Impressions from URISA GIS-Pro 2019

Another year, another exciting time at Urban and Regional Information System Association’s (URISA) annual GIS-Pro conference. This time I traded the dry, desert landscape of Palm Springs (last year’s conference) for the overbearing humidity and heat of New Orleans. Not only was I looking forward to exploring a new city, but I attended this year’s GIS-Pro wearing two hats, one as a presenter, and one as chapter leader of one of URISA’s regional chapters. I was there to learn, connect, eat, have fun, and explore. One of the great things about working with HealthLandscape is that I have the opportunity to attend conferences like GIS-Pro, gain professional development, and present on the work that we do. 

Traditionally, the conference is preceded by a full-day array of workshops. This year, I attended one on GIS in program management, where I gained insight into strategic and implementation planning, financial management, and other challenges that program managers face in the geospatial world. At the plenary the next day, I learned about the Earth as Art program, where the University of Louisiana Lafayette is seeking to turn satellite imagery of the earth into high resolution art galleries. The keynote came from the NOAA Office for Coastal Management. They presented on their efforts to map the coast of the United States so that high resolution data can be readily available at the local level Working in a diverse industry like GIS, it’s easy to fall behind in topics that aren’t covered by my role at HealthLandscape. I see opportunities like conference plenaries to stay abreast of what’s being done at other organizations.

In one of the education sessions, the presenters explored various methods for employing GIS in the cloud. They spoke about best practices for creating data for cloud environments and how data and server management are changing. They demonstrated, through the use of Python programming, that cause and effect actions, called triggers, can be applied to databases so that processes can be automated. This was insightful to hear as the next day I would give a talk on improving workflows using programming in GIS. Over the past year, HealthLandscape has sought out ways to make certain tasks more efficient with the use of Python programming. From projects where the output is multiple maps showing the distribution of various health care specialties for each state to automating multi-step geocoding and processing tasks, HealthLandscape has been employing programming to optimize how we manage data and produce static map deliverables.

Over the last year I have been working to restart a once-dormant URISA local chapter. I attended GIS-Pro to represent the Chesapeake chapter to continue that effort. At each GIS-Pro, there is an annual chapter leader’s forum meeting with the URISA board of directors and other chapter representatives. This is an opportunity to bring up concerns, ask questions, and to hear from the board of directors about the changes that affect how chapters are administered. As a leader, I also took this meeting as an opportunity to learn how other chapters are being run and the struggles that they’re facing as they relate to membership retention, budgeting, governance, and education. On the last day of the conference I volunteered for the GIS-Pro 2020 conference planning committee. Since next year’s GIS-Pro will take place in Baltimore, Maryland, it will be an opportunity to connect with local GIS professionals and to show off the reinvigorated Chesapeake Chapter.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Dave Grolling
GIS Strategist

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