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2021 BTAA GIS Conference

The 2021 BTAA GIS Conference has concluded.

The 2021 Conference was held on November 12th and featured two keynote speakers, lightning talks, a map contest, and career networking.

Conference Recordings

View the recorded presentations here or on Youtube.


Keynote Address: Dr. Robert Lee

9:00 - 10:00 CST / 10:00 - 11:00 EST -

Facilitator: Cecilia Smith, University of Chicago

Bio: Dr. Robert Lee is an historian of the United States focused on Indigenous dispossession and US state formation in the nineteenth century American West. He has a PhD in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an MA in American Studies from the Universität Heidelberg, and a BA in History and Economics from Columbia University. He was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows before coming to the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Lee's research focuses on North American colonization, mostly in the nineteenth century. He is currently writing a history of US expansion by Indian treaty, using an approach that combines archival digging with spatial analysis in GIS. The book focuses on an important but obscure institution—the St. Louis Superintendency—whose administration of the Indian treaty line influenced a string of well-known events, from the Lewis and Clark expedition to Bleeding Kansas. By restoring those connections, the project illuminates how dispossession by treaty shaped the development of the United States. An article growing out of this study, “Accounting for Conquest: The Price of the Louisiana Purchase of Indian Country,” appeared in The Journal of American History, and received awards from the Organization of American Historians, the Western History Association, and the Society for History in the Federal Government. That piece also forms the first in a series of articles Dr. Lee is working on that use GIS to revisit longstanding questions about the territorial and demographic history of the American West. The latest of these projects, “Land-Grab Universities,” detailed how Indigenous land funded land-grant colleges across the United States. Interactive maps and data from that project can be explored at

American Domesday

In this talk, Dr. Lee will discuss how increasingly accessible desktop GIS tools are poised to reinvigorate the study of the US public domain, a once thriving area of study that has lain mostly fallow for a generation. He will describe the possibilities opening up from spatial data at the Bureau of Land Management and his own work developing tools to visualize the legal transformation of roughly a billion acres of the American West from the 18th c. to the present. Land patent data, he will suggest, can open up new pathways to ask questions about gender, ethnicity, demography, and perhaps most of all, the unresolved legacy of Indigenous dispossession in the United States. There will be maps.


10:00 - 10:20 CST / 11:00 - 11:20 EST

Session 1: Flora and Fauna

10:20 - 12:00 CST / 11:20 - 1:00 EST

Facilitator: Laura Kane McElfresh, University of Minnesota

The Indiana Roadkill Display: The Role of Civic Science in GIS

Cooper D Sykes, Indiana University

With the development of the automobile and its rapid influence on American life, more and more wildlife have been killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions. To gather more information about roadkill and the effect of roads on ecosystems and biodiversity, civic science has been increasingly used. Civic science is defined as employing the general public to collect and report data on critical scientific problems. Civic science projects include everyone from science newcomers to retired researchers, teachers, students, etc. In this project, our research question was to determine if civic science could provide relevant data regarding Indiana’s roadkill. To create the Indiana Roadkill Display, it was a necessity to both develop a usable ArcGIS web application and generate enough interest from the Indiana GIS community to have a reasonable amount of data input. By utilizing ArcGIS' Web App Builder and reaching out to various groups, including the Indiana Nature Facebook group, we were able to create a civic science project that had roadkill data from across the state. 135 sightings of roadkill were reported in just the first five months of the application. Unfortunately, due to various limitations, the Indiana Roadkill Display was not able to generate ground-breaking conclusions about where and what species are being killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions in Indiana, but it did suggest that civic science research at Indiana University or elsewhere in Indiana should be a focal point in research discussions going forward. The role of civic science in GIS is poised to expand greatly in the years ahead.

Statewide canopy height model generation using USGS 3DEP LiDAR data in Indiana, USA

Sungchan Oh, Purdue University

We propose a canopy height mapping workflow with 3DEP LiDAR across the state of Indiana, USA. To address the issue related to large data size and data processing requirements of 3DEP data, we proposed a systematic CHM generation framework to produce countywide and statewide CHMs in an efficient manner. We created different spatial resolution CHM model to address the issue of height accuracy and data omission, and we used field estimated height data to test CHM accuracy. The resulted CHMs could be widely applied in the management of timber, fiber, wildlife, and many other ecosystem services.

