GIS Day 2017

Visualize the World: GIS, Maps, Drones, Virtual Reality, Location Intelligence

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Penn State GIS Day held on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 14th engaged participants from multiple areas of campus as both presenters and attendees. This year’s event focused primarily on speakers including some from Penn State and some from outside the University setting.

This was the 4th year Penn State has consistently held a GIS Day program here in the University Libraries and co-sponsored with the Department of Geography.

Recordings of sessions are available via Media Site Live:

Session 1: Featured Speakers: Annaka Scheeres (Philadelphia Dept of Public Health), Charlie Fitzpatrick (Esri Education), Lightning talk speakers

Session 2: Featured Speaker: Rachel Weeden (Esri), Lightning Talk speakers

A highlight of new connections made this year:

  • Connected with the Esri Philadelphia Office to have a Penn State Alum speak about ESRI’s ArcGIS Platform, including a newer component of their Desktop application, ArcGIS Pro.
  • Invited speaker who was featured at the Esri Education conference to share message on the importance of a learning-centric and agile framework when working in the geospatial and data field.
  • Invited GIS education leader, Charlie Fitzpatrick, to highlight the K12 environment and GIS in the classroom
  • Connected with new groups and units to have participation in lightning talks, including Red Cell Analytics (IST), Geosciences, ChoroPhronesis (Virtual Reality), GIS Coalition, and the Mobile Geospatial Systems Group.
  • Continued having participation from Dept. of Geography, GeoDesign, Online Geopatial Program, PASDA, and PRI. Continued participation from Penn DOT, and State College Weather office.
  • Involvement of student-led group, GIS Coalition, at planning meetings
  • Marketing and promotion on the World Campus events listing
  • Social Media participation of those involved with planning event sharing via Twitter and Facebook
  • CANVAS activity for interested instructors to add to class

Schedule of Events

Poster Display

Location: Franklin Atrium, Pattee Library: 9am-5pm

Poster contributions from the Red Cell Analytics Lab (RCAL)(College of IST), Community, Environment, and Development (CED) students, and Geography department members.

Speakers and Lightning Talks

Location: Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library: 1:30pm-5:00pm

Featured Speakers

First Session (1:30-3:00pm) (Remote participation via Media Site Live)


Annaka Scheeres, Research & Evaluation Associate, Division of Chronic Disease Prevention- Get Healthy Philly, Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Annaka Scheeres received a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Geography concentration) and a B.S. in Biology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. After graduating in May 2016, Annaka was a Summer of Maps Fellow at Azavea, a geospatial analysis company in Philadelphia, where she was the project manager, GIS analyst, statistician, and software developer for projects with the American Red Cross and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Previously she was a research fellow for Calvin’s Geography Department, visualizing ecological and social injustices within the local watershed. She currently works at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, analyzing citywide public health initiatives.

Learning How to Learn 

Annaka Scheeres, a recent graduate, will discuss how her understanding of GIS has expanded since she finished her undergraduate geography program and entered the rapidly evolving GIS workforce. She will also explore agile development, which is a work framework that has changed her approach to projects from relying on prior knowledge to being learning centric.


Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education

Charlie Fitzpatrick is a K12 education manager for Esri. Since joining Esri in 1992, he has worked with students, educators, and influencers to engage computer-based geographic analysis in instruction, across all grades, subjects, instructional strategies, and technologies. Charlie manages Esri’s effort to get free GIS resources used in all K12 schools and clubs. Before coming to Esri, Charlie taught 7th-12th grade social studies for 15 years, and led numerous workshops on teaching geography with computers. He received a Masters in Geography from the University of Minnesota. When not working with learners, computers, and maps, he can sometimes be found photographing life around coral reefs.


GIS is growing in high schools, middle schools, even elementary schools. Students are learning classroom content, tech skills, project operation, critical thinking, data analysis, and presentation. They are working across the ArcGIS platform, building story maps, earning competition prizes and even internships before their high school diploma. The Science of Where can make perfect sense in school, now, and for the future.

2:30-3:00pm: Lightning Talk Speakers and Times*

Calvin Mende, Red Cell Analytics (2:30pm-2:35pm)

Maurie Kelly (PASDA):  Data Resources for Researchers: The Data Commons and Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (2:35pm-2:40pm)

-Josh Inwood, Geography/Rock Ethics Institute: Mapping Jim Crow From Below: The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Geospatial Intelligence, and Civil Rights (2:40pm-2:45pm)

Description: Integrating modern understandings of Geospatial Intelligence (GI) and Black Geographies with research on the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), this project examines the geospatial labor of SNCC to reveal how the material practices of GI were used to oppose segregation during the Civil Rights era. This research relies on archival work at several SNCC-related collections across the United States as well as a series of open-ended interviews with surviving members of SNCC familiar with the generation and implementation of SNCC state reports. SNCC state reports offered a mapping of racism in local communities and detailed the economic and political experiences of African Americans throughout small and often forgotten Southern cities.

