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GIS Professionals Volunteering for a Better World 

May 2020
A Message From the Core Committee

Greetings Volunteers and Friends:  

We hope this newsletter finds every one of you safe and healthy. We know many in our community are working overtime building COVID-19 dashboards, analyzing data, and mapping the pandemic, while others have been sidelined from their usual jobs, activities, and routines. We are amazed at how many volunteers have stepped forward to contribute to several new GISCorps missions, even while coping with personal hardship and loss. No matter what the challenge, GISCorps volunteers continue to be part of the solution!
You can see many of the products of our volunteers' pandemic-related efforts on our GISCorps COVID-19 Resources Hub Site . It's a collection of apps and data resulting from ongoing pandemic-related missions and GIS Service Pledge projects. And though the pandemic dominated the headlines, GISCorps volunteers were also busy responding to other kinds of disasters, like hurricanes and floods (explore that work on the   2020 Disasters Crowdsourced Photos Hub site ), as well as answering the call to help partner organizations with projects unrelated to disasters. The common thread is that GISCorps volunteers and partners are all part of a global community committed to using geospatial data to solve tough problems and answer urgent questions. Lately it feels like that thread has pulled our community closer together even while many of us must remain physically apart.
We thank you for being part of this hardworking community, and we applaud your commitment to using GIS for good.

With warmest regards,
GISCorps Core Committee and Advisory Board: Shoreh Elhami, Erin Arkison, Dianne Haley, Konrad Hughes, Allen Ibaugh, Carol Kraemer, Wincy Poon, German Whitley, and Troy Wirth.

P.S. Please email   if you wish to be removed from this list.

Deployment and Partnership News

Missions in Progress

Twenty-four m issions are currently underway.  You can always find information about in-progress missions on the New and Ongoing Projects  page  of the GISCorps website.

Completed Missions

One Shared Story is a non-profit organization founded in 2018 in the state of Virginia. One Shared Story volunteers assist community groups in researching, preserving, and curating hidden histories, including those of women, enslaved persons, and people of color. GISCorps volunteer Bhanu Vedula helped the organization develop an Esri Hub site to enable community volunteers to participate in creating new digital data from historic maps and documents.

Read more about this project here .

Over the course of the last few hurricane seasons, the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation (NAPSG) and URISA's GISCorps have developed a robust suite of apps and workflows to provide situational awareness to first responders and emergency managers by mapping on-the-ground photos crowdsourced from social media and news outlets. In March, the team took those solutions in a new direction, using them to map the paths of multiple tornadoes that had torn across middle Tennessee. Mapping crowdsourced photos proved to be an effective tool for quickly establishing the path of each tornado with a surprising degree of precision, helping decision makers assess the situation and allocate resources effectively. 
Read more about how nine volunteers mapped 157 photos for this mission here .
Another series of deadly tornadoes struck the Southeastern United States in early April, causing particular damage in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina. Once again, NAPSG Foundation asked GISCorps volunteers to help provide situational awareness by using the 2020 Disasters Crowdsourced Photos application to map the damage. Seventeen volunteers jumped in and mapped 128 photos in two days. Read more about this effort here .
One of the towns badly damaged by the tornadoes that struck the Southeastern United States in April was Seneca, South Carolina. In response to a request for help from the South Carolina Emergency Response Task Force and the NAPSG Foundation , two volunteers stepped up to provide extra QA/QC support. Volunteers Dawn Misura, GISP, and Rachel Passer, GISP, are both from South Carolina, so they were especially motivated to produce accurate structural damage assessment data for the town of Seneca. 
Read more about the important work they did here .  
In May, two dams on Central Michigan's Tittabawassee River failed during heavy rains, forcing the evacuations of the towns of Edenville, Sanford, and Midland. NAPSG Foundation once again called on URISA's GISCorps to help map the flooding. A small team of experienced volunteers logged in and quickly added 65 photos to the map. 
Learn about this mission here.

New Missions in Progress

Pennsylvania Resources Council has been working to conserve Pennsylvania's environmental resources for over 80 years. When they requested a GIS expert to help them manage their data and communicate it to the public through web applications and story maps, the Core Committee recruited Brett Heist of Michigan to fill the role. Watch this space for updates on this mission.
The NAPSG Disaster Admin team is a small group of skilled volunteers who help manage the NAPSG Foundation Crowdsourced photos missions. Admin team members answer volunteer questions in Slack, help source photos from social media and news outlets, and approve and tag the photos uploaded by volunteers. For 2020, Christina Brunsvold, John Haddad, and Dacey Zelman-Fahm will return to the team, joined by new Admin Team member, Alicia Tyson. Read more about the work of the 2020 Disasters Crowdsourced Photos Admin Team here .

Warehouses4Good was founded to solve food distribution challenges in underserved rural counties in the United States. Their goal is to build or acquire warehouse facilities to host hunger relief nonprofits in those areas,   and they knew that GIS would help them identify  the optimal locations to do that. GISCorps volunteer Lauren Weaver was selected to provide spatial analysis and map creation services to Warehouses4Good in support of their mission. Check back here for updates on this mission.
When they needed help analyzing health data in a nearby city, a grass-roots group o f concerned citizens from India contacted GISCorps for help. Canadian volunteer Nicole White was selected to support the group by performing the statistical and spatial analysis that will help them advocate for public health in their region. Read more about this project here .
As the COVID-19 pandemic crept across the globe, Esri employee Jeremiah Lindemann was moved to humanize the daily statistics. He designed two applications, one to enable grieving families to pay tribute to loved ones lost to the virus, and another to connect people recovering from the illness. Jeremiah approached GISCorps for help managing the two applications. Four GISCorps volunteers, Krista McPherson, Jenny Cheng, Songmei Li, and Amy Kaple, signed on to review and approve each incoming submission before adding it to one of the maps. You can read more about this mission here , and we encourage you to share this link to the mission's Hub site so others can put a face and a place to the statistics.