Modeling the potential for Greater Prairie-Chicken Reintroduction to an Indiana Tallgrass Prairie

Zach T Finn, Purdue University

Greater prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus; GPC) have declined throughout large areas in the eastern portion of their range. We used species distribution modeling to predict most appropriate areas of translocation of GPC in and around Kankakee Sands (KS), a tallgrass prairie in northwest Indiana, USA. We used MaxEnt for modelling the predictions based on relevant environmental predictors along with occurrence points of 54 known lek sites. We created four models inspired by Hovick et al. (2015): Universal, Environmental, Anthropogenic-Landcover, and Anthropogenic-MODIS. The Universal, Environmental, and Anthropogenic-MODIS models possessed passable AUC scores with low omission error rates. However, only the Universal model performed better than the null model according to binomial testing. We created maps of all models with passing AUC scores along with an overlay map displaying the highest predictions across all passing models. MaxEnt predicted high relative likelihoods of occurrence for the entirety of KS and many areas in the nearby landscape, including the surrounding agricultural matrix. With implications of some management suggestions and potential cooperation with local farmers, GPC translocation to the area appears plausible.

Forest Structural Heterogeneity as a Predictor of Wildlife Occupancy and Richness

Jessica M Elliott, Purdue University

In recent decades, wildlife habitat studies have begun to incorporate more structural characteristics, such as mean maximum canopy height, canopy and understory vegetative cover, and vertical heterogeneity measures. However, most still collect habitat data primarily from field measurements, which are limited in spatial extent and force researchers to extrapolate from small-scale, ground-based measures. LiDAR offers the opportunity to objectively and quantitatively measure habitat features across landscape level extents. We mapped and measured forest canopy structural diversity at ~ 100 plots across Indiana at a series of 3 (25m, 50m, 100m) radii to explore landscape heterogeneity across space, utilizing new aerial LiDAR in tandem with GIS mapping software and wildlife camera trap data. Our aim is to quantify the relationship between occupancy of commonly occurring midwestern wildlife species and forest structural diversity, specifically examining the ties between species groups and habitat features.

Session 2: Built Environment

Facilitator: Yue Shirley Li, Purdue University

Indoor Mapping of University of Maryland Library Physical Resources

Milan Budhathoki, University of Maryland

McKeldin Library is the main branch library of the University of Maryland Libraries. McKeldin Library is one of the largest buildings on campus consisting of seven floors and a basement. The library has more than 2400 stacks and more than 2 millions of print collections. McKeldin Library also serves as a regional Federal depository library, housing the U.S. Government Information, Maps & GIS Services collection. It is quite daunting for a patron to find the particular book stack/call-numbers or any other physical assets (i.e., study room, computer lab, digital support, restrooms). The library has undertaken a GIS based solution (ArcGIS Indoor) to develop a mobile application (Wayfinding) to help the patrons to find topics of their interest and route to the destination(s). A mobile survey application was used to collect and validate the library assets as points of interest including stacks location. In this presentation, I will briefly highlight the project status update.

Using Drones For Facility Assessments On Campuses

Jon P Schwichtenberg, GRAEF

This presentation will show how we are using drones to accurately compile GIS and asset management data on facades and roofs of buildings. The technology allows engineers to quickly and accurately assess water issues, heat loss, facade deterioration and roof issues. The data is then logged into long term tracking asset management systems.