Peter La Femina, Associate Professor, Department of Geosciences: Investigating Volcanic Eruptions Using Photogrammetry (2:45pm-2:50pm)

Dr. Peter La Femina is an Associate Professor of Geosciences at The Pennsylvania State University. He holds a PhD in Marine Geology and Geophysics from the University of Miami – Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS), an MSc in Geology from Florida International University, and a BA in Geology from Hartwick College.

Description: Understanding processes that lead to volcanic eruptions is paramount for predicting future volcanic activity. Telica volcano, Nicaragua is a persistently active volcano with hundreds of daily, low magnitude and low frequency seismic events, high-temperature degassing, and sub-decadal VEI 1-3 eruptions. These eruptions affect the crater morphology of Telica volcano, and therefore the exact mechanisms of change to the crater’s form are of interest to provide data that may support or refute proposed sealing mechanisms, improving our understanding of eruption mechanisms. We use a collection of photographs between February 1994 and May 2016 and a combination of qualitative and quantitative photogrammetry to detect the extent and type of changes in crater morphology associated with 2011, 2013, and 2015 eruptive activity. Results of qualitative observations and quantitative differencing reveal a general trend of material subtraction from the inner crater walls associated with eruptive activity and accumulation of material on the crater floor, often visibly sourced from the walls of the crater.

Erin DiMaggio, Research Associate, Department of Geosciences (2:50pm-2:55pm)

Erin DiMaggio is a geologist who uses GIS in her studies of sedimentary rocks and volcanic deposits in Ethiopia to learn about continental rifting processes, and the timing and geologic setting of early human evolution. She is a research associate in the Department of Geosciences at PSU, and teaches a portion of their capstone geosciences field course where she has integrated GIS into student mapping exercises.

Title: Standardized GIS-based digital geologic mapping for geoscience field schools.

Description: I will discuss ongoing efforts to efficiently teach upper-level undergraduate students how to produce professional geologic maps and cross-sections to aid in geologic interpretation, and in turn gain a valuable skill set during their capstone field course.

-Eliza Bradley, PSU/ARL (2:55pm-3:00pm)

Eliza Bradley is an R&D Engineer in the PSU – Applied Research Lab in the Image Science & GIS department.  She received a B.S. in Mathematics & Physics from Guilford College and her Ph.D. in Geography from University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to PSU, she worked in the federal government for five years and has a range in experience from mapping the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with the AVIRIS hyperspectral team to instrumenting green roofs.

Title: Towards a PSU Image Processing & Computer Vision (IPCV) Day

Description: This talk will introduce plans for an Image Science Day at PSU and include discussion of components, partnerships, and challenges.

3:00-3:30pm: Networking break reception with light refreshments will occur during the lightning talks (Mann Assembly Room), Paterno Library

Second Session  (3:30-5:00pm) (Remote participation via Media Site Live)
Rachel Weeden, Team Lead, Local Government, Esri

Rachel Weeden works as a Team Lead and Solution Engineer at Esri, where she enjoys helping local governments improve the way they use GIS. Prior to Esri, she worked at the City of Philadelphia and Chester County PA as a GIS Specialist – a career path introduced to her as a Geography undergraduate at Penn State.

Description: Desktop applications are the foundation of a GIS; with data management capabilities, powerful analysis and more, these are the tools that many GIS professionals rely on. However, the needs of GIS have evolved:

  • people are collaborating, not just working on individual projects
  • data is shared as web services in addition to common file formats
  • maps are not just 2D, but 3D
  • applications can be easily configured rather than custom-coded

These advances have driven requirements for the next generation of desktop GIS software, and ArcGIS Pro delivers on those. This session will provide an overview of ArcGIS Pro with examples of how its capabilities are meeting the demands for a changing desktop GIS. Demonstrations will include examples of how GIS can be used to improve decision-making and location analysis.

4:00-5:00pm: Lightning Talk Speakers


-Frank DeSendi, Penn Dept of Transportation (Penn DOT)(4:00pm-4:05pm)

Frank DeSendi has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography from the Pennsylvania State University. Frank is the Manager of the Geographic Information Division at PennDOT and is a former Chair of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials’ GIS for Transportation (AASHTO GIS-T) Task Force. Frank started at PennDOT in 1989 and has worked in the geospatial field at PennDOT since 1995.

Title: Automated Environmental Screening in the Planning Process

Description: Federal Highway Administration requires state DOTs to understand the environmental impacts of transportation projects early in the planning process. Early understanding aids project prioritization decisions and leads to better cost estimates. PennDOT and regional planning organizations advance hundreds of projects annually. To meet the demand, PennDOT’s GIS staff has created an automated environmental screening tool. This talk will provide an overview of the process.

Connor Henderson, Maps/GIS Assistant, University Libraries (4:05pm-4:10pm)

Connor is currently a Maps and GIS Assistant for the Donald W. Hamer Center for Maps and Geospatial Information in Pattee Library.  Additonally, he has previously held a Bednar internship with the Library.  In May 2017, he graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Science in Geography and a minor in GIS.  He is interested in applying maps and spatial data to a wide variety of questions and problems.  In his past and current positions he has aimed to use the Library’s spatial resources to learn about the social, economic and environmental context of places and the lives of people there in the past and present.

