Empowering Tomorrow's Problem Solvers through GIS Scholarships

ESRI Canada Awards More than $2.5 Million in Scholarships to Help Students Apply Geographic Analysis to Improve Our World

TORONTO – November 16, 2011 – In celebration of GIS Day, ESRI Canada today announced that the company has awarded more than $2.5 million in 2011 in scholarships, software, books and training to students in more than 45 universities and colleges across the country through its GIS Scholarships program. Now in its sixth year, the program recognizes Canadian universities and colleges with a solid, multidisciplinary focus on geographic information system (GIS) technology, and helps outstanding students taking GIS courses to advance their studies and create workable solutions to real-world problems.

“GIS is essential to understanding our world,” notes Alex Miller, president, ESRI Canada. “It allows people to collaborate in new ways and develop cross-cutting approaches to problem solving. Through our GIS scholarships, we're empowering tomorrow's innovators and leaders with valuable technology and skills that can help them apply geographic knowledge to the full range of human problems. These scholarships are an investment in our future that will lead to the creation of more comprehensive and powerful systems for serving society.”

Bradley Doff, a GIS scholarship recipient from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, recently completed post-graduate research that looks at the linkages between urban green infrastructure and livable communities. He developed SMARTGreening, a GIS-based decision support model that helps municipalities achieve their sustainability goals through the use of smart urban forest planting, maintenance and protection.

While a large amount of research on the benefits of urban forests is available, Brad found that municipalities lack a system for prioritizing greening initiatives. Previously, many cities planted trees based on aesthetics alone. With the SMARTGreening model, planners can use urban forests as a deliberate tool for addressing their city's challenges. For example, they can leverage the model to better target tree planting areas and improve stormwater management. This helps reduce the costly risk of urban flooding, erosion and water pollution.

SMARTGreening begins with conducting focus groups to gather information on the benefits of greening to the community, their needs and sustainability goals. Link analysis is then applied to align the benefits of urban forests with the city's needs. Next, information on the different variables affecting the city's challenge is mapped using ESRI's ArcGIS for Desktop technology and a greening index is developed for each sustainability goal. The resulting map enables planners to easily view high-priority areas where greening can deliver the most significant improvement.

“Municipalities need to make each dollar count as they face increasing budget constraints,” says Brad Doff. “Using GIS allows them to spatially view and analyze a large number of concerns simultaneously and prioritize them.  It helps them plan greening initiatives intelligently by optimizing the benefits where they're needed most and reducing overall costs. With SMARTGreening, they're able to modify existing tree planting and maintenance regimens in support of achieving a wide range of community sustainability goals.”

The City of Thunder Bay will be using the model to inform planning and manage their green infrastructure efficiently. Brad has also received interest in the model from several planning and engineering firms. He recently completed his Masters degree in Environmental Studies and is now an independent consultant.

“ESRI Canada's GIS Scholarship opened new doors for me. The financial grant, free virtual campus training and books that I received allowed me to continue with my studies and focus on what I really want to do, which is create a solution that will help cities grow sustainably. Having my own software license allows me to explore GIS deeper and work on developing new types of analysis,” says Brad.

For more information on the ESRI Canada GIS Scholarships Program, educational institutions may contact Email Contact.

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About ESRI Canada
Founded in 1984, ESRI Canada provides enterprise geographic information system (GIS) solutions that empower businesses, governments and educational institutions to make timely, informed and mission-critical decisions by leveraging the power of geography.  The company distributes the world's leading GIS software from ESRI, Telvent, Cityworks and other technology partners.  Headquartered in Toronto, the company serves over 10,000 customers from 16 regional offices across Canada and has been named as one of the top 250 Canadian IT companies and top 25 IT professional services providers in Canada by the Branham Group.  Information about ESRI Canada can be found at esricanada.com.

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