Low Cost Connected Work Zone Devices with Simplified Architecture

Glenn Vorhes, University of Wisconsin

Connected work zone devices for safety, traffic monitoring, and performance evaluation are important assets in road construction projects. Challenges for implementation and connectivity present a barrier to their implementation and full realization of benefits. Typical connected work zone devices require dedicated cellular modems with monthly data charges for each device. The numerous connections or proprietary platforms hinder integration with a central advanced traffic management system. The described architecture presents considerable cost, data ownership, and security concerns. This paper presents an alternative architecture wherein many inexpensive monitoring and incident detection devices read and process sensor data and communicate pertinent information by radio link to a single internet connected hub that forwards information to a central server. The server then notifies client applications that support work zone monitoring and incident response. From a field test of the radio units in an active work zone, the effective transmission range was found to be 3 km. All devices in a work zone up to 6 km in length could be serviced by a single internet connected base receiver station centered within it. Prototype devices were created using readily and inexpensively available sensors for microcontrollers. An example dashboard was created to show real time work zone device and sensor information on a mapping interface. This project shows how use of connected work zone devices can be expanded at low costs using commonly available hardware and skills with a simplified architecture and encapsulated complexity from the standpoint of work zone management personnel while retaining data ownership.

Lunch Break

12:00 - 1:00 CST / 1:00 - 2:00 EST

Keynote Address by Dr. Tracy Kugler

1:00 - 2:00 CST / 2:00 - 3:00 EST

Facilitator: Melinda Kernik, University of Minnesota

Bio: Dr. Tracy Kugler joined the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota in 2011 as the Project Manager for Terra Populus (now IPUMS Terra). She now works across all of the aggregate-spatial IPUMS products: Terra, NHGIS, GeoMarker, and managing their newest product, IHGIS (International Historical Geographic Information System), which includes aggregate data from population and agricultural censuses around the world.

Dr. Kugler's educational background includes a B.A. in Theater Arts (Stage Management), B.S. and M.S. in Systems Engineering (Systems Modeling and Analysis), and PhD in Geography (GIS and Ecosystem Informatics). The unifying thread that runs through these disparate degrees is an interest in the big picture and how all the pieces of a system fit together and interact with each other. At the MPC, she leverages those skills to develop workflows and processes to bring different types of data together. She has developed workflows for boundary processing that meet requirements for confidentiality and harmonization over time, while providing the greatest possible level of geographic detail. She has also developed workflows for documenting and manipulating highly heterogeneous published census tables to conform to a standard data and metadata structure.

The Population Data Buffet: Choosing the right data for your project Dr. Kugler will discuss three different classes of population data: aggregate/place-level, individual-level microdata, and gridded population data. For each class of data, she will cover the advantages and disadvantages, the types of analysis it is best suited for, good places to get the data (focusing on IPUMS and the PopGrid Collaborative), and considerations for working with the data.


2:00 - 2:15 CST / 3:00 - 3:15 EST

Lightning Talks

2:15 - 3:00 CST / 3:15 - 4:00 EST

Facilitator: Caroline Kayko, University of Michigan

1. Mapping and Validating Indoor Physical Assets of University of Maryland Libraries using ArcGIS Field Map Application

**Manal Zahed Al-Hajji, University of Maryland ** McKeldin library has only the floor plans in CAD format, with no illustrative maps to guide students and other users to the location of the various resources in each floor. This makes difficult for the user to find the needed book without guidance from an experienced staff. With 2 million volumes, it is spatially impossible sometimes to get to the right corner without delay. Using the shortest route analysis will encourage the student to use the library books and maps and the other assets. Also, McKeldin Library has many assets like printers, plotters, computers, etc. distributed at all floors without any spatial maps that identify their location and descriptions. Using the network analysis tools will help the maintenance staff to find the asset that need maintenance and they can manage the best route to maintain all the required assets. Most library users stay on the ground floor because of the large number of seating areas, which result in generating high density on this floor. The number of users decrease as you go to the upper floors. We are trying to ensure that the new Covid measurements are observed and the 6’ distance between users is maintained. Student density needs to be measured at each floor, and students need to be encouraged to disburse and use all floors to allow for larger number of users while still guaranteeing the desired distances among them.

