Every year around GIS Day, McMaster University holds an exciting series of lighting talks and demonstrations from members of the University community using GIS. This year, there were 12 speakers who spoke on topics, whose level of expertise ranged from co-op undergraduate students to PhD candidates to Research Assistants to Postdoctoral Fellows. This post aims to provide a few highlights to some of the presentations which took place on November 15th, 2023, from the perspective of an ECCE student associate.

GIS Day at McMaster University Schedule

To begin, Patrick DeLuca, the GIS Specialist at McMaster University, gives an overview of what GIS is and how relevant it is as a career as a growing market, which projects to be worth $41.3 billion USD by 2032. At McMaster, our university level courses in GIS promote a regular examination of industry wants/needs, with a focus on teaching fundamentals which are used in the current job market. Our instructors curate these courses every year to be as relevant as possible for students looking to use GIS in the workplace, so that we as students can be successful.

Geospatial Competency Model: https://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0111/competency.html

Professors at McMaster use the Geospatial Competency Model as a guide for putting together the GIS courses offered at McMaster. Students at McMaster have been successful in various contests related to GIS, including the annual ECCE web app challenge, ArcGIS StoryMaps challenge, and national geomatics competitions.

Next up, Christine Homuth, Spatial Information Specialist, Saman Gourdazi, Cartographic Resources Librarian, Brittany Sostar, Makerspace Coordinator, and Meenaa Saththi, a Makerspace Student Assistant, gave a presentation about how McMaster’s library resources can support GIS projects for student and faculty. The Makerspace is a learning space at the Thode library at McMaster where students and faculty can make use of various creative equipment such as 3D Printers and Laser Cutters/Engravers to bring projects to life. The project that they had prepared for the day was the creation of a physical layered map using multiple stacked materials to visualize the Hamilton/Burlington Bay area. The result can be seen here:

Layered map of the Hamilton/Burlington Bay Area: McMaster’s Library & Makerspace Project

The workflow to obtain the result was as follows:

John Bell, the Director of I.T., Humanities, and Randy Wallinga, the Director of I.T., DeGroote School of Business, then gave an overview and demonstration of MacNav, a wayfinding pilot at McMaster. The project encompasses two themes, classroom automation and digital wayfinding. The classroom automation component sets the goal of fully automating classrooms to be ready based on the schedule provided by the registrar, including lighting, HVAC, AV systems, and security locks. The digital wayfinding component is a way for anyone to use a smartphone to navigate to any location on campus. The MacNav application utilizes ArcGIS Indoors, and ArcGIS Enterprise on the backend. External or outdoor location determination uses the GPS network, but internal or underground location determination is determined using BLE beacons throughout the building. The app includes points of interest which are searchable, as well as accessible route options and feedback for giving a better alternative route which is used to improve the routing used in the app.

Dr. Léa Ravensbergen, an Assistant Professor, School of Earth, Environment & Society, provided a presentation about how GIS was used in her research on transportation geography. Dr. Ravensbergen’s research involved two different studies:

Providing maps to display the findings, she concluded that:

Kayla Golay Lausanne, an anthropology Ph.D. candidate, demonstrated how she used GIS applications to document the social lives of ancient urban communities. The study area consisted of the Cerro San Isidro, Nepeña Valley in Peru. The communities present here are estimated to have existed from 800 BCE to 1500 CE, or over 2300 years. Kayla used two GIS applications to understand two social aspects of these communities, what people saw and how people moved, using view-shed analysis and least-cost analysis, respectively.

Image: Kayla Golay Lausanne, PhD Candidate, Anthropology

The view-shed analysis is useful for understanding the regions in which their ancestors came from, piecing together any power dynamics that may have existed during this period, as well as the cultural significance of landscape markers.

The least-cost analysis was used to dissect any social hierarchy, resource allocation, or division of labour that may have existed.

Some of the ever-evolving findings that were presented includes:

A few of McMaster’s current ECCE students gave presentations at the event:

One other presentation from students (although not ECCE Associates) highlighted three student’s experiences at the 2023 National Geomatics Competition. The day then finished with a trio of presentations related to remote sensing, where the authors used a variety of software such as ArcGIS Pro, ENVI and Google Earth Engine.

Overall, GIS Day at McMaster University provides an interesting insight into what our students and faculty are working on in terms of GIS-related projects. The presentations covered a wide range of topics and showcased the kinds of GIS-enabled work across different disciplines on campus. The event was interesting for those not familiar with GIS as well, and provided an incredible learning experience for all students who attended.