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The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies celebrated the technology of geographic information systems this week, along with hundreds of other worldwide organizations.

Attendees gathered in Kroon Hall to hear Deirdre Dalpiaz Bishop, the chief of the Geography Division at the U.S. Census Bureau, launch this year’s GISday conference called Geospatial Mirrors. Bishop delivered this year’s keynote address and detailed the innovative applications of GIS through her work, which focuses on how the mapping technology can be used in the 2020 census. As the symposium continues, attendees will get hands-on experience with the technology through the 11 workshops that will take place in the next three days.

“We want people to take away the true power of GIS and that it’s not just about maps,” said F&ES IT supervisor and GISday organizer Scott Rumage. “It’s really about geospatial visualization. And with that you can do so much more with your data. Its information that you can visualize — whether that’s 3D or 2D visualization.”

Bishop currently leads a staff of over 200 employees and helps develop a national geospatial database. She was recently awarded the Census Bureau’s Bronze Medal Award — which recognizes significant contributions to the bureau’s achievements — three times. In her address, she talked about how the implementation of GIS technology into the U.S. census will be revolutionary.

“This decade, we were able to create tools using GIS that allowed our managers to go online and see what was happening,” Bishop said. “One of these applications showed the areas that we needed to send people to the field in order to collect data allowing us to be even more accurate.”

Bishop went on to discuss the importance of technology for large cities like New Haven. She added that due to the constantly changing residential numbers, collecting census data has been difficult.

Other keynote speakers include professor of history and international and area studies Ben Kiernan, New Haven’s GIS coordinator Alfredo Herrera and director of the University’s Center for Biodiversity and Global Change Walter Jetz. They will discuss how they used the GIS to resolve issues related to the Cambodian war and genocide, spatial thinking and biodiversity.

The symposium also features a panel of women in GIS. Leading experts in the field Cecille Blake, Margot Bordne, Cary Chadwick and Meredith Reba will talk about their experiences using the GIS to transform their respective fields.

“We want people to challenge themselves on how they think of the geospatial space,” Rumage said.

“It was for people to pose questions and think about what such a conference means.”

Launched 20 years ago by the Environmental Systems Research Institute, GIS Day has since grown into a global movement that brings universities, government agencies, schools, nonprofits and GIS professionals from around the world together. This is the fourth time Yale is hosting a GISday conference.

In workshops, attendees will learn a variety of ways to use advanced GIS technology. For example, the program includes workshops like “Using Google Earth Engine for Global Scale Geospatial Analysis” and “How to Scam with GIS.” These workshops are open to all and require no prior GIS knowledge.

Anna Yu, a master’s student at FES, is a member of the student GISday organization committee. She said she hopes that the conference will help enhance the public’s  understanding of the matter.

Attendees of the keynote speech praised the symposium in interviews with the News.

“I was interested in learning how they were going to count minorities,” said Nuria Miller, an immigrant from Mexico who now resides in Guilford, Connecticut. “The technology that’s out there is so impressive, they’re able to collect so much data that they couldn’t before.”

Alisha Chan and Tirthankar Chakraborty, Ph.D. students in FES, agreed and said they were impressed with how GIS increases representation within the 2020 census.

The GIS symposium will continue until Nov. 15.


Noelle Rockwell |