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County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
August 27
NACo Attends Esri Conference

​​Written by Alyssum Pohl​, Digital Coast Fellow.

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More than 15,000 registrants attended The Esri User Conference, held in San Diego in July. Two of these registrants included myself, a Digital Coast Fellow hosted by NACo and the National States Geographic Information Council, and Bert Jarreau​, NACo’s Chief Innovation Officer.  It was my first time and I didn’t know what to expect.   Luckily, the grand majority of the week was truly dedicated to GIS users and the fabulous work they (we) are doing.  It was illuminating and very inspiring.

Every bit of the conference was well orchestrated, down to the last detail.  Overhead banners with pun-filled groaners lined the long halls to give you a chuckle as you walked to your session.  Esri had organized the conference into 63 different tracks dedicated to allowing users to present the work that they’ve been doing, and to allow users to lea​rn about the technical aspects of GIS in more depth.  Some of the topic tracks included Agriculture Aid and Development, Education and Training, Federal Applications and Enterprise Management, Pipeline and Gas Utilities, and Wildl​and Fire Management.

Some of the technical tracks included 3D GIS, Cadastral and Land Records, Interoperability and Standards, Location Analytics, and Mobile GIS.  I sat in on the Ocean, Coastal, and Marine Resources session the most, because as a Digital Coast Fellow, I work mainly with coastal states and counties to help implement digital tools to better help decision making processes related to coastal resilience.  I also attended some sessions in the Mapping, Education and Training, Disaster and Emergency Management, Conservation, and the GIS Concepts and Fundamentals sessions.


The most comfortable bean bags in the Lecture Lounge

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Learning about dude ranch building conservation in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


Here are some of my favorite points from some of the topical lectures I attended:

  • Toolbox for the Ocean Health Index & Cumulative Impacts by Ben Best
    • Ocean health is equivalent to ecosystem services but doesn’t monetize.
    • Click on the link above to see how different countries compare in the index.
    • Please see the photo below which illustrates the 10 goals of the index.  If all these goals are weighted equally, our worldwide score is 60/100.  This score changes as you look at “health” from different perspectives.  So for instance, “biodiversity” (which is rated at 83 worldwide) and “clean waters” (78 worldwide) might be more important from a preservationist’s point of view, so if the index were weighted to reflect these preferences, the worldwide score would increase to 67.     Interestingly, the score becomes much lower, 53, if strongly extractive goals such as “Food Provision” and “Natural Products” are weighted more heavily.  This is opposite of what I would have thought, and suggests that those interested in profiting from the sea have more reason to take a preservationist stance than they currently do, for their own well-being!
  • Seasketch by Will McClintock & Chad Burt
    • Seasketch supports collaborative planning for our oceans, by trying to lower the technical bar for collaboration.
    • Allows non-technical stakeholders to contribute, evaluate and discuss.
  • Spatial Analysis of Bowhead Whale Calls by Type of Call in Beaufort Sea by Heidi Batchelor  & Gerald D’Spain
    • The bowheads migrate through the Beaufort Sea oilfileds every August-October.  Their calls may provide for future productive studies related to their locations. 
  • Southern California Aquaculture Site Assessment Model by Caitlyn Rains
    • ArcScene was used to assess site suitability for the California mussel using temperature, salinity, oxygen saturation, and chlorophyll concentration data.
  • Architectural Conservation of Dude Ranch in Grand Teton, Wyoming
    • Noted that precision of equipment does not reflect the precision of location.
  • Mapping Peoples’ Forest Places: Linking Qualitative Research Data & GIS by Walter Aikman
    • How people feel will affect their health (if they’re scared they’ll get sick, this stress might amplify the likelihood of their getting sick).
    • “To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” ― Aldo Leopold
The entire conference offered a great mixture of learning about other projects and users in my field, and increasing my own technical knowledge in GIS.  I was most inspired by the Maps Gallery.  Hundreds of posters depicting projects utilizing GIS were hanging up all week.  There were all sorts of projects such as the importance of prairie dogs as a keystone species, public works locations in small counties, ethnicities in the Sahel, and taking hand drawn Amazonian maps and referencing them on accurate GIS maps.    I was particularly inspired by the fact that so much great work was done at a level of which I am technically capable—I vowed to try some of the techniques when I returned home.

On Tuesday July 9th, Bert Jarreau, Chief Innovation Officer at NACo ran the County Government Meeting.  The meeting was held in a round-robin discussion format and sparked some great dialogue about sharing and collaboration among counties.  GIS was highlighted as an appropriate tool to share valuable information with the public, such as costs of infrastructure.  County councils were regarded as key stakeholders in data-sharing.  There was also a discussion about the need for fast and free data, but keeping up with consumers’ expectations is difficult due to privacy issues access to non-public technology/products for a price.  We were very pleased to see Randy Johnson, Commissioner from Hennepin County, Minnesota there, and were delighted to have another elected official, Jeff Williams, Assessor from Washington County, Arkansas join us as well!

I’m sure I wasn’t able to take advantage of all the wonderful information, opportunities, and networking that were available—it was overwhelming how much was going on simultaneously.  But I would heartily recommend the conference to anyone even remotely interested in mapping.  I came back with tons of inspiration and some new tools in my toolbelt.​

Natural History Museum.jpgEsri Users love the natural history museum.





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