous groups across Canada, as well as internationally. He co-founded the Firelight Group in 2009, is a board member of the West Coast Environmental Law, a member of the Google Earth Outreach Trainers Network, and founder of the Indigenous Mapping Workshops.

Sunny Mak, BC Centre for Disease Control
Presentation: Illicit Drug Overdose Mapping
Description: Illicit drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unnatural deaths in British Columbia. In April 2016 the Provincial Health Officer declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act in response to the rise of drug overdoses and deaths. The BC Centre for Disease Control is collaborating with the Ministry of Health, regional Health Authorities, BC Emergency Health Services, BC Coroners Service, and other stakeholders to support the response. To facilitate decision-making, maps, graphs, online dashboards, and technical reports are produced for all literacy and use levels by the BCCDC Overdose Surveillance Team. Specifically, geographic mapping and spatial analysis are used to identify where overdose events and deaths are occurring, and where harm reduction activities and resources are best allocated.

Jerome Mayaud, UBC School of Community & Regional Planning
Presentation: A Machine Learning Method for Predicting Urban Change from Space
Description: Urbanization is occurring worldwide at unprecedented rates. The corresponding impacts on the environment and societies are extensive and often difficult to reverse. Indeed, while cities cover ~3% of the Earth’s surface, they are home to over half of the world’s population and are responsible for over 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. To ensure that urban footprints remain as sustainable as possible, it is vital to better understand how urban morphology changes as cities expand, and to predict where urbanization may occur next.

Time series of high resolution remote sensing have allowed us to track urbanization on a global scale. Marrying satellite imagery with machine learning (ML) algorithms has enabled researchers to make sense of rich datasets and comprehend underlying spatial patterns or urbanization. For instance, night-time lights (NTL) data have been used in combination with ML algorithms to predict poverty in areas where reliable data on livelihoods remain scarce. However, few studies have used satellite data to quantify the relationships between urban morphology, economic activity and environmental variables, and none have used such relationships to predict future urban growth.

In this study, we introduce a novel ML/remote sensing approach for predicting changes in urban morphology. We have two main objectives: (i) to predict the effects of projected population growth (and, correspondingly, wealth) on urban sprawl within existing cities, and (ii) to predict where new large cities are likely to develop in future, given the potential for population displacement in the face of issues such as climate change.

To achieve these objectives, we first create annual NTL composites for the day/night band (DNB) from the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), for the period 2012–2017. Using a transfer learning framework, we train a convolutional neural network (CNN) model to predict NTL intensity, based on corresponding input from Landsat (i.e. daytime) imagery. The NTL data are used as intermediate labels for the daytime imagery. We then correlate the image features extracted by the CNN with various datasets.

For the first objective (i.e. predicting the effects of population growth on urban morphology), we correlate the image features to socioeconomic data drawn from recent censuses. For the purposes of this study, we focus on the 150 largest cities and towns in Canada. By training regression models built using the census data and the abundance of information about urban features detected by the CNN, we infer how cities of different morphologies might physically change as their population distributions shift over the next decade.

For the second objective (i.e. predicting where new cities could develop in future), we correlate image features to biophysical datasets (e.g. topography and climate) across the globe. This effectively allows us to determine the ‘optimal biophysical recipe’ for the establishment of cities. By backtracking pixels that meet the resulting ‘recipe’, we are able to pinpoint places on the Earth’s surface that are yet to be urbanized, but which could soon become settled in response to population growth and migration.

Given that 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, models such as ours can help to predict urbanization trajectories, with a view to curbing the unsustainable growth of cities. Our novel methodology further demonstrates how ML and remote sensing resources can be combined to develop actionable development and planning policies.

Aateka Shashank (SFU, Geography) & Kimberly O'Donnell (SFU, Digital Humanities Innovation Lab)
Presentation: Mapping Across Disciplines
Description: This presentation will overview the beginning of a Story Map for Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, created by Aateka Shashank, a graduate student in SFU Geography and an SFU Library Research Commons GIS peer, and Kimberly O’Donnell, a graduate student in SFU English and a DHIL Digital Fellow. We created the Story Map for a workshop on spatial data in the Humanities, and we’ll talk about interdisciplinary collaboration, focusing on what our different backgrounds and fluencies provided in beginning the project and in workshopping it.

Aateka Shashank, SFU Geography
Presentation: The Art of Learning GIS
Description: With the rising adoption of geographic information systems (GIS) in various disciplines, people who haven't done much spatial analysis before might feel intimidated. This is a 7 minute talk on 7 lessons I learnt while learning and teaching GIS to people across various disciplines at Simon Fraser University.

Megan Meredith-Lobay, UBC, Advanced Research Computing
Presentation: Landscapes of Memory – from points to places in early medieval Scotland

John Speed’s A new and accurat map of the world, courtesy of Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center
John Speed’s A new and accurate map of the world, courtesy of Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center.

REGISTER NOW: Intro to Geospatial Data with R Carpentries workshop (day before GIS Day)

Register for Intro to Geospatial Data with R Carpentries

Date: Tuesday November 13 (day before GIS Day)
Location: SFU Harbour Centre, Room 1415
Time: 9:00AM - 5:00PM with a break in the middle
Cost:  Free

If you are unaffiliated with SFU, please contact to register.

GIS support at SFU Library, UBC Library, and UBC Faculty of Forestry

UBC Faculty of Forestry, UBC Library, and SFU Library provide robust services for helping researchers discover geospatial datasets as well as assistance using GIS tools for research and coursework. Services include, but are not limited to:

  • individual-based consultations
  • free workshops
  • access to software such as ArcGIS, QGIS and Google Earth Pro.

Contact us for assistance:

GIS Day organizers

If you have any questions about these presentations or GIS Day 2018, please contact Evan Thornberry (