Lost Loved Ones

Stories of Recovery
COVID-19 Testing Site Data Creation
Knowing that testing for COVID-19 would be critical to pandemic response and recovery in the United States, and recognizing a lack of nationwide testing site location data available to the public as well as to analysts and decision makers, Esri's Disaster Response Program reached out to GISCorps to partner in filling that gap. Working closely with Esri, the GISCorps Core Committee configured a volunteer data creation portal and sent out a recruitment. The response was overwhelming, with hundreds of volunteers signing up to help. 

These hardworking volunteers have created and continue to update thousands of testing site points in every U.S. state and several territories, partnering along the way with numerous state and local government agencies and groups that share our goal of creating a free, publicly available nationwide testing site layer. 

The dataset is shared on, the GISCorps COVID-19 Resources Hub site , and various state and local testing site maps around the country. 
Read more about this project here .
HOTOSM Projects
Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) continues to request support from GISCorps volunteers for urgent projects that have unmet demand for highly skilled OpenStreetMap editors. Since 2011, at least 210 GISCorps volunteers have contributed over 3,500 hours mapping and validating 34 HOT campaigns. Efforts are ongoing for the following HOT projects:
For more information about GISCorps's involvement with HOT, as well as information about how to get started mapping with HOT, please visit .

If you are already a GISCorps volunteer and a HOTOSM contributor, please remember to add #GISCorps to your changeset comments when you save your edits and don't forget to keep track of the hours you spend mapping. When you're finished, fill out this Google form so we can accurately track and report GISCorps volunteer contributions to HOTOSM projects. You'll also receive documentation of your contribution, which can be used for GISP credit.

GIS Service Pledge 

The GIS Service Pledge (GSP) is a collaboration between Esri, URISA's GISCorps, and YOU! Invent your own GISCorps mission to support organizations or causes that would benefit from GIS expertise, applications, or analyses.  Esri generously provides one-year ArcGIS personal use licenses that volunteers can use to make a difference in their own communities or across the world.
So far, GISCorps and Esri have approved 46 GIS Service Pledge applications submitted by volunteers from eight different countries. As participants wrap up their projects, we delight in reading their reports and learning how they were able to contribute to organizations they care about. You can read them, too, on this page of our website, which is dedicated to GIS Service Pledge project reports. You can also see where GSP participants are making a difference on this web map.
Here are some recent highlights:
Do you know of a nonprofit organization that could benefit from your GIS expertise? Review the GIS Service Pledge guidelines and apply for the program here. Send any questions specific to the GIS Service Pledge to And if you are a GISCorps volunteer who has identified a worthwhile GIS Service Pledge project idea, but would prefer to work within the supportive structure of a formal GISCorps mission, we'd love to hear about your idea too! In many cases, you can encourage the organization you'd like to help to request GISCorps support, and GISCorps can then launch a new project with you as the volunteer, bypassing the recruitment process.

Conference News & Announcements 

Join us in Baltimore for GIS-Pro 2020, URISA's 58th Annual Conference

With the COVID-19 crisis, and uncertainties surrounding travel restrictions and large gatherings, many events have been cancelled or postponed. Know that we are constantly monitoring the situation. At this time, GIS-Pro 2020 will still take place as scheduled. It may be in-person or virtual or a hybrid of the two. We are discussing options but certainly hope to meet in person in Baltimore in six months' time!

Regardless of the format, URISA will again host a Silent Auction to support GISCorps in conjunction with GIS-Pro 2020! 

Volunteer Profiles 

Name: Bhanu Vedula
Organization: City of Airdrie, Alberta Canada
GISCorps missions/Years served: WHO DRC Mapathon - 2017 & 2018, Fort Bend County (Hurricane Harvey) - 2017, One Shared Story - 2019

Share your experience about the missions: My first project with GISCorps was the World Health Organization crowdsourcing polio eradication initiative to map all structures in the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the most recent project was to build an ArcGIS Hub Initiative site for One Shared Story, a non-profit organization whose volunteers assist community groups in researching, preserving, and curating hidden histories.
Working with GISCorps is a humbling opportunity to give back to your community and help organizations with diverse projects ranging from crowdsourcing and disaster response to WebGIS.
It was a great experience working on these projects and certainly has a tremendous influence in both my professional and personal life. Some key skills that I gained are time management, problem solving and remote collaboration. I look forward to working on many more GISCorps projects in the future.

For more volunteer profiles, visit the Our Volunteers page of our website.

Thank you for your continued support of URISA's GISCorps!

In This Issue
Message from the Core Committee
Featured Projects
Featured Volunteer
2020 URISA  Professional
 Education Calendar

For more information, click here.
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News from Friends of GISCorps 


Nonprofit Organization Program  


Disaster Response and Assistance


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Our Supporters:
GISCorps is grateful for the generosity of the following corporate sponsors as well as many individual supporters.

To see who else supports URISA's GISCorps and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, please visit our Supporters page.

URISA's GISCorps Core Committee & Advisory Board

Erin Arkison

Shoreh Elhami

Dianne Haley

Konrad Hughes

Allen Ibaugh

Carol Kraemer  

Wincy Poon

German Whitley

Troy Wirth

Chris Zumwalt


GIS/Administrative Assistant: Holly Torpey


Contact us: