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Blue Raster at the Esri User Conference 2020

Last week Blue Raster attended the largest GIS event of the year: the annual Esri User Conference. Because of the current pandemic, the event went virtual this year and allowed GIS users around the world easy access to the three-day, livestreamed event. Over 86,000 people from 180 countries registered to take part.

Blue Raster at the UC

Despite the different format for this year’s conference, the Blue Raster team exhibited in the virtual expo and participated in many of the sessions. The expo provided a space to connect with other GIS professionals and users via video conferencing and chat.

Day one kicked off with the first of three plenary sessions spread out throughout the week.  Esri founder Jack Dangermond started off the livestream acknowledging the state of the world noting that, although the attendees could not be there in person, we are all connecting in a different way.  Much of the plenary focused on how people have utilized GIS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many user applications appeared on screen, including Blue Raster’s StoryMap with the Red Cross.

Esri UC plenary image
Blue Raster Esri UC plenary image

The UC is a Learning Experience

Most of the Blue Raster team attended workshops, Special Interest Group, and technical sessions and walked away with new skills and knowledge about the latest features from Esri.  Some of the features we are most excited about are:

GeoCards:  These dynamic, informational cards are one of the new features for ArcGIS Experience Builder. GeoCards dynamically show individual feature statistics against a color or thematic background and can link out to other data sources, StoryMaps, or Dashboards for users to explore the data more!

Other new Experience Builder enhancements include Bookmarks, which can be used to configure a step-by-step display of locations in a web map, similar to a tour. In addition, there are new visual animations to set effects such as Zoom or Fade-in on widgets when they appear in view.

ArcGIS Field Maps: This new app combines capabilities of five ArcGIS field applications, Collector, Explorer, Navigator, Tracker, and Workforce into one easy to use and convenient mapping application.  It saves space and time for the mobile workforce.

ArcGIS Field Maps

You can watch the three plenary sessions via YouTube. View thought-provoking and powerful stories about how GIS is making a difference in the world. See demonstrations of the latest technology and capabilities ArcGIS offers.

Registered attendees will have access to the on-demand conference content until September 1, 2020. Select conference content will be available to a broader audience through at least December 31, 2020.

Did we meet at the UC?

Schedule a meeting with the Blue Raster team!

Emerging Hot Spots and Tracking Global Forest Loss: A New Chapter in GIS for Science

Deforestation impacts the environment in many ways. Habitat loss, desertification, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change are just some of the negative effects. In an effort to understand trends in deforestion, Blue Raster collaborated with the World Resources Institute and Esri to publish a study about using spatial statistics to identify Emerging Hot Spots of forest loss. We are excited to announce that this work is part of a new publication.

GIS for Science

Featured in the new Esri Press book, GIS for Science, “Tracking Global Forest Loss” explores the study and the use of advanced geospatial tools to analyze and monitor forest loss throughout Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia.

GIS for Science: Applying Mapping and Spatial Analytics, Volume 2 will officially be released in October 2020, but the pre-release volume is available digitally at this year’s Esri User Conference.

Using Esri’s Emerging Hot Spot Analysis, Blue Raster helped develop a workflow for mapping changes of deforestation through time and visualizing the impact of environmental policy across the world. The Emerging Hot Spot Analysis tool detects trends in data by analyzing new, intensifying, diminishing, and sporadic hot and cold spots. When analyzing for deforestation trends, Blue Raster worked to identify continual trends for hot spots of tree cover loss and cold spots of diminishing loss.

Tracking Global Forest Loss: Emerging Hot Spot Analysis

As the threat to our environment grows, scientists are working with cutting-edge GIS technology to help decision makers, technical experts and the broader public better understand trends in deforestation and improve future forest monitoring. With the ability to quantify deforestation loss over time, governments and other interest groups can create more effective policy over time.

Enhanced Visualization of DHIS2 Data

What is DHIS2?

DHIS2the District Health Information Software, is an open-source platform for data collection, analysis and reporting of healthy system data. Ministries of Health in over 60 countries use DHIS2 to monitor both aggregate and patient-level data. Blue Raster has had the opportunity to create enhanced visualizations of data collected and stored in DHIS2 using Power BI and ArcGIS Online.

What is enhanced visualization?

While the DHIS2 platform has inbuilt data visualization capabilities, Blue Raster found opportunities to optimize the presentation of data for decision making in the form of interactive dashboards using Power BI and geospatial analysis using ArcGIS Online. We determined that Power BI and ArcGIS Online were the right tools for the job, and we created an automated workflow to extract data directly from DHIS2 for processing and display in other tools.  

We put this workflow to use in our work on the TRACE project in Lesotho. These visualizations are helping to guide decision makers and contribute to the global fight to reach HIV epidemic control.

DHIS2 visualization

Why use those additional technologies?

Using Power BI and ArcGIS Online adds analytic value and the opportunity to customize the look and feel of DHIS2 visualizations.  