2. Exploring Movement Data in Context with the DynamoVis Software for Research and Education

Crystal J Bae, The University of Chicago

With the widespread availability of GPS tracking data of movement, increasingly collected at many spatial and temporal scales, there is unprecedented opportunity for expanding our spatial knowledge with regards to human and animal movement behavior. Understanding movement is critical to expanding theories in the spatial sciences and has important applications for fields including ecology, economics, transportation, and social interaction. This talk provides an overview of the open-source DynamoVis 1.0 software for the visualization of movement data and related environmental variables. The design of DynamoVis is based upon the cartographic framework for representing movement by Dodge (2020), which considers the representation of the cartographic space, the components of movement (object, location, time, attributes), visual variables for encoding movement, and interface considerations including display forms and interaction. DynamoVis allows scientists and educators to easily explore and represent complex movement data in a powerful visual interface, with additional considerations relating to the representation of dynamic phenomena and the related spatial context. This window into complex movement data enables intuitive data exploration, the use of visual variables to highlight patterns and spatial relationships, and hypothesis generation informed by visual analysis. Additionally, DynamoVis can be used as a communication tool for collaboration across disciplinary domains or as a teaching tool for scientific reasoning, as it allows built-in recording and export of dynamic visualizations of tracking data within the environmental context.

3. Using climate models to assess spatio-temporal crime behavior in cities

Jaemin Eun, University of Maryland

The effects of regional and local climates and their interaction with human geographies in urban areas have been largely overlooked. For example, physical environmental variables such as temperatures (heat) in urban areas are linked with changing criminal behavior. In this study, we take a systematic approach to examine the relationship between changing temperatures and crime statistics at climate scales for the City of Chicago. Here, we compare temperature data from urban climate model outputs and publicly available crime datasets to identify census tracts sensitive to variations in temperature at daily and seasonal scales for over a 20-year period. The study also articulates the sensitivity of different types of crimes with a heat vulnerability index formulated using socioeconomic variables from the US census and health datasets from the CDC. Overall, the outcomes of the study can help law enforcement agencies, urban planners, and stakeholders to identify heat stress locations and devise heat mitigation solutions that can help in reducing violence and structured racism in statistically high-crime rate cities like Chicago.

4. Evaluating Visitation and Mobility Pattern Changes due to the Coronavirus Pandemic in Tippecanoe County

Dana M. Singh, Purdue University

Mobility data can provide invaluable information about an area and can contribute to studies of city infrastructure, efficient transportation, and commute patterns. With the onset of the Coronavirus epidemic, travel restrictions and social distancing has greatly affected our day-to-day life. For example, businesses were heavily affected as less people traveled, and classrooms have been converted to remote learning to avoid gathering. This Mobility data can provide key insights as to how daily life has been changed. In this study, we focused on Tippecanoe County, Indiana, where the West Lafayette campus of Purdue University is located. Visitation Patterns were evaluated and assessed for key differences pre-COVID, during COVID, up to the present year. Through the use of Safegraph data, we were able to identify Core places in Tippecanoe County and match them with visitation numbers in Monthly Pattern data. By analyzing this mobility data, we can evaluate the effect of COVID-19, such as its impact on surrounding businesses in different categories associated with socioeconomic factors and travel patterns.

5. Developing an ArcGIS Hub site: Example from Penn State University Libraries

Tara Anthony, Penn State University

This talk will highlight the process of developing an ArcGIS Hub site for content created by current and former members of the Donald W. Hamer Center for Maps and Geospatial Information at Penn State University Libraries. This talk will describe elements of the ArcGIS Hub site included in their current site and factors that contributed to its design. This ArcGIS Hub site includes content created from digital maps from the Penn State Libraries collection, along with multiple types of ArcGIS Online applications, and StoryMaps created to showcase map content and connect content to additional resources, media, and descriptive resources. Content included in this ArcGIS Hub application includes multiple items generated by undergraduate student assistants over the last 6 years.

3:00 - 4:00 CST / 4:00 - 5:00 EST - GIS Career Discussion and Social Hour

GIS Career Discussion + Social Hour

Coordinator: Nicole Scholtz, University of Michigan

Invited panelists:

  • Todd Schuble, GIS Manager, Cook County Government, Bureau of Technology
  • Fangning He, Applied Scientist, Amazon
  • Jeff Jalbrzikowski, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • David Brandt, Geospatial Systems Architect, Washington County (MN) Information Technology

For more references about GIS careers, visit a recent GIS career panel video hosted by Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA).