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URISA’s GISCorps. URISA Ontario Be Spatial ’09 May 5, 2009 Shoreh Elhami, GISP GISCorps Co-founder www.giscorps.org info@giscorps.org. Summary. History/Model/Volunteers GISCorps Missions Completed In Progress Q & A. History of GISCorps.

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Urisa s giscorps


URISA Ontario

Be Spatial ’09

May 5, 2009

Shoreh Elhami, GISP

GISCorps Co-founder



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  • History/Model/Volunteers

  • GISCorps Missions

    • Completed

    • In Progress

  • Q & A

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History of GISCorps

GISCorps started with a simple idea and question:

Would GIS professionals be willing to volunteer their time and expertise – for a short time – to communities in need?

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GISCorps Mission

  • A Program of Urban and Regional Information System Association (URISA), GISCorps coordinates short-term volunteer GIS services to communities in need worldwide

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Areas of Services

  • Services are provided in areas of:

    • Humanitarian relief

    • Human rights

    • Disaster response

    • Capacity building

    • Economic development

    • Community planning and development

    • Health and education related activities

    • Etc.

Giscorps is run by a core committee we have several subcommittees
GISCorps is run by a Core Committeewe have several subcommittees....

From Right: Ingrid Bruce, Mark Salling, Dianne Haley, Allen Ibaugh, Shoreh Elhami

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  • GISCorps Core Committee (CC) is responsible for:

    • establishing relationships and partnerships with recognized agencies & associations such as UN agencies, GSDI, Peace Corps, and...

    • evaluating/screening agencies – after receiving a request for volunteers – to make certain their objectives are in synch with GISCorps and URISA

    • developing job description – selecting a Project Manager

    • screening and evaluating volunteers - matching volunteers’ expertise with project’s needs

    • putting the volunteer in contact with the Partner Agency

    • monitoring and evaluating the outcome

GISCorps Model

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  • Projects are Remote or On-site

  • GISCorps does not pay for its volunteers’ expenses, on-site or remote missions, the Partner Agency does; a new change in policy allows for provision of minimal assistance to qualified projects

  • GISCorps guards strongly against promotion of private interests or business goals of its volunteers or sponsors

GISCorps Model (continued)

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Volunteers’ Profile

  • Total registered volunteers:

    • In October 2003 = 41

    • In October 2004 = 70

    • In August 2005 = 270 ( Indian Ocean tsunami)

    • In October 2005 = 930 (Katrina)

    • In April 2008 = 1,215

    • In April 2009 = 1,500+

  • Currently have over 1,000 registered ‘Friends’

  • Volunteers have an average of more than 8 years GIS experience

  • Over 35% of them teach or have taught GIS

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Volunteers’ Locations

  • 1,504 volunteers reside in 74 countries (born in 82 countries)

    & in all continents

  • 85% of them reside in the US and Canada

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Missions 2004-2009

As of April 2009, Engaged in 48 missions; deployed 131 volunteers:

  • 20 on-site missions; deployed 54 volunteers

  • 28 remote missions; deployed 77 volunteers

    Deployments are to emergency as well as non emergency missions

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Missions 2004-2009 (Non Emergency/On-Site)

Capacity Building, Training, Needs Assessment

  • Thailand – PRAD (Partners Relief Development)/FBR (Free Burma Rangers) ; teaching ArcGIS to Burmese relief workers

  • Afghanistan – AIMS (Afghanistan Information Management Service)/UNDP (UN Development Program); teaching ArcGIS & ArcGIS Server to AIMS staff

  • Dominican Republic – EWB (Engineers without Border)- NYU: Polytechnic; teaching students how to collect and disseminate data via Google Earth

  • Advanced GIS training in New Orleans – BIA (Broadmoor Improvement Association)

Ewb nyu polytechnic training on google earth dominican republic project 2 volunteers
EWB - NYU: Polytechnic; training on Google Earth; Dominican Republic project, 2 Volunteers

Advanced GIS training in New Orleans: Broadmoor Improvement Association

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Missions 2004-2009 Republic project, 2 Volunteers(Non-Emergency/Remote)

Spatial Analysis/Geo-Coding/Web App Dev.

  • Kenya and Ethiopia – EWV (Enterprise Works VITA); spatial modelling: exploring domestic rainwater harvesting’s potential as a sustainable resource

  • Darfur & East Chad – AAAS (American Association for Advancement of Science); Geo-coding of locations of atrocities from various reports

  • HealthCare Volunteers; Geo-coding locations of healthcare centres and volunteers & developing a web interface

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Domestic Rainwater Harvesting (DRWH) Republic project, 2 VolunteersKenya and Ethiopia: EWV, 2 Volunteers

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Missions 2004-2009 Volunteers

K-12 Missions

  • Conducted Training for a 4-H group in Collier County, Florida

  • Taught a group of 4-H students how to use GPS and GIS to map Barn Quilts in Sac County, Iowa

  • Assisted a non profit organization in teaching GIS to inner city students in Cincinnati, Ohio – 4 Volunteers

  • A new mission in Chattanooga, TN

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Missions 2004-2009 4-H Club

Emergency Response/On-Site

  • Post tsunami missions (2) – Indonesia; 6 volunteers

  • Post Katrina missions (4) – Mississippi; 33 volunteers

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Nias Island 2005; 30 days

  • GISCorps Volunteers…

  • Damage Assessment: assisted in field data collection and information dissemination.


West Coast of Sumatra

Banda Aceh

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Hurricane Katrina Relief in partnership with Mississippi EOC (Emergency Operation Centre) – Sept. 2005

  • A total of four missions

  • A total of 33 volunteers were deployed

  • Within the first 4 days, over 500 new volunteers signed up, over 3,000 emails were received, over 240 resumes were reviewed, and over 70 people were phone interviewed

  • The first 20 were deployed within 48 hours, they worked 12-hour shifts; the second group also within 48 hours

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Hurricane Katrina Relief in partnership Disaster Relief

with MS EOC

  • Upon arrival, the team started to work right away on Search and Rescue related tasks:

    • Over 200 addresses were translated to longitude/latitude and handed out to US Coast Guard Rescue helicopters; over 75 lives were saved on that Sunday (09/04) alone; these addresses were either given by the stranded/injured people or someone would spot them and call the EOC with incomplete address information. GIS volunteers would find their location (at times using Google Map, Map Quest) and then hand it over to SAR staff

    • The resulting information was mapped on a daily basis for strategic and logistical as well as reporting purposes

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Missions 2004-2008 Disaster Relief

Emergency Response/Remote

  • Post tsunami mission – India; 7 volunteers; in 2005

  • Post Cyclone Nargis missions (2) – 34 volunteer, in May 2008

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Post Tsunami Mission; March 2005 Disaster Relief

Andaman Islands, India

  • In partnership with Seeds India and Map Action: deployed seven (7) volunteers for over one month to recreate the physical layout and development pattern of erased villages in Andaman Islands of India as they existed before the tragedy; heads-up digitizing from “Pre-disaster” imagery

  • All communications via emails and FTP sites

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Cyclone Nargis Missions – Myanmar (Burma) Disaster Relief

In partnership w/ UNOSAT

(United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Program)

  • Phase One: First request for 20 volunteers on May 9th

  • Phase Two: Second request for 20 more volunteers on May 21st

  • Job Descriptions were developed with assistance from UNOSAT Project Manager

  • An email broadcast went out to all volunteers and list serves on May 9th

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Cyclone Nargis Missions – Phase One Disaster Relief

  • Within 48 hours, Mission Managers selected a Project Manager on the GISCorps side and 19 other volunteers; (From US, Canada, England, Germany, Cyprus)

  • Tasks included:

    • Digitizing locations of damaged structures such as buildings, pagodas, monasteries (assembly points), as well as roads and bridges from “Post-disaster”imagery and from Google Earth interface; Pre-disaster imagery was used to identify the damage

    • Digitizing locations of roads and bridges from “Pre-disaster” imagery

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  • GISCorps Volunteers… Disaster Relief

  • Digitized various features

  • From Google Earth Interface

  • and a variety of imageries

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  • UNOSAT … Disaster Relief

  • Created many maps from GISCorps volunteers’ work

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Cyclone Nargis Missions – Phase Two Disaster Relief

  • On May 21st, UNOSAT requested another 20 volunteers

  • A new Project Manager was selected from among the first phase volunteers; looked for the new team among the latest applications; (From US, Canada, Germany, Cyprus, Taiwan)

  • Tasks included:

    • Digitizing “only “ buildings, pagodas and monasteries (assemply points) from “Pre-disaster” imagery but for a larger area; work started on Tuesday May 26th

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Cyclone Nargis Missions – Lessons Learned Disaster Relief

What’s Critical?

  • Clear direction from the Partner Agency

  • Selection of the Project Manager & Assistant PM

  • Volunteers’ access to a collaborative environment (i.e. wiki) to allow for posting information and sharing

  • Fast Internet connection

  • Have as much documentation available/accessible

  • Having someone from the region on the team

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Cyclone Nargis Missions – Lessons Learned Disaster Relief

  • Image availability critical (post and pre)

  • Google Earth: Pros and Cons

    • Overlay limitation & attribute population (Arc2Earth license donated by Brian Flood)

    • Free, easy to use

  • Time difference, language barrier

  • Disaster response projects are always rushed and by nature unpredictable; Flexibility is of utmost importance

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Projects in Progress….. Disaster Relief

  • Mozambique (1 vol, Netherlands): change detection using QuickBird imagery from two years for a national park (detecting evidence of gold panning)

  • Zambia (1 vol, NY): trend analysis on environmental data collected for South Luangwa Conservation Society (looking for patterns in locations of poached elephants, meat drying racks, poachers’ routes and footprints, gunshots heard, snared animals, etc.)

  • Oregon (3 vols, WA, FL, IL): Disaster preparedness exercise with a county in Oregon via HumaniNet (a non-profit organization in Oregon)

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Projects in Progress….. Disaster Relief

  • Panama (2 volunteers from Calgary): design of an online questionnaire to collect information on Panamanian orphans in urban areas of the country (geo-locating in the 2nd phase)

  • Upcoming: GSDI (Global Spatial Data Infrastructure – multiple projects), North Korea data collection project, and more…

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Interested in helping? Disaster Relief

  • Need a volunteer to build an IMS for our volunteers and projects (with live connection to our database)

  • Need a volunteer to work with our finance subcommittee in setting up mileage donation for our volunteers

  • Need volunteers for the Disaster Response Subcommittee (DRS):

    • conduct research on existing disaster response protocols; for North America and internationally

    • develop a wiki site

    • More…

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At the heart of volunteerism are the ideals of service and solidarity and the belief that together we can make the world a better place.

Volunteers do not ask, “why volunteer?”, but rather “when?”, “where?” and “how?”.

These dedicated and courageous individuals are important partners in the quest for a better, fairer and safer world.

Kofi Annan, 5 December 2003