LandScope Gets the Attention of GIS Professionals Around the World

Geographic Information System (GIS) professionals are not the primary audience for LandScope America, since they already have most of the mapping capabilities that LandScope will provide. However, they are a primary source of information for the LandScope website and wall maps. That’s why we decided to make a big promotional push at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego on August 4-8. That premier GIS event brings 15,000 geospatial experts from all sectors, states, and nations together to share knowledge and learn where the technology is and where it’s heading. It’s quite an event, with hundreds of concurrent paper presentations, technical workshops, vendor exhibits, and the largest, most spectacular map gallery in the world.

We made a big splash with LandScope. First, ESRI paid to print and distribute our new wall map to all 15,000 attendees. It was thrilling to walk into the mile-long plenary session on Monday morning and see the maps on every seat. It was especially rewarding to see how many of these cartophiles were unfolding their maps and squinting in the dimly-lit hall to read the maps and study the data, most of which had never before been published at a national scale.

There were numerous demonstrations of state-of-the-art web mapping sites. I was encouraged to see that the LandScope map viewer that we’re developing is on the forefront of this movement to bring GIS to the general public. The keynote address was given by Peter Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and National Geographic Board Member. Peter talked about the importance of biodiversity, and the ever-expanding role of humans in tending this “garden” we call Earth. His presentation highlighted LandScope as a means of helping managers and the public take action to conserve, manage, and restore the biodiversity and open space remaining in this country.

Monday evening featured a huge reception and formal poster session, where attendees ate, drank, and browsed the Map Gallery. National Geographic is always given a large and prominent exhibit space near the center of the Map Gallery to showcase our maps and projects, most of which depend on GIS to prepare the data. This year we dedicated half of our space to LandScope America, with posters and a multimedia display describing the initiative and highlighting the new wall map. Hundreds of people came through the exhibit to admire and study the enlarged map, and discuss the data and their implications. I listened in on many animated conversations about the extent of development and protected areas displayed on the map, and the societal implications they evoked.

After Monday, everyone had heard of LandScope and seen the map. This was reinforced by the gigantic 20-foot wide versions of both sides of the map, which ESRI had printed and hung in the cavernous vendor exhibit hall. Attendees who wanted to learn more attended one of two formal LandScope presentations that Lori Scott and I gave on Wednesday and Thursday. By the end of the week, it seemed that LandScope was a household word for the attendees that I spoke with, and there was a lot of interest in ensuring that their data was included in the initiative. We hope to extend that awareness and enthusiasm to our primary users when we launch at the end of the year. Coming out of the ESRI conference, I’m confident that we can succeed.

- Frank Biasi

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