Monthly Archives: September 2008

Educator Discounts for ESRI Training

Just a reminder:

“An education discount of 40% is applied to your order for Virtual Campus  and Instructor-led courses if you are faculty, staff, or a student of a recognized academic institution. Discounts cannot be combined. Check for eligibility.  This discount does not apply to client-site classes.”

More details available. 

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Fun With GIS, Using AEJEE: #3, Bringing GPS Data into AEJEE

Recently, I started a “Fun With GIS” series, using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/Mac), lightweight GIS tool. This week, we’ll do what a lot of teachers, students, parents, families, and general adventurers want to do: integrate GPS data into a map.

The first task is to go out and collect some data points. With an inexpensive Garmin eTrex GPS, I collected two routes on my GPS — my morning running route and my walk to and from work. Thanks to “DNR Garmin“, a free, downloadable, Windows-based application built by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it was easy to export the data from the GPS unit directly to a shapefile. After that, I opened AEJEE, added the shapefile, classified the routes according to their name, and gave each a separate color.

Then I just added some underlying context. I could have used the Geography Network but chose instead an aerial photo data set from the USGS Seamless server (

My map is now ready to post on a personal website. I could create a layout with an inset map for context, or annotate it in a paint program. Lots of options! But mastering the simple task of collecting points and tracks with a GPS and offloading them onto a computer gets a whole world of activities started!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Teaching About Watersheds With Online and 3-D GIS, Part 2

Another excellent resource to teach about watersheds from a spatial perspective is the EPA’s Surf Your Watershed site ( For each watershed, environmental threats, streamflow, citizen-based action groups, and water quality data can be analyzed. Navigate upstream and downstream to foster understanding of the interconnectivity between adjacent watersheds, and to watersheds far away. Water Science for Schools ( helps cement the basics as well as calculating the astounding amount of rain that falls on user-specified area and covers it at a certain depth.

On the National Atlas web-GIS site (, explorable water-related layers include aquifers, arsenic in groundwater, dams, streams and waterbodies, and watersheds. Use the National Atlas’ MapMaker function to create a map of watersheds and rivers, overlaid with the USGS realtime streamflow stations. Compare the streamflow and water quality on a gaging station at the headwaters of the Arkansas River in Colorado to the gaging station where the Arkansas flows into the Mississippi River. Why do such vast differences exist?

Perhaps the best way to teach about and understand watersheds is in 3-D. ArcGIS Explorer is ESRI’s free, easy-to-use 3-D virtual globe that can model spatial data such as that on National Atlas. Download the watershed boundaries and rivers, access ArcGIS Explorer, and add the watersheds and rivers. First, you may need to define the data’s projection as geographic inside ArcMap. Below, the watersheds looking west from the Great Plains to the Front Range of Colorado are shown in ArcGIS Explorer. A short time spent with this tool easily conveys the relationship between the nested rivers and the watershed boundaries.

To the south (left) of our ESRI office lies a ridge that does not seem significant on the ground, but because it divides the St. Vrain from the Clear Creek watershed, it appears as a red line. What are the closest watershed boundaries to your campus? Do any divide major drainage basins? Add cities, land use, and gaging stations. What urban and non-urban land use affects water quality in each watershed?

-Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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2008 ESRI International User Conference Plenary—Keynote Address

Dr. Peter H. Raven,
president of the Missouri
Botanical Garden and
renowned botanist, environmentalist, and biodiversity expert gives the
keynote address at the 2008 ESRI International User Conference.

Listen to the podcast [57:17 | 39.3 MB]

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Fun With GIS, Using AEJEE: #2, Presidential Election

Last week, I started a “Fun With GIS” series, using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/Mac), lightweight GIS tool. AEJEE’s “HELP” menu contains a link to lessons and on-board data. Part of the “Fun” is being able to use material prepared by others. This week, we’ll take a look at the U.S. Presidential Election.

Here is a zip file about the 2008 US presidential election. The file needs to be downloaded and uncompressed, and the folder placed where you can find it. The best place to put it is in the “ESRI/AEJEE/Data/lessons” folder. Then, begin AEJEE and open the project “election2008.axl” in the “ESRI/AEJEE/Data/lessons/election2008″ folder.

The folder also contains two lesson documents as PDF files, plus an “export” PDF file. The lessons will walk you thru different explorations of the data. The “export.pdf” file can be used with Adobe Acrobat Reader and, if you use version 8.1 or higher, you can use the “layers” tool to explore the individual layers that make up the project.

The presidential election hinges on getting at least 270 electoral votes, in a “winner take all” arrangement in each state. Notice the variations in socioeconomic pattern, party strength, voter participation, flexibility over time, and relevant local elections. In which states would you advise the candidates to spend larger portions of their precious time and dollars? Make your predictions, and watch the battleground states!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Teaching About Watersheds With Online and 3-D GIS, Part 1

Why teach about watersheds? As the area of land that drains all of the water falling into it into a common waterway, watersheds are connected to a larger system. Furthermore, each is a part of a larger watershed. Thus, watersheds (or drainage basins or catchments) are excellent means by which to teach about scale and interconnectivity. Like continents, some watershed boundaries are tied to obvious physical barriers, such as ridgelines. Others are more subtle, such as a rise of ground on campus that seems insignificant, but may separate river flow direction for hundreds of kilometers. Other boundaries are clearly human constructs, created to aid in classifying and managing watersheds. Much like the Asia-Europe “boundary,” the boundary between Watershed A and the one downstream from it is somewhat arbitrary, but useful. Watershed shapes and sizes help explain the severity of floods. Perhaps most importantly, watershed health is important to the sustainability of a region, and taken collectively, to the entire planet. I am encouraged by the signs in Austin indicating to passersby that they are entering a certain watershed and leaving another. Plaques on storm drains indicate the watershed to which the drain is connected. Such public awareness can only help all of us be aware that our everyday actions affect the watershed, and the watershed affects we who inhabit it.

Studying watersheds brings together hydrography, biology, geography, Earth Science, environmental studies, and within each discipline, touch on central themes. In Geography, for example, scale, connectivity, and human-environment interaction are central to the understanding of watersheds. John Wesley Powell’s definition of a watershed makes it clear that the human element is important: “that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.”

Rangitata River, New Zealand, Photograph by Joseph Kerski.

A useful animation from the Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum shows the relationship between landforms, precipitation, and rivers:

-Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Directions Media to host webinar and virtual job fair on GIS jobs

Directions Media will host a series of three online virtual job fairs to bring together employers, job seekers, students and educators to discuss educational programs and job opportunities in geospatial technology.

The webinars/job fairs are free to attend. The first webinar is Tuesday, September 23 (2-3 pm EDT), and will feature a panel discussion with experts in the GIS industry and GIS education, including:

Joe Francica, Directions Media – Job Resources at Directions Media
Dean Howell, GISjobs Australia – International Job Opportunities
Rich Serby, GeoSearch – U.S. Job Opportunities
Dr. David DiBiase, Penn State Univ. – Online Training for GIS certificates and degrees
Dr. Fred Limp, Univ. Arkansas – on interdisciplinary geomatics degree programs
Michael Johnson, ESRI – jobs in software development, training, marketing, and more
Brian Samolyk, Zymac – Executive Recruitment and jobs in LBS

For more information or to register, visit

Job Fair Dates:

Tuesday, September 23 (2008)
Tuesday, January 13 (2009)
Tuesday, May 12 (2009)

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Essays on Geography and GIS

Essays on Geography and GIS is a compilation of best practices in a free electronic book (in PDF) from ESRI.  Articles include:

  • What Is GIS?
  • What Holds Us Together
  • Exploration in the Age of Digital Earth
  • Dynamics GIS: Recognizing the Dynamic Nature of Reality
  • Living Inside Networks of Knowledge
  • What Historians Want from GIS
  • Bring Back Geography!
  • The Fourth R? Rethinking GIS Education
  • Nature, the Human Network, and the Role of GIS
  • People–Nature: The Human Network
  • People–Nature: The Natural Network

The volume makes an excellent course supplement for GIS, geography, and GIScience. Download the free PDF document here.

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2008 ESRI International User Conference Plenary—GIS in Education

From the ESRI Speaker Series Podcast:

Charlie Fitzpatrick, K-12 education industry manager at ESRI, discusses the importance of GIS in education, specifically out-of-school programs. Bob Coulter, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Litzsinger Road Ecology Center, and Molly Paterson, a participant in the Garden’s learning outreach program, describe the demographic analysis Molly conducted using GIS.

Listen or download: MP3

—Published September 10, 2008

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Fun With GIS, Using AEJEE: #1, Getting Started

Lots of people want to do GIS but don’t know where to start. I’m going to put together a few columns, using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/Mac), lightweight GIS tool.

First things first: you need to find, download, and install AEJEE. This is easy. Go to and look for the download section. Choose Macintosh or Windows. (If you are using Windows Vista, download the Windows installer, then see this blog entry.)

We encourage accepting the default install location, which is “[hard drive]:/ESRI”, in order to make things look like they do in the Tutorial. AEJEE takes about 3 minutes to install. It’s usually best to re-boot your computer after installing. Mac users can create an alias on the desktop or in the dock, using the “AEJEE” icon found at “[hard drive]:/ESRI/AEJEE”. Windows users should find a new program group “AEJEE” in the Start menu.

Next, begin AEJEE, but before you go wandering aimlessly within it, check out the Tutorial, by going to “HELP/Contents”

A nice, easy, 58-page PDF guide awaits you there, with full instructions for how to access everything inside AEJEE. Lesson One gets you working right away with the full power of GIS — visualization, selection, and querying, about a mythical land called “Gridville”. The self-check at the end of the lesson asks you to switch from the mythical to real life. In this one lesson, in 30 minutes from download to self-check, you can experience what is at the heart of all of GIS — thinking analytically about things that vary between here and there.

Congratulations! You’re on your way to discovering the fascinating patterns of our world, large and small, and the many ways in which geography matters!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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