The largest GIS event in the world took place during the 2nd week in July in San Diego CA . The Esri 2019 Esri Users Conference (UC) drew over 14,500 attendees. And as an environmental scientist and conservationist, I found the Plenary sessions refreshingly focused more on the solutions and outcomes of GIS-based efforts, rather than the Esri technology. Consequently, below are our observations on the Plenary sessions, and some helpful links to GIS resources and solutions that would benefit those in the climate science and conservation communities.

Plenary Sessions

Plenary I

This Plenary was begun by Jack Dangermond & the Esri staff who presented the main themes of the conference.

One of the main themes of the conference was that we as GIS users “See What Others Can’t”. This means GIS allows users to see patterns and intelligence from spatially-enabled and analyzed data that others are unable to see. Geography is the science of our world, and map solutions provide content in a common reference system that helps us see relationships and patterns in complexity.







Furthermore, the other theme of the conference was “GIS As The Intelligent Nervous System” for the planet. This systems connects us all, and allows for co-evolution of ideas and solutions that are geography-based. Furthermore, the plenary sessions continued presenting how people in the real world are using Esri products to solve some difficult problems and support a more sustainable future. This was a refreshing take from previous UC’s, where the focus was more on the technologies rather than the solutions and the people behind these solutions.







Plenary II

Of the focused presentations, a few stood out that I’d like to highlight. A useful tool for conservation, NatureServe presented their “Map of Biodiversity Importance” which is a fine resolution spatial analysis of over 2,500 species at risk in the US. Also, in partnership with Esri, The Nature Conservancy, and Microsoft, NatureServe synthesized and modeled habitat into a map of biodiversity importance to create a useful tool to positively affect conservation decision-making.








The tool is used for analysis, as seen in the map below. This analysis in Northern Florida identified endangered species habitats within areas of future development. Also, these future development impacts include agriculture, infrastructure, housing, and industry. Furthermore, these tools are used to reduce development impacts and support restoration activities. Finally, this is a great example of GIS addressing real world problems related to habitat loss and species extinction.







Another interesting presentation was given by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), who use GIS as a “Tool for peace”. Also, GIS  is a foundation for capturing and monitoring of land mines. Furthermore, to support safe demining and recovery of land for productive use. It also supports the broader agenda to include humanitarian efforts and long-term sustainable development.






Another interesting presentation was given by high school students from the Lurgan schools in Northern Ireland. These youths utilized GIS and Survey 123 to record public sentiment across sectarian lines between the nationalists (Roman Catholics) and unionists (Protestants). Furthermore, this was a fine example the general public (High school students) using GIS tools for data gathering and public sentiment analysis.






Another great conservation presentation was given by African Parks, which is responsible for rehabilitation and long-term management of 15 national parks on the African continent. By partnering with governments and local communities, the team uses GID to analyze and understand wildlife movements and habitat and for poacher prediction and enforcement actions. Also, the team uses GIS for knowledge-based predictive decision-making, going beyond just a tool analyzing past activities.







And finally, the National Geographic’s Tracy R. Wolstencroft discussed the importance of maps in conservation activities and education activities.







Plenary III

The Plenary sessions ended with a conversations with Jane Goodall and E.O Wilson. They are considered two of the greatest minds in conservation and biodiversity. As such, they spoke with Esri’s Jack Dangermond about what they’ve learned over their careers. This consequently helps future generations to protect our Earth.

Jane Goodall spoke about the threat to species throughout the planet, with the population explosion being the greatest threat as the tide of humanity has become a tsunami. She also mentioned that corruption is extremely high in many parts of the world, creating its own problems. Her goals with maps involved locating where species migrations occur. Also, how climate change affects them. On the positive side, she pointed out that the word “hope” is in the title of all her books.

E.O Wilson cited the shortage of freshwater and collapse of resources as leading to mass extinction of species. His solution, as outlined in his Half-Earth project ( states that humanity needs to create protective preserves for life, and we do this by setting aside 1/2 of earth for other species. Also, if we focus on the areas that matter most, with the greatest biodiversity, we could save 85% of species on the planet.

Helpful Links to Geospatial Resources (Mapping & Data Portals) for Climate Scientists

Below I’ve provided some useful links to useful data & mapping portals identified during the UC. They all focus on weather & climate and how they affect the natural and man-made world. I hope you find these useful!