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Open Mapping for Resilience by Youth in Higher Education
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Category: Webinars

Universities increasingly seek novel ways to offer meaningful global learning experiences, build a socially engaged citizenry, enhance scientific capacity, and foster student leadership. Geographic Information and Geography faculty in higher education institutions are well poised to advance such campus-wide efforts by connecting with open spatial data communities around the world. This webinar will introduce the recently launched Mapping for Resilience University Consortium, also known as mappersU, a global community of university students, faculty, and scholars who create and use open geographic data and analyses that addresses locally defined development challenges worldwide. To operationalize and unify their on-the-ground network of college students, mappersU founders at Texas Tech, West Virginia University and George Washington University have established YouthMappers to provide structure and guidance to the individual, student-led chapters and their mapping efforts, and invite other universities to join the movement.

The Youth Mappers network of chapters enlists and supports the talents of the world’s university faculty and students to expressly link supply and demand for knowledge by addressing specific needs for geographic information to specific development objectives in targeted countries, creating new, quality, localized geospatial data in unmapped places of the world where sponsoring agency USAID works to end extreme poverty. This effort for the first time leverages academic community involvement to synergize with and fill a unique niche among an expanding set of efforts by a growing set of actors related to volunteer humanitarian or crisis mapping. The data created is open and accessible to the public using the OpenStreetMap platform and tools to ensure it is freely available for the greater public good, particularly local populations planning for the welfare and vitality of their own communities. The consortium also encourages that the open spatial data created will be used in meaningful research and analysis to directly address specific international development challenges. Students gain new skills and can also use this data in their own research in a great variety of studies on issues that lend themselves to be visualized through mapping, from locating vulnerabilities to flooding and marking the extent of drought-stricken areas to identifying factors in land use that can improve food security or locating sites with high potential for renewable energy production. No-cost affiliation offers the chance to network with others around the world and exchange information, ideas, and results. Geography and GIS programs in the US benefit by bringing the opportunity to their campuses to internationalize and engage students in integrated research and education framework that advances strategic administrative goals.


Dr. Patricia Solís, Office of the Vice President, Texas Tech Unviersity, serves as Principal Investigator. She has developed scores of funded programs and studies on international research collaboration using geospatial and social technologies, including fostering north-south and south-south exchanges among emerging scholars and educators in sixty countries across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Her research areas include climate change, sustainable development, water resources, and geography in higher education.

Dr. M. Duane Nellis has served as the President of Texas Tech University, President of the University of Idaho, Provost and Senior Vice President of Kansas State University, and Dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University. As a nationally recognized leader in higher education, Dr. Nellis has promoted innovation, partnerships, interdisciplinary collaboration, and international engagement through his roles in university administration as well as through appointments with national accreditation bodies, the APLU, and as a fellow of the AAAS.

Chad Blevins is a Geographer with the USAID GeoCenter where he has established and leads USAID’s Mapping for Resilience and Remote Sensing Programs. Chad has pioneered the use of OpenStreetMap within USAID and is an active member of the OpenStreetMap community where he closely coordinates mapping projects with local and global mapping communities and provides increased understanding on the use of satellite imagery to support USAID programs worldwide. Previously, he supported USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance where he worked with a global network of geographers and relief organizations focused on applying information technology to disaster response and risk reduction programs.

Dr. Nuala Cowan is Assistant Professor and Director of the GIS Certificate Program in the Department of Geography at The George Washington University. Cowan has developed various teaching tools, methods, and assessment procedures, including co-designing the collaborative web resource, TeachOSM.org, to integrate open geospatial technology and data into traditional GIS/Cartography classes. She has partnered with the USAID GeoCenter on numerous specific student data creation tasks that serve humanitarian planning needs, including with the Nepal earthquakes of 2015. She worked as an in-country Information Management Officer for the Red Cross during the response to Hurricane Yolanda (Haiyun) and worked remotely mapping disaster prone communities in the Mindanao area of the Philippines and the Khulna agricultural region of Bangladesh.

Dr. Brent McCusker is an Associate Professor of Geography at West Virginia University. He has published extensively on land use and livelihoods systems in sub-Saharan Africa. His current research focuses on the implications of climate change on rural livelihoods and broader economic development in Malawi. He also works with USAID’s GeoCenter on livelihood vulnerability analysis and mapping across a range of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

The recording of this session can be found on the UCGIS YouTube Webinar Channel.