July 24, 2012
People and organizations are doing amazing things with ArcGIS, and I recently got to hear about some of them at this week’s Esri User Conference. For the uninitiated, ArcGIS is a system that creates maps, compiles geographic data, shares data, and a lot more, and we use it at CLF for our Maryland Food System Map project. The projects I heard about at the conference have inspired me to think about how I can incorporate elements from them into our Food System Map.
One presenter, Eduardo Dias, discussed a mapping project he developed called Earth Watchers, which empowers school children from around the world to monitor and communicate about changes to critical forest habitat in Indonesia. Another incredible project was introduced by the keynote speaker for the plenary session, Dr. Julia Marton-Lefevre, the Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). She showed us a map application that her organization released recently called the IUCN Red List Map Browser. The application allows users to search for and explore the distribution and habitat of endangered species.
Held annually in San Diego, more than 15,000 people are attending this year’s conference, from 131 countries. They have come to learn about updates Esri has made to its suite of products, to present their own GIS work, and to learn new skills that they can apply once they return home. At the amazing plenary session, we were introduced to some of the new features of ArcGIS 10.1, which was released last month. We were also encouraged to incorporate cloud technologies into our GIS systems at work, which we have actually done at CLF recently by employing ArcGIS for Server on Amazon EC2 to support our interactive map at mdfoodsystemmap.org.
After the plenary session, Esri opened its map gallery. I spent an hour at the gallery presenting a poster we made about our Baltimore City Food Desert mapping project. Many people stopped by to view the poster while I was there, and I was happy to have the opportunity to talk about the food desert map as well as other projects we are working on at CLF. I was amazed by how many people stopped by just to take a photo of the poster. Two of the themes at the conference are enabling collaboration and sharing, so I would like to imagine that the photos of the poster were instantly shared via social media to people who are interested in similar topics.
One additional piece of news I learned today at the conference is that the latest version of Microsoft Office allows users to create their own static and interactive maps. Here is more information about this new and exciting development.
There’s one more fantastic project I’d like to mention, one that’s dear to my heart. At the map gallery, right next to our CLF food desert map, there was a “Taco Flavored Kisses” map, which shows the distribution of taco shops across San Diego County. This is exciting to me for a few reasons. Obviously, I love tacos. But it’s also evidence that there’s growing interest from all walks of life in mapping food. And at CLF we’re glad to be part of this trend, because mapping our food system is one way to better understand it—and potentially to improve the system, to the benefit of public health and economic health.