Our student blog series continues with NSF REU students Sara Peluso (UCF) and Lucas Farmer (Ohio Wesleyan University) reflecting on their experiences presenting and networking at the Esri Oceans Forum.

Four students from the REU, Amber, Lucas, Patty and Sara, went to Redlands, California, to the Esri Oceans GIS Forum. The conference brought members of the GIS community specifically working on projects in the ocean together. As part of the opener for presentations our PI (principal investigator) for the REU, Timothy Hawthorne, gave his keynote speech to start off the day. The four of us were fortunate enough to be able to present our individual team’s work from the summer. Amber presented the marine debris results to a room of scientists who were eager to ask her more about what she did. Patty and Lucas presented in the main auditorium on their drone mapping and knowledge gathered from the locals of the islands along the coast of Belize, with many people complimenting their work in the following days. Sara presented the flooding results on the last day of the conference, where people were interested in the further details of the work involving culverts and development. As the team wrapped up their presentations they were able to meet up with some incredible members of Esri. They helped give the four us a better understanding of the kind of projects Esri employees work on. It was inspiring to hear not only what they were currently working on, but also to see their passion for their work. At the end of the day and many invigorating conversations we all had to head back to our universities. Next stop for the team is AAG in D.C. this coming April!

Here are some comments from our NSF REU team:

“Being able to present was truly an honor and to have many different people come up to the REU team congratulating our presentations, asking many detailed questions about what we did/what we found, and just being genuinely interested in the work was truly amazing.”


“Attending Esri Ocean GIS Forum was such a great experience! Presenting my work and learning from others in the field provided me with amazing experiences that I will never forget.”


“Having never attended or presented at a conference of this magnitude, I didn’t really know what to expect and was a bit nervous. Overall it was awesome to just be a part of this year’s Esri Ocean GIS Forum.”


(from left to right) Amber Rutstein, Sara Peluso, Patty Bencivenga and Lucas Farmer at ESRI Ocean GIS Forum. This photo was taken on the last day of the conference, just before Sara’s presentation on flooding.

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