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USGS Involved in World's Largest GIS Conference

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Barb Seekins
Barb Seekins at GIS poster session.
The USGS was well represented at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) User's Conference held in San Diego during the last week of June. With almost 10,000 people (over 90 countries represented) in attendance, this was billed as the largest GIS conference in the world. ESRI produces GIS software that includes ArcInfo and ArcView. "Geography is Our Global Network" served as the theme of the gathering. Florence Wong, Mike Hamer, Randy Bucciarelli (Menlo Park), Mandy Frick (St. Pete), and Barb Seekins (WHFC) attended representing the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program. Mandy and Barb each presented a poster on coastal change based on LIDAR data and historical charts, respectively. There were USGS speakers in the plenary session, a USGS booth in the exhibit hall, and a lunchtime gathering of a USGS Special Interest Group.

Dr. Chip Groat
Dr. Chip Groat gave the keynote address on integrated science.
Dr. Chip Groat, USGS Director, gave the keynote speech and spoke about integrated science. He talked of the recognition of the world as a living system and our role in understanding change. He defined "Gateway to the Earth" as a coherent set of interfaces that enables diverse users to find, get, and use natural science information. He mentioned the importance of data standards and the data need to "collect once and use many times." He spoke about a number of USGS efforts: the National Atlas, National Elevation Data, the studies to understand effects of hurricanes and earthquakes, and the need for predictive models.

Pamela Johnson, Deputy Director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR), presented Hammer Awards to ESRI and to six teams from the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Community Demonstration Project. The awards (given on behalf of Al Gore) are named after hammers that once cost the government $400. They symbolize the improvement in government efficiency and were given for efforts in using federal, state, and local geographic data to solve complex problems. An emphasis was put on developing "E-Government."

"This is the most exciting thing that we have ever done! It offers new ways to cooperate in the development and sharing of information, provides a portal for spatial data cataloging, and connects users with the data they need."
Jack Dangermond (president of ESRI) and ESRI representatives talked about the new family of GIS software products dubbed ArcGIS. The products are designed under a new architecture that will allow for advanced capabilities. New features include geographic-window data searches, geospatial bookmarks, dynamic-image registration, digital-map rotation, and improved cartographic symbols. Internet map-serving software facilitates interactive mapping and collaborative mapping efforts. Technical workshops went into details on the latest software.

The Geography Network premiered at the conference. This is a collaborative, multi-participant system for publishing, sharing, and using geographic information on the Internet. Jack Dangermond said, "This is the most exciting thing that we have ever done!" He went on to say, "It offers new ways to cooperate in the development and sharing of information, provides a portal for spatial data cataloging, and connects users with the data they need." One of the featured data sets is the USGS National Elevation Dataset, a seamless Digital Elevation Model for the United States at 1 arc-second (~30-m) resolution. Data clearinghouse nodes will be connected to the Geography Network. Also mentioned was National Geographic's "Map Machine." A dynamic atlas accessible over the internet that was created using ESRI's software, the Map Machine, illustrates internet mapping capabilities.

Other presentations of particular significance to our program were given under the "Oceanography, Coastal Zone, and Marine Resources" Track. The topics ranged from assessing the accuracy of LIDAR imagery to 3-dimensional nautical charting to Roger Goldsmith's (WHOI) talk on "Some Applications and Challenges in Extending GIS to Oceanographic Research."

The conference offered intelligent insight into future GIS trends along with enormous amounts of technical information. The continuing challenge is the application of all this to our science and research efforts.

Photos courtesy of Joseph Kerski, (USGS, NMD, Denver) and S. Ford.

Related Web Sites
ESRI User's Conference
Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI)
The Geography Network
online geography resource

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Meetings World's Largest GIS Conference

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