Advantages of Power BI: 

  • Additional data processing/cleaning prior to visualization 
  • Cross-filter and cross-highlight between different visualizations 
  • Drill up and down in geographic hierarchies 
  • Copy and paste specific visuals and export data from visuals 

Advantages of ArcGIS Online: 

  • Explore connections between data using customizable interactive maps 
  • Develop professional-looking web applications to visualize data using out of the box configurable tools 
  • Perform statistical and geospatial analysis using your data sets and sources from ESRI’s Living Atlas (library of curated datasets) 

How can I get started with my DHIS2 data?

Blue Raster can help you take full advantage of your DHIS2 data. Our expertise in human-centered design coupled with our technical expertise in Power BI and Esri's ArcGIS tools can help you make the best decisions at the right time using your data. Contact us today to get started.  

Esri UC 2020 is Virtual!

The Esri User Conference (Esri UC) is virtual this year! ArcGIS users, Esri staff, and special guests will share their powerful stories on how GIS is making a difference in the world. See demonstrations of the latest technology and capabilities in ArcGIS that will empower you to take your work to the next level. Esri UC 2020 is lining up to be the world's biggest GIS event of the year! View the detailed agenda here.

Esri UC 2020
Esri UC is July 13 - 16, 2020

Joined by Jack Dangermond, this year's plenary guests are Dr. Vicki Phillips, Executive Vice President and Chief Education Officer, National Geographic Society, and Jeffrey Sachs, President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, UN SDG Advocate, and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. They will share their vision on how the monitoring and analysis of data will help us achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals.

Esri UC 2020 Expo

Blue Raster will be virtually exhibiting this year. Attendees can visit us online via chat and set up live Zoom meetings. More information will be provided once the conference beings. Our virtual "booth" will be staffed during all of the conference expo hours, and we want to talk with you! We can't wait to tell you about our latest GIS capabilities and projects.

Expo Hours:

  • Monday, July 13th from 3:05pm - 6:45pm ET
  • Tuesday, July 14th from 10:30am-12:40pm ET and 2:10pm-6:45pm ET
  • Wednesday, July 15th from 10:30am-12:40pm ET and 2:10-6:45pm ET

Map Gallery

Look for our 3 entries in the Virtual Map Gallery:

Full conference access to the Esri UC is available if you are current on your maintenance plan or subscription, including users with ArcGIS for Personal Use licenses, distributors and partners. Register here.

Plenary Session access is complimentary for everyone.

Connect With US

Set up a time to virtually meet with us at the UC!

Celebrating 60 Years of Discovery with Jane Goodall


On July 14th, 1960, a young Jane Goodall would arrive in Gombe, Tanzania to begin her study of wild chimpanzees. Six decades later, the same Dr. Goodall is a forerunner in the field of animal behavior, an innovator in community-led conservation, and a scientist whose work will continue to influence future generations of researchers.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Dr. Goodall's pioneering research, Blue Raster partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute to create a new, interactive story map using Esri's ArcGIS StoryMaps technology. This new story map, titled DISCOVERY, INNOVATION & HOPE, builds on the previously published ENGAGE – LISTEN – UNDERSTAND – ACT, with a greater focus on how Jane’s work changed the world of conservation.

DISCOVERY, INNOVATION & HOPE utilizes the sidecar feature within ArcGIS StoryMaps to demonstrate how the Jane Goodall Institute’s research area has expanded over the past 60 years. Viewers can travel from the Gombe Stream Game Reserve of 1960 to the over six million hectares of land the Institute now works with today by simply scrolling through the maps.

Jane Goodall Institute Story map

Jane Goodall's Influence

A reoccurring theme throughout the Story Map is Jane’s dedication to mentorship. The knowledge and impact of Gombe researchers extends across the globe with over 300 scientific articles produced at the Jane Goodall Institute. An interactive map of affiliated researchers allows readers of the Story Map to learn a little more about the people who continue to study animal behavior in Tanzania.

Jane Goodall Institute Story map
Images courtesy of Vanne Goodall, Nick Riley Photography, Shawn Sweeney, Lilian Pintea, and the Jane Goodall Institute.

The importance of spatial analysis in conservation efforts is also highlighted. Gombe has three distinct communities of chimpanzees: Mitumba, Kasekela, and Kalande. Using long-term data, researchers were able to estimate range maps for the groups, which then informed decisions on habitat restoration. Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS brings these range maps to life by showing chimpanzee community movement from 1973 to 2016. Story map readers can interact with the app to learn about how deforestation and an increase in human settlements have affected each of the chimpanzee groups.

Jane Goodall Institute Story map

Restoration of vital great ape habitats is jointly achieved through natural resource management and local involvement in land-use planning. Connecting spatial information with conservation efforts fosters a more sustainable environments for both humans and chimpanzees.

View the new story map here. For more information about our work with the Jane Goodall Institute, read our blog posts here.

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