gis day 2020

GIS Day 2020

By Rim El Belkacemi

GIS Day 2020

By Rim El Belkacemi
The Department of Geography and Regional Studies will hold the annual GIS Day event on November 18, 2020.

In a year when our understanding of spatiality has been drastically altered, tools and practices of geography are needed more than ever to help reconceptualize our relationship with the place and space surrounding us.

In partnership with the University of Miami (UM) Libraries, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Geography and Regional Studies will hold its first Virtual Annual GIS Symposium, which will address the unprecedented circumstances making 2020 geographically significant in many ways.

GIS Day is an event celebrated worldwide as a part of Geography Awareness Week. It is a space where enthusiasts of geography present the multiple ways in which information systems are utilized to make significant change in the world.

“For us as geographers, this is a time to come together to celebrate geography and to highlight the work that we do through the use of maps, visualization, and storytelling about space and place,” said Imelda Moise, assistant professor and health geographer.

This year’s theme is “Spatially distanced, globally connected and why where matters in times of crisis.” The presentations at this year’s event will address the ways that geospatial technologies are used as spatial tools for crisis response and management.

“When you think about it, we have experienced the year 2020 through its different geographies,” adds Moise. “We chose this year’s theme to feature the way that geographers have mobilized in order to help in these times of crisis whether in mapping COVID-19 cases at fine scale or locations fires.”

Among the notable speakers this year are Dr. Guoyan Zhang, senior director epidemiologist/deputy director, and Vanessa Villamil, biological scientist, at the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), Miami-Dade County. In their presentation on GIS Solutions for COVID-19 Response at the local level, they will discuss how Miami-Dade County, as an epicenter of the COVID 19 pandemic, is remobilizing itself to mitigate this crisis.

Other speakers include: Jessi Joiner, environmental epidemiologist/program manager, who will address FDOH issues of data transparency and accountability in reporting public health information during the pandemic; Jessica Gardetto, chief of external affairs at the National Interagency Fire Center, who will disucss fire mapping, responses, and tools; and Kevin Caillouet, director/entomologist, at St. Tammany Mosquito Abatement District in Louisiana, whose presentation is titled, “When Uncoordinated Development Projects go Wrong: Mapping Septic Systems and Mosquito Risk in Louisiana.”

As the keynote speaker, Carrie Stokes, chief geographer and director of the U.S. Agency for International Development GeoCenter, will share her experience with humanitarian, practical, and advocacy work with geography and its role for policy making and international humanitarian efforts.

GIS Day 2020 will provide students and geography enthusiasts with an exceptional and meaningful experience.

“It is an event that helps go beyond merely looking at maps. It allows us to consider the underlying meanings at both the individual and collective levels, in space and in time, which could be contributing factors to the patterns visible on any given map,” said Moise.

Tech support for GIS Day
The organizing committee, which has been working for months to hold a virtual event of this caliber, is comprised of members of the Department of Geography and Regional Studies, UM Libraries GIS community organization events and IT teams, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences’ IT team.

“Technological support has always been an essential part of such events. However, this year definitely differs in the amount of support needed,” said Dhanushka Samarakoon, the head of Library Technology.

“Tech preparation for an online event is much more time consuming than tech preparation for live events. Preparation is key to the success of an online event,” agreed John Buckard, a system support manager at UM Libraries. “Many rehearsals need to be performed to sort out all of the kinks.”

To register for GIS Day 2020, visit