Conservation Conferences Highlight GIS Technology

Two influential conservation groups, the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) and the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), will gather for the jointly named Conservation Without Borders conference June 24-28, 2006, at the San Jose McEnery Convention...


Redlands, California - Two influential conservation groups, the Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) and the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), will gather for the jointly named Conservation Without Borders conference June 24-28, 2006, at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. More than 2,250 people from as far away as Africa and Asia are expected to attend.

Many of the training sessions and workshops will focus on how conservation researchers can use geographic information system (GIS) software in their work to map and analyze data. Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI, the leading GIS software company, based in Redlands, California, will speak at 8:30 a.m., June 28, about an increasingly harmonious courtship between ecology and technology.

But Dangermond says the relationship will come under some strain in the future as the barrage of data available to people working in ecology increases. GIS will help them make better sense of satellite imagery, inexpensive sensors, and information from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), he says. The NEON program combines the latest developments in citizen science and Web collaboration with mode-level wireless robotic environmental sensors at every ecosystem level, Dangermond says.

"Whereas data management and analytical ability were important before, they may well become overwhelming issues for many practitioners," he says. "We hope to show that GIS systems are an important resource, uniquely suited to this ecological challenge."

GIS also can help ecologists explain complex issues and analysis to the public and decision makers, Dangermond says. "We hope to show that through GIS, the visceral power of graphic maps and spatial visualization can be harnessed to great effect to communicate complex and difficult ecological information."

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt will give a keynote address at 8:00 p.m., June 25. He will talk about his vision for a federal leadership role in land-use planning to help protect open spaces in the United States.

The Wide World of Science and Conservation

Both the SCGIS and SCB conferences will host dozens of workshops, training classes, plenary and paper sessions, and seminars covering a wide range of topics. The June 26 panel discussion, Journalists Are from Venus, Scientists Are from Mars, will try to bridge the gap between how scientists explain their research and how journalists write about it.

A session on June 27 called Global Conservation Models and Analysis will delve into how science and technology can help reach The Nature Conservancy's "2015 Goal" to preserve 10 percent of the world’s major habitats by that year.

During the conferences, researchers will present papers about hundreds of projects such as studying the effect of warming waters on marine life, combating deforestation in Colombia, and saving mountain gorillas in Africa.

"The conferences are quite educational and can teach people a lot about the conservation, biology, and the technology behind the research," said Susan Miller, SCGIS conference committee chair and program director for Enterprise GIS for The Nature Conservancy.

"They can learn about elephants in Africa, hummingbirds in South America, and Tiga forests in Russia," she said.

About 60 SCGIS scholars from all over the world, including Asia, Europe, Russia, and Africa, will attend Conservation without Borders. For many, especially those who face challenges in their work such as a lack of technology or government support, meeting others who work in like fields gives them a mental boost.

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