Title: State College Household History: Mapping Census and Student Directory Data at the Household Level using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Description: This presentation follows up on the work of Bednar Interns to digitize Sanborn Maps of State College from the years 1906, 1911, 1922, and 1929.  The second phase of this project was to map the location of individual residents within the mapped area of the Sanborn based on data extracted from the U.S. Census and Penn State’s Student Directories from 1920 and 1930.  The result is an interactive map in which the user can search for residents by name, see the buildings in which they lived, and view the personal and socioeconomic data provided by Census and Directory records.  This presentation will briefly discuss the methods used throughout the project as well as the findings and significance of the final product.

Yosef Bodovski, Population Research Institute’s (PRI) Computational and Spatial Analysis (CSA), GIS and Social Science Research (4:10pm-4:15pm)

Yosef Bodovski is a GIS Research Analyst at the Computational and Spatial Analysis Core which is a part of the Population Research Institute and Social Science Research Institute. Yosef has a BA in Geography and Sociology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Master of GIS from Penn State. Yosef is actively involved in multiple research projects and provides technical support to researchers who use GIS and spatial analysis in the field of social sciences.

This talk will provide a brief summary of services provided by the Computational and Spatial Analysis Core which is part of Social Science Research Institute and Population Research Institute. It will also focus on Web GIS applications developed by the core using ArcGIS Online system.

ChoroPhronesis (Virtual Reality) (4:15pm-4:20pm) (Alex Klippel, Professor, Geography).

Kelleann Foster, Penn State Geodesign – Online Degree Programs, Director, Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (4:20pm-4:25pm)

-Jesse Suders, Graduate Student – Penn State Geodesign, Department of Landscape Architecture (4:25pm-4:30pm)

Suders  a working professional with 10 years of professional experience in geospatial information systems, data management, information technology, leadership, problem solving, environmental conservation, and comprehensive planning. I possess a Bachelor’s of Science in Regional Planning from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.

Title: Framing Context – GIS in Planning

Description:  This talk is going to look at the intersection of GIS and Planning as it relates to current housing demand an how GeoDesign can play an active role in demonstrating for stakeholders the consequences or benefits of their decision making utilizing spatial enabling technologies within the planning process in real-time.

-GIS Coalition, Spencer Haley, Nicole Rivera, Brittany Waltemate (4:30pm-4:35pm)

Description: GIS Coalition and plans of student club.

Joe Ceru, Flash Flood Vulnerability Index as a case study with the 21st October 2016 Flash Flood (4:35pm-4:40pm)

Joe Ceru is a general forecaster and GIS program leader at the State College Weather Forecast Office.  The National Weather Service is a component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is an Operating Unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Colby Mccabe is a PSU student currently in the meteorology department.

Nooreen Meghani (Mobile Geospatial Systems group), Applications of sUAS-based sensors to Forestry, Meteorology, and Agriculture, (4:40pm-4:45pm)

Nooreen Meghani is a researcher with the Center for Environmental Informatics. She received her M.S. in Geology in 2015 from Penn State and joined the MGS team in 2016.  Current MGS team members include Mikael Hiestand, graduate researcher, Geography, Brennan Holderman, M.S. Candidate, Forest Ecosystem Science and Management; Luba Hristova, undergraduate researcher, Geography; Charles Krugger, B.S. Geography; Andrew Yoder, undergraduate researcher, Geography with GIS option; Kaitlyn Yoder, M.S. Candidate, Forest Ecosystem Science and Management.

Description: Doug Miller’s (Professor of Geography, Director: Center for Environmental Informatics) Mobile Geospatial Systems group is a team of researchers with diverse foci, centered on developing aerial and mobile platforms capable of hosting a number of different sensors. Our platforms range from an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom 4 Advanced modified to carry a Mica Sense Rededge multispectral camera to a Tarot 8 Octocopter capable of flying a Velodyne LiDAR unit.

-Office of the Physical Plant: Updates on aerial photography and basemap (4:45-4:50pm)

-Vera Green, Graduate Student- Penn State MGIS, GIS Specialist, From TIF to GIS – porting scanned records to spatial data (4:50pm-5:00pm)

Vera works as an independent contractor in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  With over 12 years of experience in GIS across several industries her current work focusses on provides GIS development and system support services to her clients within the Alberta energy sector.  Vera has extensive experience with both ESRI and open source based GIS systems such as OpenGeo Suite as well as advanced skills in python based programming.  She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Geography from the University of Northern British Columbia and is currently completing the MGIS program.

Description:  The focus of this talk is on the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and python scripting for the translation of scanned documents to GIS.  The presentation will include a demonstration of translating scanned horizontal well records to a usable GIS format discussing some of the challenges as well as opportunities technology provides for the capturing of information from historical formats.

Instructors: Consider adding a CANVAS activity on GIS Day. A CANVAS Activity is available to import into courses. Please contact Beth King, (, if interested in incorporating into CANVAS.

*Times of lightning talk speakers are approximate and may vary based on talk length.

If you are interested in being a speaker or lightning talk speaker, please contact Tara LaLonde,

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mapathon for Puerto Rico, 229 Walker Building, Penn State University

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