Join us for GIS Day 2021: A joint event cohosted by SFU and UBC

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

GIS Day, November 17, 2021

About the day

GIS Day is an annual worldwide celebration of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology and community. We hope that this event will encourage knowledge exchange and networking across institutions among researchers and students. 

Conference date: Wednesday, November 17 2021

An all virtual GIS event

Organized by Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia Libraries, GIS day 2021 will be an online event, to be held via Zoom.

Registration is for free but required.  The link below will direct you to UBC's GIS Day page where you can register at the bottom.  

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GIS Day 2021 Schedule 

The schedule is tentative and subject to change. 

Presentations and lightning talks

9:15 to 9:30  Welcome!

9:30 to 9:50  GIS and Citizen Science: Showcasing the BC Parks iNaturalist Project, John Reynolds, SFU

9:50 to 10:10 On the Map with ParcelMap BC, Bryan Sawers, Land Ttitle and Survey Authority 

10:10 to 10:20 Q&A 

10:20 to 10:30 Break 

10:30 to 10:50 Rethinking a Canadian Geospatial Data Discovery Service, Mark Goodwin (UBC), Paul Dante (UBC), Kelly Stathis (Digital Research Alliance of Canada)

10:50 to 10:55 Q&A

10:55 to 11:20 Lightning talks: 

  • Is the 15-minute City within Reach? Evaluating Walking and Cycling Accessibility to Grocery and Produce Stores in Vancouver, Kate Hosford, Jeneva Beairsto (SFU)
  • Finding Ancient Forests in BC using LiDAR, Tosh McKetta (UBC)
  • Using GIS tools to enhance post-secondary student engagement: ArcGIS collector and sick sea stars, Kirk Hart (SFU)

11:20 to 11:30 Q&A 

11:30 to 12:30 LUNCH BREAK 

12:30 to 12:50 Sustainable StoryMaps: A Case Study in Staticization with StoryMapJS, Joey Takeda (SFU)

12:50 to 13:10 Demystifying Academic Jargon: GIS and Accesibility, Katherine Yuko Fry (UBC)

13:10 to 13:20 Q&A

13:20 to 13:30 Break 

13:30 to 13:50 Mapping Unchartered COVID-19 Evictions: Are Women Disproportionately Affected by Job Loss?  Cheryl-lee Madden (UBC)

13:50 to 14:10 Ecologies of Harm: Mapping Contexts of Vulnerability in the Time of Covid-19  Maya Daurio, Stephen Chignell (UBC)

14:10 to 14:20 Q&A 

14:20 to 14:40 Break 

Panel:  GIS and Health: Covid-19  

14:40 to 16:00

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and maps have been put into the public spotlight during the pandemic. Thanks to the plethora of Covid-19 online dashboards and maps that are intended to track the outbreak, there is a sudden rise in appreciation about the importance of geography and the value of a map for powerful communication. This panel will dig deeper into this phenomenal explosion of spatial visualization. What are the implications of automatic data collection and cartographic construction for cartography? What are the opportunities and limitations in finding, analyzing, visualizing, and communicating disparate data resources related to the pandemic, ranging from data by official agencies to crowd-sourced big data?  Join us for this thought-provoking panel! 

  • Is Cartography dead? Is GIS a dying craft? Covid dashboards and what they signal.   Tom Koch, Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Geography (Medical), UBC
  • Finding, Visualization, and Sharing: Data and the Social Vulnerabilities of a Pandemic. Andy Yan, Director, City Program, Continuing Studies, SFU 
  • Riding through the pandemic: Using big data and GIS to understand COVID-19 impacts on bicycling. Jaimy Fischer, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU

People: Presenters, panellists, organizers

Presentation speakers

Maya Daurio, Stephen Chignell (UBC)

Ecologies of Harm: Mapping Contexts of Vulnerability in the Time of Covid-19 

Many are by now familiar with the John Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard, shown on the right, a powerful visual illustration of COVID-19 cases and deaths across the globe. This dashboard is typical of how most of us interact with information about COVID-19, through quantitative representations of harm. While critically important, consistent exposure to such statistics can create what researcher Paul Slovic calls “psychic numbing”, an emotional disconnect that impacts our actions and decision making. Our project, Ecologies of Harm: Mapping Contexts of Vulnerability in the Time of COVID-19, acts as a complement to statistical renderings of COVID-19, encouraging us to reflect on the lives beneath the numbers. In line with principles of counter-mapping, our research illustrates how harms caused by the pandemic intersect with other injustices and with specific geographies to exacerbate vulnerabilities of marginalized populations. We are part of a research collaboration — with Project Lead Dr. Leslie Robertson, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology — which emerged in response to the pandemic in March 2020, to collect spatial narratives of vulnerability related to overlapping harms exposed by COVID-19. We used Esri’s ArcGIS Web AppBuilder and Survey123 to create an interactive online interface for mapping and examining narrative information submitted by witnesses across the world, adapting tools typically used for analysis of quantitative data to highlight patterns emerging from qualitative information. Our presentation will discuss using GIS applications designed for quantitative data to illustrate and anlayze qualitative data instead. We will also discuss a new initiative of this project to launch an Extreme Weather Event Survey and incorporate lived experiences of climate-related events into the interactive mapping application.


Extreme Weather Events Survey (mentioned in the presentation)

Link to the story map: 

Katherine Yuko Fry (UBC)

Demystifying Academic Jargon: GIS and Accessibility

This presentation will be about how GIS can be used to make academic concepts more accessible to communities and layman audiences, particularly focusing on issues of social justice within urban and rural environments. The purpose of this presentation would be for participants to understand how academic jargon can be inaccessible to layman audiences, and how GIS can be used as a visual medium to better disseminate otherwise complicated conversations. The example that I will be using is a project that I have done on the Seattle Public School district which looks particularly at the effects of neoliberalism and social stratification. By taking two social topics that are often housed within academic language, I seek to demonstrate through my cartography ways in which participants can better disseminate their findings to a non-academic audience. This session would apply to both users and non-users of GIS, as it could be applied to simply obtain GIS-created cartography and using them in application to their conversation. For individuals who use GIS and have familiarity with cartographic processes, I intend to discuss how to use "theories of the flesh" to better shape approaches to research questions and their relevance to communties. By identifying issues within their own and others lived experiences, the applications of GIS can be centered on community concerns.
To conclude - the purpose of this workshop is to understand how GIS can be used as a tool to make academia more accesible and involve relevant communities.

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Mark Goodwin (UBC), Paul Dante (UBC), Kelly Stathis (Digital Research Alliance of Canada)

Rethinking a Canadian Geospatial Data Discovery Service

With the rapid proliferation of research data, it is vital to create innovative tools for data discovery and access. The Federated Research Data Repository (FRDR) is addressing this need by making research data discoverable via complementary map-based and text-based search interfaces. FRDR offers a Canadian national discovery platform that aggregates metadata from over 80 repositories. Powered by the open-source software Geodisy, the map search interface provides access to dataset records with geospatial information using an interactive map. Data is discoverable based on its location, and individual geospatial files are previewed as visual overlays. Geospatial files can be downloaded or exported in various formats, and ISO 19139 metadata is made available for all records. A project that aims to enhance the FRDR discovery platform’s search capabilities by integrating the map-based and text-based search interfaces in an overhaul of the service has recently begun. This work is being supported by a working group of experts from across Canada in an effort to create a service that meets the varying needs of researchers working with Canadian data. For any research that relates to a geospatial location, this evolving tool provides a new and useful form of discovery. In this presentation, we will share an update on the existing map search tool and plans for discovery interface redesign.

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Cheryl-lee Madden (UBC)

Mapping Unchartered COVID-19 Evictions: Are Women Disproportionately Affected by Job Loss? 

