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Mapping a Futuristic Geographic Information System
By Nell Conti, GIS Division Chief, National Park Service
Over the past few years, we have seen some major advancements occurring in cloud-based GIS applications. To this end, Esri has been providing a variety of out-of-the-box applications that we can utilize through the cloud or on premise servers. This has helped us improve our workflows, specifically in data management, field data collection, on-the-fly analysis, and data sharing. We are also seeing a greater emphasis on 2D and 3D spatial analytics. These improvements have increased our ability to analyze and communicate different National Park unit issues in the areas of natural and cultural resources and facility management and for visitor interpretation and public outreach.
According to you what is the major pain point affecting the Esri arena?
The biggest ones for us are duplication of data and ensuring that data is reaching people rapidly—we achieve this with improved data management and sharing of data which has helped us reduce both. We're working closely with the National Park units in our region to integrate the Esri data sharing and hosting workflows using their applications such as ArcGIS Online and the Geospatial Portal to create more efficient data management and data sharing workflows.
Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful project/initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?
One among many of our projects that we are working on is with Grand Teton National Park. We are helping them publish all of their core data into ArcGIS Online.
People that don't have a lot of GIS experience can leverage authoritative GIS information for their own projects without having to do a lot of the GIS data prep work on the back end
They are then integrating their field data collection workflows with ArcGIS Online such that when data is updated in the field, it's immediately updated on the ArcGIS Online platform and within their Park Atlas. The Park Atlas is an interactive online version of park geospatial data and reference layers which we have worked with Grand Teton to build using Esri’s Web App Builder application. So we are working with park staff to integrate Grand Teton’s data across Arc GIS Online, Web App Builder, field data collection workflows using Esri’s Collector for Arc GIS application as well as publishing that data to Open Data for the public.
What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional in your field?
We're in the federal government sector and have an enterprise license agreement with Esri which enables us to leverage most of the Esri core platform. That level of license has given us access to all of the features that we can use to do our jobs without having programming knowledge or needing to design and develop custom applications which eventually acts as a huge time saver for us.
Esri has a robust platform and their desktop software has some of the most advanced and comprehensive spatial-analytical capabilities. So for the GIS professional who is looking at performing geospatial analysis to inform decision-making, Esri provides out-of-the-box tools and good support for those tools.
How would you see the evolution a few years from now with regard to disruptions and transformations within the arena?
We are expecting more developments in field data collection technology, support for 3D data analysis, and increased remote sensing functionality (including more support for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) data processing). These are the areas that we see Esri putting more of development effort into. In response to increasing availability and flexibility of open source platforms Esri is providing better access to their APIs so that developers can extend Esri tools for more customized GIS applications. Also, they have developed products where you're able to ingest a lot of data that they've already produced and organized and explore that data using online platforms. So they have products out there where people that don't have a lot of GIS experience can leverage authoritative GIS information for their own projects without having to do a lot of the GIS data prepwork on the back end.