Co-written by Amber Rutstein and Patricia Becinventa from UCF.

Four of our 2018 Citizen Science GIS NSF REU students Patricia Bencivenga, Lucas Farmer, Sara Peluso, and Amber Rutstein all had the opportunity to present their summer work at the Esri Ocean Forum conference this past week. On Tuesday, the students were able to attend technical training sessions with Esri and as well as connecting with GIS and analyst professionals. Esri’s hands-on training session for their powerful analytical tool Insights was very engaging and informative. Insights helps to connect spatial data and non-spatial data into one linked analyses. Our students were amazed at the endless possibilities Esri’s insights has to offer, not only to our own research and work, but to other industries and aspects too. After the training session, the students were then able to explore the headquarters of the beautiful Esri campus and practiced for their presentations for the coming days.

Here are the four students who attended the Esri conference:
(From left to right; Amber Rutstein, Sara Peluso, Patricia Bencivenga, Lucas Farmer)

We kicked off Wednesday morning with a presentation by Esri’s Jack Dangermond looking at the future of ocean mapping and the possibilities powered by GIS. Later that morning, our very own Tim Hawthorne gave the keynote address at the conference. He started off strong by discussing the importance of the ‘Golden Rule’ and it was a very inspiring speech about connecting people with the research we do. Later that day, Patricia Bencivenga and Lucas Farmer gave a presentation in the auditorium that was focused on spatial storytelling and their REU research from the past summer. Amber Rutstein also presented about her team’s research on marine debris in Hopkins, Belize. Through the rest of the amazing presentations on Wednesday, the students were able to learn more about ocean floor mapping through drones, ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), and GIS.

Thursday morning we had the privilege to sit down with part of the Professional Services team. They talked to us about their careers at Esri and gave our students helpful advice for their futures in the GIS world. One team member even told her career path through a very detailed story map! Finally on Thursday afternoon, Sara Peluso gave a great presentation on her team’s work that looked at flooding in Hopkins, Belize. Before leaving the conference, the four students were given a tour of Esri’s campus and were amazed at the detail hidden in every corner of the design and architecture. You could actually find plants and boulders inside of the buildings and it was really cool to hear that the hallways zig-zagged a bit to resemble a natural trail and to help distribute sound waves. It was incredible!  Overall, we had an amazing and very fulfilling three days! Lots of connections made and great conversations, we cannot wait to see what’s in store for the future.

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