It has been suggested that among global cities, Vancouver’s spatial mismatch is unique. Besides being transnational and Indigenous in scope, this striking disconnect between low-income housing and adequate employment opportunities is characterized by large numbers of working poor—primarily women—with inadequate access to educational opportunities and well-paid jobs (Sassen, 1991). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the social stressors of living and working in Vancouver have been further compounded due to pandemic-related job losses. Moreover, few affordable rental units remain available to renters. With the neoliberal global deindustrialization shift to service-dominated employment, women on the front-lines of the service industry have very likely ended up being the most affected. However, to date, there has been scant research into the long-term social effects of women’s job and income losses vis-à-vis their mobility (i.e., evictions or forced moves). In the present study, a small subset of the retail sector: Vancouver’s working poor women are examined to explore in real-time, income/eviction data and thereby demonstrate that these women were disproportionally affected by COVID-19 job losses. These qualitative interviews will capitalize on the knowledge and experience of the targeted communities’ inhabitants as they contribute various pieces of information to the spatial mismatch discourse and, in the process, render it comprehensive. Gaining such reliable immigrant women data is critical if we want to turn the tide and create adequate wage employment and more socially responsible housing in Vancouver, the second-least affordable city in the world after Hong Kong.   

Download slides and talking notes
Useful links: Cheryl-lee's website, a blog post about the GIS Day

John Reynolds (SFU)

GIS and Citizen Science: Showcasing the BC Parks iNaturalist Project 

Many citizen science programs are harnessing the power of GIS to allow people to share their observations of the natural world, and promote greater understanding of the distributions of species. iNaturalist is one of the largest citizen science projects in the world, with the number of photo-based observations growing exponentially. Dr John Reynolds will describe a collaboration with BC Parks that uses iNaturalist to discover which species are found in the British Columbia parks system, including rare and threatened plants and animals.

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Bryan Sawers, Land Title and Survey Authority

On the Map with ParcelMap BC

British Columbia competes in a global economic environment in which fast and easy access to land information is a crucial component for commerce. ParcelMap BC is a sustainable piece of spatial data infrastructure that brings land information to life in a visual way for the economic and social benefit of all British Columbians. Publicly accessible, it provides an authoritative mapped representation of more than 2.2 million parcels for titled and surveyed crown lands, road dedications, parks and spatially defined interests such as statutory rights of ways, leases and easements.

Relied upon by local governments, provincial ministries and agencies, utilities, land surveyors, developers and others in the land and property sectors, ParcelMap BC improves the speed and efficiency of land-related research, planning and business decisions. Organizations use ParcelMap BC in their workflows and business systems as a foundational property information resource to ensure current and accurate information for land administration.

A multi-year initiative led by the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA), ParcelMap BC became fully operational in mid-2017 with support from the Association of BC Land Surveyors, the Province of BC, the Integrated Cadastral Information Society and BC Assessment. LTSA’s commitment to continual improvement includes ongoing collaboration with these organizations, and others, to ensure quality and usability enhancements for the benefit of all.

In this session, participants will be shown what goes on behind the scenes to deliver a single, up-to-date, and sustainable parcel fabric; how multi-component datasets translate into published parcels; and how map-loving geography students and graduates can use ParcelMap BC as a land-related research and planning tool.

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Joey Takeda (SFU)

 Sustainable StoryMaps: A Case Study in Staticization with StoryMapJS

Built by Northwestern University's KnightLab, StoryMapJS is an open-source JavaScript library and associated authoring interface for creating lightweight narrative maps. The StoryMapJS interface allows researchers to upload content, customize the map's display, and embed media into their maps, which can be viewed through the Knight Lab's free hosted service. However, like many free hosted services, the Knight Lab's server infrastructure is subject to degradation and disappearance. They make no guarantee that a researcher's map will continue to work in the future and, while they encourage the local creation of maps using their JavaScript and CSS libraries, creating and serving the map locally requires fashioning the specific StoryMapJS data-structure by hand rather than through the authoring interface, which constitutes a significant barrier for the majority of researchers.

This presentation reports on a recent experiment in creating a "static" version of a StoryMapJS map and discusses the necessity of creating sustainable and archivable research outputs. Using GitHub and its associated technologies, we were able to create a static version of the StoryMap that allowed the researcher to continue using the editor interface while providing a way to host their map locally, ultimately ensuring that their research is no longer wholly dependent on Knight Lab's infrastructure. This presentation will outline the method and processes used to create the static map and how we were able to create a more customizable and significantly more robust version of the researcher's map. As I will suggest, in creating the static StoryMap, we were able to create a sustainable and archivable research product that ultimately afforded the researcher greater control over their data, both in the short-term and in the future.

Link to the slides

Lightning talk presenters

Kirk Hart (SFU)  

Using GIS tools to enhance post-secondary student engagement: ArcGIS collector and sick sea stars

Collection of field data to be used for further analysis is a fun and engaging activity for post-secondary classes. Traditionally, data collection entailed manually scribing into notebooks with subsequent transfer into a digital format for class dispersal. This method necessitates sharing and analysis of data to occur at later date, which opens the door for data loss due to weather, student absences, etc. In May 2021 I experimented with using ArcGIS collector to allow my students to collect data and contribute to a class GIS project in real time. Students were investigating the occurrence of Sea Star Wasting Disease in the Prince Rupert area and were censusing the health and morphometrics of local sea stars for a biological oceanography course. Using the app on their own phones, they uploaded their findings to our class ArcGIS online map and could see the entries of their classmates populating in real time. Students were very impressed by the ease of use of the app and were quite impressed by the live map. The “Fun-factor” kept them engaged in their activity and enabled a high level of data conservation. I recommend the use of this app (or its successor) as an effective way to engage students in fun data collection while ensuring a complete dataset and time efficiency.

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Kate Hosford, Jeneva Beairsto (SFU)

Is the 15-minute City within Reach? Evaluating Walking and Cycling Accessibility to Grocery and Produce Stores in Vancouver

Leaders around the world have embraced the idea of a “15-minute city”. This urban planning concept proposes a city where residents can meet their essential needs within a brief walk or bike. Local access to grocery stores is a necessary component for cities to achieve the 15-minute city. Our work focused on evaluating local accessibility to grocery and produce stores by walking and cycling in the City of Vancouver. Using the R5R package in RStudio, we calculated a cumulative opportunity measure of the number of grocery and produce stores available within a 15-minute walk and cycle from people’s homes. To evaluate accessibility from the perspective of younger and older travellers, we considered different travel speeds. We further examined the equity in walking accessibility across socio-demographic groups in Vancouver.

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Tosh McKetta (UBC)

Finding Ancient Forests in BC using LiDAR

Although British Columbia (BC) retains approximately ¼ of its old-growth, less than 1 percent of BC comprises the large trees that are traditionally associated with old-growth forests. Ancient stands of interior cedar-hemlock forest, with greater than 975 years since a stand initiating event, are both rare and difficult to identify. They are the greatest remnant examples of the pre-contact forest ecosystems, and should be quantified for future conservation. No efficient way exists to identify ancient forests without a field study. Indexes of stand attributes, such as tree diameter, regeneration, snag density, and decay class distribution rely on time-consuming hand measurement. These accurately identify forest types, but are not feasible at large scales.

A new method is needed to allow for the efficient identification of ancient forests while providing a common framework for their definition. This project proposes a technique to identify potential ancient forests by leveraging existing Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data across a sample study area in the Columbia Mountains of southeastern BC. Discriminant functions will be created based on variables that are measurable with LiDAR and approximate the variables used for field identification. While this approach will not replace the need for field examinations, it should be able to identify potential ancient stands with little resource investment to efficiently focus future field efforts. If successful, this project has the potential to quantify the proportion of ancient forests remaining in the study area, while creating a methodology that allows for the widespread identification of a vulnerable resource.

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Jaimy Fischer, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU ​​​

Riding through the pandemic: Using big data and GIS to understand COVID-19 impacts on bicycling.

