USA – More than 14,000 professionals from across industries convened August 4–8 at the 2008 ESRI International User Conference (ESRI UC), the largest geographic information system (GIS) conference in the world. Attendees acquired new skills, built relationships, learned about the latest technology, and shared their GIS experiences. Participants from more than 110 countries traveled to the San Diego Convention Center in California to attend.
The conference kicked off with an inspiring Plenary Session, starting with a visionary speech by ESRI president Jack Dangermond and the presentation of a Making a Difference Award to Dirk Kempthorne of the U.S. Department of the Interior. In his acceptance speech, Secretary Kempthorne clearly outlined how GIS helped him make some difficult decisions regarding America’s resources. He concluded with the statement, “We do not inherit the earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children.”
Other highlights from the plenary included a discussion on how organizations can use ArcGIS products to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions as well as a moving presentation by the Keynote speaker Dr. Peter H. Raven. A renowned botanist and environmentalist and president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Raven discussed the importance of biodiversity in sustaining the earth. He illustrated the problems we confront with growing populations, altered landscapes, overconsumption, and climate change. These are rapidly transforming the face of the environment.
“Technological tools, such as GIS, bring to bear a proper understanding of these problems and a proper solution,” said Raven. “It helps us in our endeavors to develop love and concern for other people. These tools equip us to turn from passivity toward active engagement in developing much-needed solutions.”
A wide variety of sessions and activities were available for all members of the GIS community. Technical keynotes, given by ESRI directors, gave users insight into implementing GIS on the Web, scientific context for GIS analysis and modeling, and meeting customer needs. Users also attended technical workshops to learn detailed technology and solution tips on topics ranging from an introduction to ModelBuilder to mobile GIS solutions. Additionally, attendees gleaned information from presentations by other users detailing their GIS experiences in everything from electric and gas distribution solutions to county emergency preparedness and response programs. This year, the ESRI UC included a new track that explored GIS solutions for managing the impacts of climate change.
“This year, there has been a directional swing toward ArcGIS Server, and ESRI has really followed through with that by having technical sessions directed toward [its] use,” said Lacey Summers, a GIS analyst for Butte County, California. “I’ve been doing GIS work for a while, and it keeps becoming more and more integrated—the ESRI UC offers the opportunity to learn about a variety of different solutions.”
The Special Displays and Map Gallery showed the accomplishments of organizations worldwide putting GIS to use. Engaging and visually stimulating exhibits included one from The Nature Conservancy, which revealed how information and experience can be integrated with GIS to advance conservation efforts, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security exhibit, a mixed-media representation of its geospatial-intelligence analytic tool that is used to prevent, respond, and recover from natural and man-made disasters.
ESRI business partner exhibits, social events, panel discussions, and special interest group meetings also enabled attendees to form personal and professional relationships that will aid in their future endeavors.