COVID-19 stay-at-home orders disrupted transportation and mobility patterns across the world, particularly though the first wave of the pandemic. Quieter streets, closed recreation facilities, and anxieties over public transportation prompted what’s been dubbed the “great COVID bike boom” as people turned to bicycling for physically distanced transportation and exercise. Building on this uptick in bicycling is important in creating sustainable, healthy, and resilient cities as we emerge from the pandemic, but changes in bicycling patterns in Canada are difficult to quantify due to a lack of spatially-temporally continuous bike count data. Crowdsourced mobility data may offer insights. This presentation will demonstrate approaches to integrating big data from the Strava Metro fitness app in a GIS to inform how bicycling in Vancouver, BC, Canada changed through the first wave of the pandemic. Findings are linked to the rapid implementation of provisional bicycle infrastructure, equity in bicycling for transportation and recreation, and the value that big data offers for active transportation research.

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Tom Koch, Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Geography (Medical), UBC

Is Cartography dead? Is GIS a dying craft? Covid dashboards and what they signal

In January 2020 Johns Hopkins University introduced the first Covid dashboard. Anchored by a map, it offered for download a graphic snapshot of the presence of COVID-19 surrounded by both graphs and the mapped data itself. Since then a plethora of public and private agencies have presented their own databases of disease data at county, national, and international scales. Most employ systems of automatic data collection and automatic cartographic construction of that data. In this environment, what is the role of the mapmakers, the GIS technician and analyst? Has technology made the training in GIS programs obsolete?

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Andy Yan, Director, City Program, Continuing Studies, SFU ​​​​

Finding, Visualization, and Sharing: Data and the Social Vulnerabilities of a Pandemic

A study of CoVID-19 in Metro Vancouver is not only a biomedical progression of a disease, but also about the various social and economic geographies of the region. Combining and visualizing spatial datasets provides an insight on who might face greater risks at contracting the disease and where they live. Where the biomedical and social sciences produce the data to measure cases of CoVID-19 and who it impacts, there is an art towards finding, analyzing, and visualizing this data. Finally, the craft is transfer the data and its discoveries off the analyst’s desktop and into action and the informed public discourse.

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GIS Day Organizing Team

Evan Thornberry (UBC Library)
Paul Lesack (UBC Library)
Haitao Li (UBC Forestry) 
Sarah Zhang (SFU Library) 

Featured workshops 

SFU and UBC Libraries are hosting online GIScience workshops as below.  Registration is free and open to all!  

Geocoding & Web Mapping with Python November 8
Topics covered in this workshop include: how to use Python for basic data nalysis and plotting, how to use Geocoding to get coordinates from addresses, and how to make web maps with Python. 

Understanding Spatial Data: Map Projections November 16
This workshop will familiarize participants with foundational knowledge about map projections for working with spatial data. 

Geospatial Analysis & Visualization with Python November 18
This workshop aims to familiarize you with using Python for GIS, and show that programming and data analysis can be powerful tools for promoting social and environmental justice issues.

Visualizing Data in ArcGIS Online November 23
This workshop is intended for those unfamiliar with GIS desktop software who want to be able to create a map, add and configure data, and create a Story Map.

Using ClimateNA for Spatially Referenced Historical and Future Climate Data November 22 
This workshop introduces how to use ClimateNA for spatially referenced historical and future climate data.  

Intro to Satellite image analysis with Google Earth Engine   November 29 to December 3 
Google Earth Engine (not to be confused with Google Earth) allows anyone to access and process satellite imagery quickly and easily. Join our 3-part workshop to use GEE to explore images & maps, assess spatial or temporal trends, export data and more.  

Web Mapping with R  November 25 
Leaflet is one of the most popular open-source JavaScript libraries for interactive maps. This workshop will introduce you to Leaflet for R, an R package, which makes it easy to integrate and control Leaflet maps in R without knowledge of JavaScript. You can create interactive web maps right in R Studio!  

November 17